Early in my sales career I was fascinated to learn that there is literally an association for every collection of people you can think of. From hobbyists to industry specific groups to labor unions and sports authorities. These groups and their meeting activities were the life blood of the hospitality industry (pre-COVID times) and I truly enjoyed getting to know the people who belong to and run these organizations.
As I progressed in my career I had the privilege to join a few of these groups and have made lifelong friends along the way. I could provide a page full of logos to represent each one, but those that stand out the most are the ones where I have been the most active. I have served as President, and in many other leadership roles, for Meeting Professionals International’s Virginia Chapter; chaired committees for the Virginia Society of Association Executives; lead my daughter’s troop for the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth; and am an ambassador for Rebelle. Most who know me in Richmond, or have worked with me, met me through these affiliations. I joined these organizations because I wanted to be a part of something positive, career-shaping and leadership driven.
What is most unexpected are the private clubs you discover along life’s path. These are the clubs that you don’t join on your own, you earn membership through shared pain, trauma or diagnosis. Sometimes you may find that you’ve gained access to more than one of these groups, having never joined of your own free will.
Today I involuntarily count myself a member of three private clubs. Mothers who have spontaneously miscarried a child (twice), the melanoma club, and I’m a soon-to-be breast cancer survivor. That’s right. Breast cancer. Thanks, 2020. If you’ve asked yourself, “What else could possibly go wrong this year?” Don’t. The universe will answer that question in ways that you may not be ready for.
Fortunately, having been a marketer in a healthcare setting long enough to celebrate October as the ultimate awareness month, I know the value of breast self-exams and caught my mass early. It’s not small, but it’s stage 1 and we’re going in after it in a few weeks. Then attacking the area with radiation, then endocrine therapy, and then I can hopefully step down from this active membership of having cancer in my body to survivor status. We've made the decision to not tell our kids, as they are going through enough with virtual/hybrid learning and not seeing their friends, and the list goes on...so, please do not tell your children if our children are friends. (Update: We did tell the kids and they took the news well.)
I’m borrowing a page from my friend Jeff’s book and will be “blogging it out” to give updates on my journey. I’ll write at integral stages in an effort to answer questions and hopefully provide comfort to anyone else who might be going through something similar. As was the case in joining the miscarriage and melanoma clubs, I look forward to hearing from all of the warriors who have already walked this path. You see, when you lay bare your pain, or trauma, you quickly find that there are private club members all around you. Once you’re a member, you can then choose to be an advocate for the cause.
A few weeks after my first miscarriage, I was called by a sweet friend who was suffering through the same situation while her husband was out of town. I didn’t sign up to be the poster child for grieving mothers, but I was who she needed in that moment. Someone who understood the depths of her pain and loss. Someone who agreed that it wasn’t fair, it made no sense, and that there should be more answers. Co-workers and acquaintances secretly confided in me, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. It lifted the weight I was carrying just enough so I could breathe, and then I put one foot in front of the other.
I will walk that same walk in a few weeks. Please reach out if you’re a member of a club you never intended to join.
It’s National Mammography Day, so if you’re 40+, or are younger with a family history or other risk factors, you owe it to yourself, and your loved ones, to get checked. Stay tuned for more info to be shared in a few weeks, and I welcome your prayers. Thank you!