How TED* Saved My Life
We are delighted to share this week’s TED* Works!® blog which is written by our very own Co-Creator, Debbie Hulbert (Director of Communications and Customer Experience). She has been a member of the TED* Team for 18 years.
This is the story of how TED* saved my life. In late July of 2021, I found a lump in my breast. It was large and quite alarming. I immediately made an appointment with my family doctor who confirmed my worst fear—fast-growing, aggressive, stage 3 cancer. I was terrified.
It had been well over 30 years since I had cried any tears for myself. On the way home from the doctor’s office, my husband and I were sitting in the backseat of my car while my daughter drove us home. He was holding me close when the tears erupted. They came from a deep, guttural release. I was trembling with a full-body fear of the unknown.
I allowed myself to feel the Victim feelings for about 15 minutes. I tried to relax, and then I willed myself to grab onto TED* with both hands and shift into Creator mode.
First, I took several deep cleansing breaths and asked myself, “Where do I want to place my focus?” I knew that where I was, that place of fear, was not a place where I could live.
“What is the outcome I want?” I asked myself. “It is not just to get rid of the cancer. I want to sparkle and live fully and vibrantly even given the truth of this diagnosis.” That was my new outcome.
I remembered from a TED* training that to really invest myself in an outcome, I had to make it real. I asked myself a follow-up question, “If I had it, how would I know if I lived fully and vibrantly?”
I asked myself what my new outcome would look, feel, sound, smell, and taste like if I really had it. My outcome came alive when I visualized the Italian culinary trip that I’ve always wanted to take with my daughter, Alicia.
I saw myself strong and walking up and down the hills of the Tuscan countryside. I saw myself in a Nonna’s kitchen learning how to make pasta. I could see it as real as if I were standing there—the dust motes dancing in the sunlight. I could feel the egg and flour between my fingers as I tried to make pasta and hear Alicia’s laughter at how poorly I was doing. I could smell the basil and garlic, the ripeness of the tomatoes, and taste the local wine on my tongue.
And in that moment, I knew that I would survive.
I was told that my cancer had a 10% survival rate at best. I expanded my visualization to being that 10%, watching my grandchildren grow up. I visualized them in their caps and gowns, and on their wedding day. Living the details of my outcome vision got me through the first weeks of what turned out to be the hardest year of my life.
Fast forward to chemotherapy. There is no sugar-coating it. Chemotherapy was brutal. I had 15 rounds of chemo over six months. It took everything I had to keep going.
When giving up would have been the easy choice, I used another great TED* tool—baby steps! The distance between where I currently was and where I wanted to be, was vast. My solution was to keep taking the tiniest of baby steps which was one small sip of water every single time I felt overwhelmed. I knew that water was medicine and taking even one little sip meant I that was still fighting, I could stay in my power.
Even in the hospital I could at least have a drink water. So, I bridged the vast gap between my outcome and my reality by taking one baby step, then another, then another. I didn’t wallow in a Victim space; I was a Creator and I knew it.
Because of the type of aggressive cancer, after chemo I also had a double mastectomy, had my lymph nodes and ovaries removed, and 28 rounds of daily radiation. I don’t have words to tell you how difficult that was to go through. So once again, I had a choice. Rather than focusing on what this could take from me, I chose to look at the gifts it had given.
It turns out there were many. First, I learned how loved I am. So many people showed up to shower me with love and assistance. Second, because of chemo, radiation, and surgery, I now have only healthy cells in my body. I am cancer free!
When you choose to view the gifts life can bring, you can find hope even in the darkest of places.
I also learned that I am stronger and more resilient than I thought I was. I found joy in every breath and each sunrise. I discovered my art again. In short, I experienced the secret sauce that makes life so very wonderful. There is beauty and opportunity in every moment—trust me, it’s there.
TED* and 3 Vital Questions® walked with me through this diagnosis and treatment every step of the way. Without it, grief and Victim thinking could have easily claimed me.
At my final treatment, the nurse expressed what a miracle I am. It turns out that I am the very first person to go through their department and survive my diagnosis. Everyone expected me to die…everyone that is, except for me. I have TED* to thank for that.