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After being diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, a hereditary cancer syndrome, I saw my imperfect situation as an opportunity to educate and connect with others.
I have been reading Robert Greene's book "The 48 Laws of Power" recently. Greene references Michelangelo's magnificent sculpture of David as an example of how great artists and achievers can turn their obstacles into advantages. In one chapter, Greene uses the example of Michelangelo sculpting David from an imperfect block of marble to illustrate the concept of transforming limitations into opportunities.
Michelangelo's sculpture of David is one of history's most iconic and celebrated works of art. But many people do not know that the marble he used to create this masterpiece was not flawless. The marble was considered imperfect and had been abandoned by other sculptors before Michelangelo took it up as his own.
Despite this, Michelangelo saw potential in the flawed slab and turned it into a work of art that continues to inspire and captivate people today.
Before being diagnosed with Lynch syndrome 12 years ago, I was in the best shape of my life. I was running religiously, eating well and finishing graduate school — I was truly living my best life. Once I was diagnosed and had my reproductive organs removed to prevent uterine and ovarian cancer, I found my young body was flawed, damaged and defeminized. This became a challenging and isolating experience, making it difficult to relate to others around me.
I was also torn. Tremendous survivor guilt plagued me because I was given a warning and an opportunity to do something to minimize my cancer risks or at least catch cancer in its genesis through frequent screening — chances my brother Jimmy, who died from colon cancer at 36, never had. I could take measures not to meet a similar fate; my brother's death was not to be in vain.
At the time, I noticed minimal online discussion about the emotional toll knowing one has Lynch syndrome takes. There was very little about having Lynch syndrome and the daily grind of coexisting sans reproductive parts for a young woman.
But just as Michelangelo saw the imperfections in the marble as an opportunity, I had to transform my challenges into opportunities. My brother's death, combined with my traumatic experience of being diagnosed with Lynch syndrome and having prophylactic surgeries, fueled my desire to write. So, I began blogging about my hellacious experience and discussing my vulnerabilities. I used writing to let others know they were not alone, to educate others about the condition, and to raise awareness of the importance of genetic testing and cancer screening.
My writing afforded me opportunities I had never imagined. The more I read about Lynch syndrome and hereditary cancer syndromes, the more I wrote. The more I wrote, the more people reached out to connect with me. Genetic testing companies and government agencies contacted me to support my work and to have me help them with theirs. Most importantly, I realized I was creating this space for people, especially women, sharing my physical and emotional difficulties following their oophorectomies — one I had wished was initially available to me.
The key to focus on when we are confronted with challenges is to become focused on what is possible rather than what is not. Michelangelo did not see the flaws in the marble as obstacles but rather as raw materials that could be transformed into something beautiful. I use my diagnosis and experience with Lynch syndrome as a catalyst for personal growth, connection, and patient advocacy. Beautiful lotuses emerge from the murkiest of waters.
The story of Michelangelo sculpting David from imperfect marble is a metaphor for the human experience. Just as Michelangelo transformed flawed marble into something beautiful, we can also find ways to embrace our mutation and use it as a catalyst to create something meaningful and make our lives a masterpiece, despite the challenges of living with Lynch syndrome.
“Operating with a high sense of purpose is a force multiplier.”
— Robert Greene
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