Last night, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of 300+ breast cancer survivors. I was shaking in my boots because the largest group I have ever done is 150. Most of the time there is only a handful of people. This was crazy!
Of course, like so many other things, I ended up being the one inspired. I had a vendor table with my book and people would stop to see what it was about. Normally, this is when people tell me their own stories- their illness, someone they love, etc.. In this setting, the chances were high that anyone you talked to probably had cancer at some point in their lives. That was a given. I met so many women with such amazing, joyful attitudes.
One woman in particular sticks out in my mind. She was probably in her seventies. She rattled off what kind of cancer she had, which I don’t even remember because it wasn’t what had impacted me. She told me the story of her doctor calling her to tell her she had cancer. She was kind of using a tone that was dismissive, like “Yeah, yeah, ok” kind of a thing. So her doc says to her “Do you understand what I am telling you? Do you understand that you have cancer?” She said she responded with “Yes, I heard you. I’m not the type to sit in the corner and cry. Now are you done? Because I’m about to go play golf.” She was one tough bird. And a huge smile on her face. SHE should have been the one to do the speaking!
After dinner, I looked at the program and noticed the speaker after me had the same first name as the woman sitting next to me. I asked her if she was the other speaker and indeed she was. Right before we were about to go up, she looks at me and says, “Did you say that evaluation form? Talk about pressure!” I looked and sure enough there was a full-page evaluation form for the event. Not something like “Did you like it?” on a scale of one to five. It was a scale, but it was very specific. “Did you like Darcy Thiel’s presentation Making Lemonade?” Yikes! We both vowed to tell the coordinator that neither one of us was interested in hearing the ratings.
I finished my twenty-minute speech and then the lady sitting next to me got up for her turn. She very graciously started by saying something like, “That’s a tough act to follow. Let’s give another hand to Darcy.” That was lovely of her. She then proceeded to tell her story with a shaky voice and clearly was struggling to hold back tears. This beautiful young lady told about hearing the dreaded words “You have cancer.” I listened to her story, thinking how brave and amazing she was. Then she shocked me by talking about the SECOND time she had cancer. Good grief. I was very moved by her story as was everyone else in the room I am sure. She was the hero, the true inspiration for the evening.
After it was all over, I was standing near the exit at my book table. I saw her talking with her husband. I decided to give her a book. She acted like I gave her a million dollars. That made me feel like a million dollars! We talked about how we felt bonded somehow by sharing our stories on the same evening. I told her she bears the heavier burden and she said she thought the caretaker bears the heavier burden. So we decided we would just mutually admire each other.
What an absolutely great career I have. How lucky am I?