Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 'What breast cancer taught me'
Angelique Lynch is one of South Africa’s premier businesswomen. In 2001 she joined South Africa’s most visited motoring marketplace, AutoTrader, as a production assistant.
Her fierce drive saw her rise to the position of marketing director, making her part of the management team that shepherded the business through the move from print to digital, and no less than three company sales.
At the age of 28 however, having just been selected to be on the company’s Management Development Programme, Angie was given her toughest challenge. Diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 3 HER2+ breast cancer, her life and her career were in jeopardy.
“I’ll never forget the call from the company CEO once I got diagnosed,” says Angie. “I didn’t expect it, as I didn’t know him well at the time. He assured me that the company would be supportive; that gave me the kickstart I needed to start to build a strategy. I had cancer, but it was going to be on my terms.”
Lynch chose to stay at her demanding post throughout the difficult process of a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy, followed by multiple operations, and 5 years of hormone replacement therapy.
“I knew that I needed something to focus on rather than the illness itself, a purpose,” says Angie. “I was not going to let this disease consume my life, or stop me exploring my dreams and aspirations of working up the corporate ladder. Staying at work was very challenging, but I also feel that it was the thing that kept me going, no matter what. It also taught me that you are more formidable with a strong team of people around you whether family, friends, colleagues or a medical team. ”
A grinding six month schedule of work, travel, chemo every Friday, and recovery over the weekends has given Angie a wealth of experience of how to be resilient in stressful situations. She is looking forward to sharing these insights with others in both their personal and business lives in her soon to be released blog Boobs2Boardroom.
This is what Lynch’s learnt in the process.
Knowledge is power
Battle with cancer would hinge on her understanding of the disease and process she faced. “Knowledge is power, but only with context,” says Lynch . “When I was diagnosed I rushed to Google searching terms like ‘will breast cancer kill me?’ and ‘survival rates’. Google can be a powerful tool, but also the darkest place.Know what information and advice to filter out, and what to keep.”
Take calculated risks
Facing a life challenging threat, Lynch found that taking great risk to achieve great reward was necessary, and is armed by that knowledge to this day.
“I chose to take a combo of two drugs that could have life threatening risks, but it was my best shot for long term survival. I also made the choice to work, because I knew I needed to have a bigger purpose and not have the cancer define me,” says Lynch . “Living on the edge is not necessarily where you want to be, but sometimes it’s necessary. In business, the same is true.”
Have a sense of humour
Humour was the quality that turned Angie's horrific to a bonding experience.
“I remember just before my mastectomy the nurse marked the part of my body to be removed, but she marked the wrong side,” relates Angie. “I was on calming meds and it was lucky that I noticed. Because of the meds I was able to laugh, and it became so infectious it spread to my family. We laughed and laughed all the way to the operating theatre. It didn’t change my circumstances, but it showed us that even though the situation was challenging, we were still able to find beauty in the moment.”