Finding My New Niche

Last updated: July 2019

If you would have asked me to tell you about myself a few years ago, I would have probably started with my family. I would have told you stories about my oldest son and his unique escapades. Or I might have shared funny carpool chronicles from one of my favorite roles as a glorified chauffeur to my two younger sons.

Next, I would have spent some time relaying the details of my job. I was your typical workaholic; spending many hours at the office and on the laptop at home. I liked managing our large organization; an operation that I helped build from nothing.

And if I had time, I probably would have talked about running.  If I didn’t get the “deer in the headlight” look, I would have continued on ad nauseam discussing runs, past injuries and telling racing “war stories.” It would have been evident that I enjoyed it.

I loved my life!

You have cancer

That was three years ago…before the cancers… It’s funny how that one little statement, “you have cancer” can change your life forever…

The breast cancer and polycythemia vera (PV) diagnoses - both in 2016 - resulted in a long arduous journey filled with months of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, procedures and follow on treatment. However, once I started feeling better and realized I wasn’t going to die anytime soon, I started looking around me wondering where do I go from here.

So...now what?

My kids who had depended on me to get them back and forth to school and activities now could drive themselves. I was lucky if I saw them at all as they were involved with homework, cross country, and their friends.

The job…well the staff survived without me for the better part of a year. Now I’ve become more of a "meeting-attending figurehead." I no longer put in the long hours like before. Although still rewarding, it's just not the same.

And the running, my beloved running. The fatigue from the PV often saps my energy. The chemo caused irreversible damage leaving me with chronic foot pain. The passion I once had for running was killed along with cancer cells.

A lot of time on my hands

This all left a significant void and a lot of time on my hands. I decided I needed to find new interests to compliment my “new normal.” Find my new niche, so to speak.

To replace running I started looking for alternative physical activities. I tried biking…and yoga…and walking; even competing as a race walker. Biking was a logistical challenge, yoga was costly and walking, even fast, just doesn’t quite produce that “runner’s high.”

I became involved with a variety of cancer-related organizations as a mentor and volunteer.  Then I attended a few cancer writing workshops. Since I always liked writing, I started composing short stories and getting some published. Then came storytelling performances.  Despite my initial apprehension of sharing something so personal in front of an audience, I found that telling my story to others was kind of a rush.

Stepping way out of my comfort zone, I strutted my stuff on the runway when I was selected to be a model at a breast cancer benefit.  Soon after that, I was nominated to attend a women’s breast cancer fly fishing retreat and realized how much peace comes from fishing.

In addition, I am involved with two Veteran-focused guitar groups as an instructor. Finally, since I always liked to sing and I wasn’t getting any younger, I signed up for voice lessons.

My new nicheSo…who am I now? Well…I am a still here so I guess that makes me a cancer survivor. However, I am also a model, a bicyclist, a walker, a yogi, a guitar instructor, a storyteller, a fly fisherman, a published author, a singer (in training), a volunteer, and advocate for multiple Veteran and cancer organizations.I think I found my niche…and I love my new life!

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