You Are One of Us, and We Take Care of Our Own”


That statement captures one of the highest compliments I have ever received. It is a part of the code of ethics for elite US Special Operations Forces and is not said casually. The second-best compliment I received was when a young Special Operations medic in our first East Coast transition institute program called me one of the best badass women he has ever met. Talk about just the right support at the right time when it was most needed!

From the time I first got the diagnosis and through the writing of this book, I have had the enormous privilege of working with Special Forces transitioning out of the military and into civilian and corporate life. There is a world-class career transition institute based in Virginia Beach and San Diego that offers a sixteen-week program serving those who have served our country so well. As a faculty member and executive coach for this program, I do the kickoff, exploring the transition process and how it relates to what the participants are going through personally, professionally, and emotionally. Then I also work with two to three program fellows per semester as their executive coach.

So what does this have to do with cancer? Just about everything. These fellows totally understand the value of mind-set and having a handpicked team you can trust with your life. They are considered elite forces for many reasons. Walking into the room of twenty-five fellows, you see that most do not look like many of the movie portrayals of them. Certainly they look like fit men, young and old, bald and with great hair, and yet on the surface, in many respects, they appear ordinary. Initially, the room appears not too different from seminars in many male-dominated industries that I have worked with around the globe. However, these men are far from ordinary. They are smart, intuitive, and able to innovate on the ground while having finely honed preparation and training for all their missions. They understand the inner game of survival and of complex, well-orchestrated missions where timing is critical. They have the ability to make quick decisions with limited information and often trust their gut on which way to go, both literally and figuratively. All these skills were also important for me, especially in my first few months of treatment.

Ninety-five percent of making it through one of the most rigorous military selection and training processes on the planet is mental focus, determination, grit, and mind-set, not brawn. So when I got my diagnosis and started treatments, I was surrounded for ten hours a week by a team that was the embodiment of those qualities. They embraced and encouraged me as I took on my own mission of choosing to thrive and not succumb to a life-threatening disease.

Working with and relying on an elite, high-performance team are critical on this cancer adventure. You can’t undertake this potentially life-threatening mission without a cohesive set of individuals that you can totally trust and that you feel have your back. Sometimes the value of the skills, attitude, and group synchronization can’t really be articulated. However, you can feel it, and it matters. And the longer and riskier the mission, the more it matters.

It was time to deliberately assemble my elite team, made up mostly, but not all, of powerful women. I selected a surgeon and oncologist who were supportive of me doing integrative therapies in conjunction with their specialties. Then I went about systematically and intuitively interviewing and choosing the rest of my team. I ruled out anyone on either side of the aisle—allopathic or holistic—that would not support a “yes, and” integrative approach. It is amazing how opinionated and rigid professionals from both perspectives can be when it comes to their preferred method of addressing cancer. I really wanted the “no one left behind, you are one of us, and we take care of our own” attitude that I found so comforting with my fellows at the institute.

I was blessed to find not only local resources but also energy-medicine practitioners around the country that were willing to work with me. I used healing touch, theta healing, Donna Eden energy balancing, HeartMath techniques for heart-coherence training, therapeutic essential oils, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, hypnotherapy meditations, nutritional counseling, and a couple of other energy-medicine modalities—all at once. I was also on several prayer lists. All of this was in addition to the standard treatment protocols for HER2+ breast cancer.

Once I reclaimed my power from the system and diagnosis, I decided I was worth the investment, and it became a liberating and fun adventure. To say that I used my default type A personality approach would be an understatement. This method was not inexpensive, but it was very, very effective. I looked at it from a return-on-investment perspective, not a cost perspective. I got great returns! Aliveness, vitality, and health are priceless. And quite frankly, without the health crisis, I probably would not have invested in myself in such an intense fashion in a concentrated period of several months. Perhaps that willingness to play full out and be an advocate for my healing and transformation were part of an answer to the call of being willing to hold more light if I was choosing to stay on the planet.

At one point, my oncologist said to me, “You are in the very top percentage of how people manage their chemotherapy—mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don’t know what you are doing, but please keep doing it.”

To which I replied, hopefully not too smugly, “I do know, and I will.” Yahoo!

Reflection, Playtime, and Continuing the Journey

Who is on your elite team that you can trust with your life? Who can offer sound, heartfelt support on tactical decisions? On strategic choices?