By: Tifani Jones, Fox World Travel Director of Global Development and Sales Operations
Every survivor’s cancer journey is their own. Prior to my diagnosis, I thought breast cancer was, well, breast cancer. Five years ago, I heard the words no one wants to hear, “you have breast cancer”. In my early forties with no family history and no lump detected, I was about to learn a whole lot more about the uniqueness of cancer.
To backup just a bit, in July of 2016 I attended a Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) outing at a baseball game. A dangerous thunderstorm developed, and we all had to take shelter. Several of us gathered in the ladies’ rest room where we were stuck for some time. We joked about our networking activity and proudly posted pictures to social media. I didn’t realize it at the time but two of my companions in that restroom would help support me through my cancer journey.
Shortly after that event, I almost canceled a dermatology appointment because I had too much going on. My travel schedule was set for work and my volunteer schedule was packed. It would later turn out to be a good thing that I kept that appointment. The doctor insisted we do a biopsy right away and on August 9, 2016, I received the results. The skin lesion that had come and gone a few times over the last year, that doctors didn’t think was anything to worry about, turned out to be a rare form of breast cancer and an undiscovered tumor.
In one of my first phone calls with my team of doctors I asked if it was safe for me to travel to a conference. I was determined to keep my routine as normal as possible throughout my cancer journey. As it turned out, the first surgery available would be after that trip and the medical team told me there was no reason for me to skip it if I wanted to attend. And I wanted to attend. During that trip I made sure I rested, ate well, and did my best to stay germ free before my surgery and the radiation that would follow. More importantly I connected with colleagues and clients. For me, it was a welcomed distraction.
My network of family, friends, and colleagues supported me every step of the way. While organizing the supplier marketplace at the WSAE fall conference, I requested the help of one of my counterparts who had spent that July evening with me in the restroom waiting for the storm to pass. Another individual from that night at the ballpark reached out to me regarding a volunteer board position with an organization called Breast Cancer Recovery, which has been a passion project of mine ever since.
Cancer taught me many things: No two diagnoses are the same, focusing on things that bring you happiness is important to your well-being, and connecting with those in your network for support is essential.
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