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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer


Our Voices Blog

Navigating Life's Tough Challenges: Building Resilience in the Face of Adversity

By Christiane Constantineau

When I received the news that I had breast cancer, my world seemed to crumble before my eyes. Overwhelmed, vulnerable, and defenseless, I faced a daunting journey ahead. As a seasoned business owner, I had encountered my fair share of adversity, but nothing could prepare me for this level of fear. For the first time, I found myself fearing the unknown, dreading the loss of everything: my health, my quality of life, my business, and all my assets. How could I possibly endure this?

The battle against cancer is undeniably one of the most formidable challenges anyone may confront in their lifetime. It often feels like an uncontrollable force, demanding difficult choices in the face of uncertainty, day after day. Through my own experience, I have come to believe that adopting an entrepreneurial mindset was the key to navigating this complex path with resilience. I am here to share my insights and offer guidance on developing a resilient mindset to confront any form of adversity.

Here are six pieces of advice, drawn from my own journey.

  1. Don't Ignore Early Signs: Facing adversity begins with acknowledging it.

Adversity takes various forms, but perhaps the most devastating is unexpected news. In my case, I ignored signs of trouble five years prior to my cancer diagnosis. I experienced shortness of breath and sharp pains on my right side, just days before a trip to Monaco. Determined not to let it interfere, I convinced the doctor to allow me to travel with a cocktail of medications. I pushed it out of my mind until that same pain resurfaced five years later, heralding Stage 3-C breast cancer. Perhaps, if I had investigated earlier, the severity of the situation might have been less daunting. Instead, I had to confront the harsh reality.

  1. Find Inspiration Early: Kickstart a positive mindset as soon as you can.

The period between a doctor's suspicion of breast cancer and the final diagnosis can be excruciatingly stressful, lasting from weeks to months. The uncertainty takes a toll on your well-being. I recommend seeking inspiration early to maintain a positive outlook. I found my inspiration in my youngest son, who battled a serious illness during his teenage years. He chose to live in the present, devoid of victimhood or denial. His resilient attitude carried him through recovery, serving as a beacon for me. I opted to embrace his philosophy and face my cancer in the present moment, all while managing my business. Closing down everything I had worked tirelessly to build was not a viable option, especially as a business owner. Additionally, my ownership of over 40% of the company's shares rendered unemployment insurance unfeasible, further emphasizing the need to find a balance between health and business responsibilities.  Gratitude goes out to my family, who promptly stepped in to support me during that challenging period.

  1. Confront Fear by Facing Different Fears: Tackle fear in a controlled setting.

Even before receiving my final diagnosis, I grappled with the fear of undergoing surgery. Inspired by my son's positivity, I devised a unique strategy to conquer this fear - confronting an even greater fear! I have an intense fear of heights, so I booked an urban rappelling experience, descending a 12-story building. The fear was paralyzing, but the instructor's motivational words and my determination allowed me to overcome it. This experience transformed my perspective, unearthing hidden reservoirs of courage. Moreover, I now had vivid memories of conquering fear to draw upon during challenging moments.

  1. Foster a Supportive Environment: Surround yourself with positivity.

During times of high adversity, the people, surroundings, and energy around you become more pronounced. If something or someone is not contributing positively, it can be draining. Prior to embarking on surgery and treatment, I carefully curated my support system. I distanced myself from toxic individuals and set clear boundaries with intrusive relatives. I rallied those who loved, inspired, and supported me, encouraging them to collaborate towards a common goal: creating an optimal environment for healing and sustaining my business. They lightened my load - in work, household chores, and emotionally - allowing me to focus solely on critical business matters and recuperation between treatments.

  1. Assess and Plan Finances: Prepare for resource challenges.

Enduring prolonged adversity can deplete your resources. It may affect your ability to work and generate income while necessitating increased spending. Anticipating turbulent times, I scrutinized my business and personal finances. I examined my income, expenses, assets, and liabilities, making tough choices to adhere to a conservative budget. Understanding your financial standing is crucial; it alleviates additional stress and insecurity. As an entrepreneur, I believe investing in oneself is paramount. I restructured my budget to allocate significant funds for my health and well-being, recognizing their direct impact on my recovery. I upgraded my nutrition, invested in physiotherapy, acquired home exercise equipment, and allowed myself some comforts to ease daily struggles.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself: Embrace your new reality with patience.

Let's face it - life-altering challenges, such as accidents or serious illnesses, are profoundly traumatic experiences. They touch the core of your being, forcing you to let go. Losing something as fundamental as a body part can disrupt your sense of identity. It took me a year post-mastectomy to accept myself as a feminine human being with scars and a transformed body. Acceptance comes with time, openness, and allowing yourself to experience emotions. It demands abundant self-care and kindness, one small step at a time.

Adversity is an inevitable part of life. I believe it propels us to innovate and grow, ultimately transforming us into stronger versions of ourselves. That's what breast cancer did for me. For you, it may be a different challenge. However, if you choose to embrace the challenge fully and nurture a resilient mindset, you'll find the strength to overcome anything you desire.