3 years ago, I was freshly laid off and registering my new business at the county courthouse. I had spent a few years living what I thought was the “dream”. I was so secure (read: comfortable) in my day-to-day that I got married just 4 months prior.
I’ve written some about this before, but we can consider this an update and a retrospective review of the past 3 years. The long and short of it being; I got married, lost a job, started a business… and immediately was diagnosed with stage IIIc esophageal cancer.
I’m not going to break that whole process down here, there’s an entire blog for the intricacies of that journey here (cure.coltonwilliams.com). I just want to share a few things I’ve learned about fighting, and showing up when it’s not easy… or even expected of you.
"PITY IS YOUR GREATEST ENEMY"
Pity is your greatest enemy. The moment things go substantially wrong, people encourage you and try to pad the blows life hits you with; but it just makes you dependent on the affirmation of others to define your position. Honestly, it took cancer to distract me from my professional shortcomings, and it let me just lean foolishly into some things I knew nothing about (i.e. running my own business).
The moment you realize you have no choice but to fight through it, you throw on the proverbial blinders. Fighting is more than accepting people’s pity saying, “you’ll get through this”. What I wish was being asked of me was, “How the hell are you going to get through this?”– the moment you don’t have to solve that problem, is the moment you stop pushing.
Almost two years ago, we moved from Cincinnati to New York to treat my then stage IV cancer. I’d exhausted all my options including two rounds of chemo, surgery, and radiation–so I moved to the biggest city in the country, to try to survive.
When we got to NYC I was freelancing… but I couldn’t even get on conference calls because there was a tumor in my vocal cords. By the time we ‘moved’, I was in a wheelchair, with no voice, and very little hope–but there was something in me that kept pushing. When I lost everything else, I just leaned into my work.
"ALMOST DYING MAKES YOU THINK A LOT ABOUT HOW YOU'VE BEEN LIVING"
Almost dying makes you think a lot about how you’ve been living. I spent my time of silence reflecting on why I did the things I did; why I even wanted to make videos, or design things. I realized I wanted to be convicted about my work, and to end each day believing I’ve made something that will outlive me. I learned a lot about what I think a ‘legacy’ actually is.
I’m still fighting, but I’m winning. I’ve got a clean scan under my belt, and am believing for more to come. I’ve been on my own, running my own business, freelancing for 3 years… and I’m still here. I work with more conviction than I have historically, I dig deeper into things (and/or people) I believe in, and I accept daily that my legacy is more than flesh & bone.
What doesn’t kill you... defines you.