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Fight, Flight, Freeze.... PLAN

Breast Cancer Management for Dummies… I am unsure if I ever have heard anyone talk about the project management of cancer treatment, but they should. The second they break the news the whirlwind starts as the pamphlets, emails, appointments, questions, statistics all come flying at your head. My brain, in typical Liz fashion, went straight into management mode… listening, connecting, organizing. I guess I am just programed that way, when you lead several large departments for a $300 Million dollar organization you have to be organized or you will fail... it’s difficult to turn off – which right now, is a blessing especially going at this alone… (it’s not always a blessing though - ask my friends, family and ex-boyfriends… ha!)

“So what do you do for Kaiser?” my Oncologist asked, “you are so organized and direct – remind me of my lawyer patients.” – Ha – I guess we should just print BOSS on my cancer survivor T-shirt? Because I think I have decided I am going to manage these cells right out of my body. The interesting part… I think my manager mode was all just part of my shock response. Flight, Fight, or Freeze? Mine was some version of flight and flight… avoid really paying attention to the details, simply go straight into plan, attack, beat mode… without really letting anything settle in about what had just happened… the fact that at 38, I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Survival response… yep – it was necessary given the fact the week of my cancer diagnosis my uncle was in the hospital and we were unsure of his condition, my small mountain town caught on fire and my family was at risk of losing both my house and my parents’ house, several of my friends DID lose their homes, and oh, don’t forget the pandemic, and the mandate for the Covid-19 vaccine for our 3000 employees. Yep – and not only am I in charge of HR – but my boss was in Cabo for the week. Yes... that was my week – so the “boss” Liz super hero swooped in - keeping my head above water so I didn’t implode.

As my trauma response started to settle and my body started to feel what had just happened, the reality clouded in. I realized I needed to sit with the paperwork, sit with my diagnosis, and really wrap my head around what is about to happen. As the days went by and I had more conversations with the doctors, the weight of the situation slowly crept in. As I looked at the close to 50 doctors’ appointments, I would be having over the next three months between the fertility treatments, cancer treatments, and physical therapy appointments for my knee I hurt a week before my diagnosis… my heart and head started to pound. Yes, my diagnosis has an amazing prognosis and it won’t kill me, but getting cancer is no small thing and even the most simple of diagnosis will really rock your world.

As I added up the appointments, read through the unknowns, processed the impact of this my reality became haunting - this is my life for the next three months – and part of my life forever - this has to be everything … as a person who is so focused on my career, my family and those around me, turning all of my energy to myself away from my employees, my boss, and my family feels impossible – this reality was hard to wrap my head around. I am at a huge turning point in my career – a SVP at 38 – I recently had been asked to speak at a conference and do my second podcast. My company is heading into months of significant change, and I was supposed to be involved, leading, a key player… what am I able to do now? The truth settled in… all I need to do now is think about ME.

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