A year ago, I had the great opportunity to meet one of those brave souls we often read about. Michele Howe Clarke is a Thriver - not merely a survivor. Her tale of a devastating and disfiguring cancer diagnosis moved me to tears. I was honored to be asked to write the Foreword for her book. Today, I am interviewing Michele on my radio show "What Are You Waiting For?" And, today, Michele is donating ALL proceeds from the sale of her book to the Thyroid, Head and Neck Cancer Foundation (THANC). Take a moment and support this brave woman and many more like her.
From the Foreword to Face Forward: Meeting Challenges Head on in Times of Trouble by Michele Howe Clarke
Stop. Right now. Stop for just one moment. Your life is about to change. Your thinking will be altered forever, if you are willing.
These pages are inviting you to stop and realize what really matters. To stop and see how good you actually have it. To stop and consider what you really want to do with your life. You will be reminded to tell those you love that you love them. You will appreciate things you normally take for granted. You will have a new perspective on your life. Maybe… for a moment, if you choose.
See, it’s human nature to forget how good we have it. It’s human nature to complain about our lives whether in whispers to ourselves, or publically at the top of our lungs. It’s human nature to get caught up in the details of life while we miss the glory that is all around us. Then one day, if calamity strikes, our world, as we know it comes screeching to a halt.
Michele Howe Clarke’s world stopped with the breathtaking news she had cancer. She writes, “My mortal innocence stolen, I was no longer invincible.” As she comes to terms with her mortality, she reaches out her hand and invites us along. With grace, humor and perspective, she shares her humanity and exemplifies the true meaning of courage. Real courage is all of it – feeling the fear, rage, devastation and horror and continuing on anyway. Through the darkness of her journey, she learns to see the beauty of life. Each time she glances in the mirror or catches someone staring at her deformity, she is forced to face what she has lost. As she masterfully tells her tale, we realize, she is speaking to us. When we know she has chosen to commit to living – not just surviving, but actually thriving, we can breathe a sigh of relief for her – and we are then faced with the choice to look at our own lives.
Michele has walked through what most of us can barely imagine. Just when it seems like it can’t get any worse another dreadful trial emerges to derail her once full and successful life.
However, Michele has transformed her calamity into a zest for life coupled with a desire to serve the world. She takes on the issue of our cultural vanity with a vengeance. She is rigorous with herself, yet gentle with us. As her physical wounds slowly and painfully heal, she in turn peels back the layers of what she once held so precious, beginning with her smile and continuing deeper to her soul. She bravely confesses her over-reliance on her beauty as a way to connect and be liked. Yet, through the loss of her glorious smile, she discovers something more – she discovers what she is really made of and what has actually been there all along.
Our challenge is not to remain a spectator as we read. I challenge you! Allow this story to impact you. Allow your heart to be opened. Allow it to refresh your spirit.
Michele kindly softens the blow for us. She knows we might distance ourselves from her pain, which may very well cause us to miss this gift. She graciously gives us time to reflect as we read by providing sections where we can stop and consider. Speaking directly to our heart, she offers profound teachings such as dealing powerfully with our own personal turning points; seeing our self-defeating habits as a “Ponzi Scheme”; as well as advice on how to deal with our ever-chattering ego.
To further support us, Clarke has also designed 21 powerful insights for us to thrive.
Will we take her message, teaching and wisdom to heart? Will we actually allow another’s trauma, struggle and triumph to enrich our lives? Maybe. It will take something. Predictably, we will put this book down, walk back into our lives and forget. Gradually, the effect may subside. We will go on with our days, our schedules, and our plans. We will get angry at the traffic, or the weather, or our spouse, or the dog. And, we will forget that for a moment we remembered what really matters.
May we never be faced with a life-threatening diagnosis or be left with physical disfigurement. Yet perhaps, in this moment, we will stop and take Michele Howe Clarke’s wise words to heart. Right now, we could commit to wake up, to live the life we are here to live and to make the difference we are here to make. We could love ourselves as we are, accept our pain and our struggles and we could begin to “Face Forward”.