COVID & Cancer
by Julie Lancaster View Bio
To know me, you know that I typically am all in. Sometimes too fast, too energetic, too driven. I need the lessons of pacing, taking a back seat, and “good enough.” That’s what 2020 gave to me in the form of breast cancer.
In 2020, I bled “leadership agility”, as did many in the world. It is something I coach and train and live, and I think the theme for the last 14 months has been flexibility. The combination of (step 1) paying attention & (step 2) adapting have been my mainstays.
March 6, 2020 ended the 3-month experience of going from detection to 20 rounds of radiation. Within 2 weeks, our celebratory Disney vacation was cancelled and COVID had struck. The world seemed to shut down. This felt like a double whammy to start out the year.
With this diagnosis, I took great pause. I am ceaselessly curious, and questions flooded my mind.
What caused this?
What did I do to cause this?
Who do I tell?
Do people with cancer work?
Who else has this secret?
And the biggest one: What am I meant to learn?
Now 1 year later, I feel ready to share. While I was going through it, I thought long and hard about sharing my news. I told my circle of family and friends, but I engage with thousands of individuals through my work. I give my heart and my energy to the teams I work with, and I try with all my might to hold space. For safety, for vulnerability, for transformation. And I chose not to share then. I felt that my story would change that air in the room and the people wouldn’t feel permission to focus on their own story & growth, but instead to caretake me. It’s hard to know if that was absolutely the right choice, but it felt right at the time. Additionally, I really got in touch with this: showing up for and being in service to others gives me great purpose and joy, and was a gift through a difficult time. But only as long as I took care of myself first.
I also learned so many other things like:
how to foster environments of engagement and connection via Zoom.
how to take advantage of endless local hiking trails.
longing: to see my parents, to hug, to commune.
But I had a bigger lesson that has changed my course.
My biggest lesson was to fight for joy. And for me, that means to relax, to not take things so seriously, and find the beauty. As I was pondering those soul-searching questions, I realized that my tendency is toward intensity, but that does not have me feeling balanced, or joyful if I live with intensity 100% of the time.
So now, even though I can still find myself with an overzealous schedule, with too many initiatives on my plate, I catch the need to change sooner. As we all know, an overutilized strength is a liability. Then I get to work prioritizing, sifting through the noise, getting clear, setting boundaries, finding time for tranquility, using my toolbox full of tools and finding peace and joy, like my life depends on it.
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