by Tasha Champion
My smile is the most authentic it has ever been. The journey to get here wasn’t easy but well worth it. My name is Tasha Champion, I am a Certified Master Life Coach, and here is my story:
Life changed for me five years ago. In 2012, I had been married almost seven years. We were together for 13 years, and we had four children. I wasn’t happy and felt like I was completely falling apart. My body was tired and my energy was low. I was the only one working, paying all the bills, and taking care of my family. Breaking down was an imminent reality. I often wondered if I would ever be happy and how could it even be possible in this situation.
Finally, the courage to announce I wanted a divorce was within me. The thought of living the rest of my life in this manner had taken its toll. As much as I had struggled with delivering the news, nothing could have ever prepared me for my ex-husband’s response. Just as plainly as saying good morning, he announced that he needed to restart his life as if he was never married or had children, explaining to our kids he would no longer be their father. I knew I would be okay, but what about my children? They were absolutely devastated. How could I get them through such an emotional loss?
I was in search of filling my emotions by finding someone to love me the way my husband never did—not giving myself or my children time to heal through a traumatic experience before I was on to the next relationship. Both of us filled a need for what we thought was love, but this turned out to be an unhealthy relationship for me and my kids. While in this relationship, I had the awakening that if my life was ever going to be different, I had to make a big change—I had to love me the way I loved others. I had to give to myself the way I gave to others. I had no idea how to do this or where to begin; all I knew was if I didn’t do it now, my life would be in shambles for many years to come, if not forever.
There were so many years I struggled with two things, loving myself and not knowing my purpose.All I knew was both were making me completely unhappy and my outer smile was not authentic because there was so much frustration on the inside. I tried to conceal it, but eventually I was fooling no one but myself. It was time for help. How would I know whom to trust? Who would help? Who wouldn’t judge me? How could I feel safe? I was afraid. Through all of the fears of my feelings, I knew I had to get to the other side. I kept seeing an associate of mine post on social media about women’s retreats she was putting together, and how she was having these different sessions to help women awaken their soul.
Taking a deep breath, I decided to reach out to her. Then, in February 2015, I invested in myself by working with a life coach. This was absolutely life changing for me. Being able to freely express myself was refreshing and ever so needed. Not worrying about the judgment allowed me to laugh, cry, feel and—most importantly—heal. As I continued to work with her, I began to understand me and who I was all these years but was afraid to bring out. All I knew was I felt my best when I was helping people, and I wanted that to be something I woke up to do every day. Going through this healing and self-awakening journey, I found my purpose. I wanted to help women who were in similar situations. I wanted to help women learn how important self-love and value is—that you can always find your purpose. With that in mind, I became a life coach.
There is so much you learn when becoming a life coach. While you think so much of it is meant for others, at the outset you don’t realize how much you will (and should) use for yourself. I was so grateful that I took the time to learn how to love myself in ways that were selfless and not selfish. I learned how to meditate and set my intentions for each day. I learned the power of positive thinking and the power of my words. What I didn’t know at the time was that these tools would play the biggest role in helping me face what was yet to come, a cancer diagnosis.
There’s a long history of breast and ovarian cancer on the maternal side of my family. The earliest age we can trace is from my great aunt, who was diagnosed at 29. It would be almost three decades later before breast cancer would affect my family again. While in the shower, my mother, 37 at the time, discovered a lump. She immediately went to the doctor, and after a biopsy it was confirmed as cancer. Watching my mom go through radiation, chemo, being sick, losing her hair and recovering from surgery was the hardest thing I had been through at the young age of 17.
During a routine check-up 18 years after her diagnosis, my mother’s doctor urged her to get tested for BRCA, the breast cancer susceptibility gene. She tested positive, which prompted me and my two sisters to test and, almost to no surprise, all three of us were positive. All being mothers at this time and remembering watching our mother during her diagnosis, we each decided on radical prophylactic surgeries to drastically reduce our risk of getting breast cancer.
The first was to remove most of my reproductive system followed by a double mastectomy with immediate reconstructive surgery. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but it was the best decision. On January 14, 2016, my sister elected to have a double mastectomy. It was during the surgery that cancer was found, already growing and in the beginning stages of spreading. As if this time for our family had not been devastating enough, two weeks later, the day before my 36th birthday, while performing the double mastectomy, my surgeon also would find cancer.
To think, here I was being proactive, having had a mammogram six months before surgery, yet the cancer had still found its way in. I had been resilient in the testing phase of all of this, remaining positive and encouraged, and I would need that same resilience now more than ever. Could I stay focused on the positive with everything I learned? I was surely about to find out.
Anytime you hear the words, “You have cancer,” it momentarily paralyzes your heartbeat and your breath, immediately draining your energy. I knew I couldn’t stay in that state. The positive mindset that I had learned while becoming a life coach would prove to be so helpful. Focusing on the healing and how life would be after treatments and surgeries were my goals. Doing that would prevent me from focusing on what I was actually going through and feeling which, ultimately, I believe would have made me ill. As I sat in my chemotherapy class, learning all the things chemo could bring, I silently would say to myself, not on me, not on my body. I refused to accept and anticipate all the illness and weakness chemotherapy was known to bring. I was determined not to allow this to bring me or break me down. I had already endured a divorce, abandonment, a bad relationship and no self-love. I refused to allow cancer to take me back down the road of hurt.
I wanted a way to have an outlet, while spreading awareness. A friend connected me with someone who was looking for guest speakers to talk about their health-related issues. I jumped at the opportunity. All I wanted to do was share my story, get people to understand why it’s so important to know their family history, not be afraid to go to the doctor,and to stay on top of their health.
Three weeks after my last round of chemo, legs still hurting from the Neupogen shots (medicine given to increase your white blood cells while on chemo that can cause bone pain), I had my first speaking engagement. Each time I would speak, I would be asked to speak at another event. Sharing my story had become more therapeutic for me than I could have ever expected. I knew I wanted to do more of this. There was absolutely no need to stop spreading the word. It was too important, and I knew it would help so many people.
Today, I have had the pleasure of speaking at multiple women’s health events, participating in Relay for Life through the American Cancer Society, and I have even had the honor of singing the National Anthem for multiple Cancer Awareness Fundraising baseball games. Speaking has been a gift to me. It is an honor each time I am requested to speak at another event. Using my voice to share and encourage continues to heal me. I am able to express myself from deep within my heart and know that I am helping others along the way. When someone comes to me after I have spoken and tells me that I helped them or they are going to make a doctor’s appointment, get a mammogram, or talk to their family, I get emotional. It’s why I do it, and people are responding.
I will never ask God, Why me,” because he has used me to be a vessel of his message time and time again through everything I’ve been through and I will continue to do the work he sets out for me. Truly learning the depth of healing through meditation, prayer, positive thinking, and using positive words and learning to love the Champion I am, has been the best medicine for an exceptional recovery.
Tasha Champion is a Certified Master Life Coach and a motivation speaker. A free-spirited person full of laughter and love, her life challenges, including becoming a divorced, single parent and a diagnosis of cancer, launched her on a spiritual journey to discover her true passion. She now helps other help women going through similar situations who want to free themselves from what is holding them back. For more information, visit www.tashachampion.com and www.letterstocancer.com.