It’s easy to say what you’d do if you were confronted with a crisis — but that’s just talk. How would you respond if you were 28 years old, newly married, and suddenly diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer? There’s one thing for sure: If I were faced with a crushing medical diagnosis, I hope that I would have the courage, dignity, and grace of Lorelei Colbert. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Lorelei created the Chemo to Kindness Challenge — encouraging people to perform an act of kindness for each week of her chemotherapy treatment. Lorelei is an incredible role model. I am honored to share her story with you.
It is important to mention that I do not accept, nor did I receive, any benefit for sharing this post. My sole purpose for publishing this piece is to share a valuable resource with you.
–– Frank Sonnenberg
From “Chemo to Kindness”
One year ago, my husband and I hosted our wedding on Zoom from our living room in North Carolina due to Covid-19. We were preparing for the adventure of a lifetime on the other side of the world, on military orders. And in order to relocate internationally, we had to ensure that our health screenings were up to date — yes, that included our newly rescued pandemic puppy. At 28 years old, we were building a life we each dreamt of as children one day at a time.
However, all of that changed on August 26, 2020.
On the day of my appointment, it was one of those mornings. My husband and I disagreed on something the night before and feelings lingered. And I had left our apartment early — only to take an exit going miles in the wrong direction — ending up a few minutes late.
As soon as I walked into the exam room, my nurse was warm, welcoming and genuinely kind. She was the kind of person who loves what she does. I told her that she was making my morning with her positive energy.
Once the doctor arrived, we discussed doing an OBGYN exam in addition to the physical. She said that she didn’t think a breast exam was necessary. After all, I was 28, had a breast exam not too long ago and was not considered high-risk following genetic testing. She then left the room.
“So you’re not doing the breast exam?” the nurse asked.
“Because you said it, let’s do it,” I replied.
When the doctor returned, I asked for the breast exam. I will never forget that moment — with the doctor and nurse, my gown open and my mask on. My left breast was clear. In my right breast, a lump was discovered. In that moment, everything changed.
Our world flipped with my cancer diagnosis. My husband was reassigned to stay in the states, and we prepared for battle with Stage 2, Grade 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I knew that I wanted to face this journey in my own way, and my approach zeroed in on two things: spreading awareness and making an impact. Alas, I dreamt up the Chemo to Kindnesssm Challenge and launched it on my first day of chemotherapy. For this challenge, I asked others to do an act of kindness and tell me about it on social media. I knew these acts would lift my spirits on my hardest days as well as impact others after an already challenging year. Plus, it felt very intuitive to create an initiative that followed my life mantras: seize the day and make an impact.
The challenge ignited from the start. Each week, people shared their acts of kindness from countries around the world. By my third round of chemo, I launched loreleicolbert.com to keep up with the acts, share the good deeds and list the organizations that were being impacted through the generosity of others. It was absolutely incredible — more than 1,700 acts of kindness.
10 Life Lessons Learned from “Chemo to Kindness”
Here are the lessons I learned from this experience:
Choose to be positive and express gratitude. Face the reality of your beast, choose your attitude and make the best of a tough situation.
Be your own advocate and trust your intuition. Take charge of what you can control. You have the strength even though you might not know it. Listening to my gut and speaking up saved my life.
There are times when you have to face the same fight more than once to win your battle. Be realistic. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You will undoubtedly have highs and lows, but be brave enough to step in the ring again and again.
Vulnerability is strength and a beacon of connection. We are better together. Sharing your experience can help others and give you additional strength you didn’t know you needed.
Hard situations can be tackled with positive actions. Be constructive with your time and energy rather than wallowing in self-pity. Be a part of something bigger than yourself. Small actions can uplift your own life as well as others’ lives.
There is a global community yearning for kindness and connection. A woman in France had a socially distant conversation with a man during quarantine. Another international leader sponsored someone’s education for the year. A child helped their neighbor. Together, these worldwide actions tie us together and create something much greater.
Boundaries exist for a reason. Tragedy brings people closer or further apart. Identify your boundaries and learn to communicate them. Upfront conversations can save you when your tank is running low.
You never know who will show up for you on your hardest days. Lead a life of giving. It may come back to you when you least expect it.
The kindness of a stranger can change someone’s life. You never know what a simple act of kindness can do.
Savor the moment. Embrace the little things — the good and seemingly bad. Do things that bring you joy. Hang on to hope. Believe in the impossible. Nobody can take that away from you.
Kindness Matters. It Just May Change Your Life
This journey has been hard. There have been ugly cry days, sleepless nights, hard conversations and even more difficult decisions. But in this journey, there has been light. There has been an immeasurable amount of love, a life saved, and a wave of kindness that wrapped its arms around the world. This experience has unveiled how to show up for myself and show up for others — on good days, hard days and those in between.
Be grateful and don’t take life for granted. Sometimes it takes a crisis to fulfill your purpose. You have one life. Find what brings you joy and go there. Join me on my journey at loreleicolbert.com.
Lorelei Colbert is an award-winning advocate, speaker, and creator. At 28 years old, Lorelei was newly married and diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer shortly after. As she battled, she created the Chemo to Kindness℠ Challenge that inspired more than 1,700 acts of kindness and impacted more than 75 organizations worldwide. Now a survivor, her leadership work has been recognized by advocacy and industry groups as she continues to shed a light on breast cancer awareness in young women and the importance of advocating for yourself. Learn more at www.loreleicolbert.com.
© 2021 Lorelei Colbert. All rights reserved.
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