What we cover: I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with melanoma for more than half of my life. And one of the things that most frustrates me is how blasé people are, generally speaking, when they think about skin cancer. There are three types of skin cancers, and melanoma is the one that kills. You might be one of the people right now, walking around living your life, knowing you have a suspicious mole that you’ve been “meaning to get checked out”. Something that itches a little. Or bleeds a little. Or just looks a bit off. Or, in Kathy Barnard’s case – a weird little lump on her elbow. Or you might know someone who fits this bill. Please listen to my chat with Kathy – and then, take action.
Melanoma spreads like wildfire, and Kathy’s was no different. It spread to her lungs, her kidney, her liver, her adrenal glands, her abdomen, and her bones. She was given three to six months to live. That was 11 years ago. Today, she is cancer free and the founder of the much-respected Save Your Skin Foundation.
In the summer of 1994, I was a flight attendant. It was a brief interlude for me, in between my Bachelor of Arts and my Bachelor of Education. But ultimately, that short career in airline travel would be a life-changer and a life-saver. During take off and landing, I would sit in my jump seat, and because my uniform sleeves were short, I would stare at my arms. And I noticed this one mole. It wasn’t witchy and hairy and weird – it was just sort of different. It had a couple pieces of what looked like ground pepper dotted in the center. I showed it to my GP, and she said it was nothing but if I wanted, I could see a dermatologist. Three months later, in October, the dermatologist looked at it and said the same thing: It was probably nothing. But if I wanted, she could remove it. I figured that since I was there, I might as well. I didn’t hear anything back for all of November and into December so figured it was fine. One night, I was at my apartment in Halifax, NS on the east coast of Canada and the phone rang. A receptionist had found my file, and had seen that I had yet to be notified – it was in fact melanoma. I was immediately scheduled for plastic surgery and that began what has now been a 23-year recurring presence of melanoma in my life. I have had melanoma two times since. Once in 2002, which my dermatologist found on my back. And again, and most seriously, in 2012 which I found on the bottom of my foot. I was 7 months pregnant at the time, and found this wee little red dot on my toe. My dermatologist at the time assured me it was a “blood blister” and that we should just “monitor it for six months”. Chad encouraged me to get a second opinion. I did. It was melanoma again, and it had started to spread. If we had monitored it for six months, I’m not entirely sure I’d be here today.
Kathy’s story is a reminder too that we need to take it upon ourselves to not just float in the dreamy space of “oh really – it’s nothing.” If you feel it’s something, don’t stop until you know what it is. Melanoma is not something you just cut out and move on from – it spreads and it appears everywhere and anywhere. Your brain, your eyes, your lymph nodes – so really, do not wait. Hey – we go to the dentist twice a year. So go to a dermatologist while you’re at it.
Kathy’s story is one of determination and rising from the ashes, unlike anyone I’ve ever met. She will inspire you to appreciate the little details in our big lives – and to take huge action when it comes to preserving your life span.
What we cover: Despite being a one-time pack a day smoker, Ray Zahab decided on New Years Eve 1999/2000 that it was time to be truly happy. And that quest for happiness ultimately led him to the open road. In this case though, the term Open Road is a loose one, at best. This is a guy who has run across the Sahara Desert. He’s run across the Gobi Desert. And he’s traversed the South Pole – and he was the first person to do it entirely on foot and snowshoes, and not on skis. So there’s that.
In 2007, my husband Chad – himself a one-time cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking, hamburger-eating, dude – was preparing for his first ever Ultra Marathon, after being introduced to Ironman a couple years before. I bought him the book called Running for My Life: On the Extreme Road with Adventure Runner Ray Zahab. I bought it for him because Ray’s story is the one of The Every Person who made the decision to change. For Ray, his vice was partying and smoking and just living a lifestyle that wasn’t conducive to any joy – not the real, meaningful kind of joy. That book was a game changer for Chad – and for me, I loved it. It’s an inside peek into the mindset of transformation, and a reminder that we all have the power to transform if we are willing to dig a little deeper. If we’re willing to be uncomfortable – because that’s what it takes.
In addition to being the subject matter of the 2008 documentary Running the Sahara produced by Matt Damon and directed by James Moll, Ray is co-founder of the super impressive organization: Impossible2Possible, which is all about facilitating real life expeditions with Youth Ambassadors who report back in real time over social media to thousands of students in schools around the world, exposing everyone involved to the great big world out there. Of course we talk about that as well. (And, we even manage to talk about the planet’s ultimate equalizer, the universal punch-line: Poop jokes.)
What we cover:
Gina Mollicone-Long knows a thing or two about greatness. After all, when you're co-founder of an organization called The Greatness Group, it just sort of comes with the territory.
Gina's not only someone committed to seeking out greatness in her own life, however. Not even close.
This is a woman who has a degree in engineering, and who segued into a career in marketing with some of the biggest names in branding excellence – like Proctor and Gamble and Molsons Breweries, for example. Despite the fact that her corporate career was on fire, she knew she was headed in a different, more authentic-for-her direction. She always felt the pull to greatness. To be around greatness. And to help people, as she says: "reveal greatness."
She admits she fell into engineering in the late 1980s because she knew she’d need a “real job” and there was no talk back then about being a professional Peak Performance coach – the handle she uses today to lasso the passion she brings working with everyone from CEOs and Olympians to everyday human beings simply looking for someone to, as she puts it, polish the silver. Because she believes we’re all silver. Sometimes we just need the extra assistance of someone to give us a polish.
Talking with Gina is to talk with a powerhouse. She makes no bones about the fact that she feels too many people today play small. We talk about the techniques she uses to weed the garden of negative belief systems in her clients – techniques like Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), for example. She sort of pulls back the curtain on that for us. She reminds us that failure is feedback – and nothing more. She identifies that too many of us think instead that failure is the ending… a message from the universe that it’s not meant to be. That’s not the case according to Gina.
Today, she is a sought-after speaker globally. And she’s the internationally best selling author of two books: The Secret of Successful Failing and the follow up Think or Sink.
FUN FACT: Gina and I met in our former lives working on a branding campaign – I was a copywriter working at an agency in Vancouver and she was on the board of Big Sisters, which is the organization that partners mentor-women with girls in need of a role model. You can check out that TV spot on my portfolio if you’re so inclined. Just head over to MJDionne.com, and navigate your way under the Writer tab to the portfolio, and it’s there! Fun stuff indeed. It’s a timeless and important message, even 18 years later.
What we cover: “I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try. Dreams are made possible if you try.” – Terry Fox
In March 1977, when Terry Fox was just 18 years old, doctors confirmed that what he had thought was a sore right knee on account of a previous injury, was in fact cancer. Six days later, Terry had his right leg amputated six inches above his knee. However, the night before the surgery, a coach showed him an article about the first above-the-knee amputee to run the New York City Marathon. A flame was lit and Terry was inspired. Not long after, as he was recovering – during his front row seat to the suffering of cancer patients in treatment – Terry hatched a plan. That plan, to traverse Canada – from the eastern tip to the western tip, by running a full marathon each and every day. So it was, on April 12, 1980, Terry dipped his leg into the Atlantic Ocean and began his journey. By the time he had run across Newfoundland, the goal was official: He would collect the equivalent of $1 from every Canadian, for a total of $22,000,000 in the fight against cancer. A few weeks into this never-before-been-done expedition, The Marathon of Hope, Terry had a welcome new team member join him, his younger brother, Darrell. The stuff of those days – those magical weeks and months – is today the stuff of Canadian and ultimately global legend: The smelly van, the occasional tensions, the miraculous momentum gained along the way – so that by the time Terry and his team arrived in Ontario, the cause and the visionary behind it, had become the nation’s single focus. I was 8-years-old when Terry wowed this country with the power of a dream. I was 8-years-old when I was visiting my Oma and Opa downtown Toronto, and the crowds of thousands were gathering just to catch a glimpse of this special person. And I was 8-years-old when on September 1 of that year, we learned that Terry’s cancer had spread and he’d have to stop running. However, what became clear in the days immediately after, was that the rest of the country had picked up Terry’s baton. Terry saw that we were absolutely not going to forget him and the realities of cancer any time soon. And I was 8-years-old, when I got the news, that on June 28, 1981 – Terry Fox died.
To sit across from Darrell Fox, Senior Advisor at the Terry Fox Research Institute, is to sit across from ego-less greatness. Terry’s siblings: Fred, Darrell, and Judi – as well as parents Rollie and Betty – have spearheaded a well-respected team in the form of The Terry Fox Foundation that continues to carry Terry’s flame, raising more than $750,000,000 dollars in doing so.