We All Could Use an Adversity Toolkit – How I intend using my experience with Breast Cancer to ride to the COVID-19 Wave

Happy new month! Happy new quarter. How are you? These are interesting times. I know. I broke down and cried yesterday. One of my besties is in the ICU as we speak. I cannot see her, I cannot talk to her. With cancer, people were by my bedside. With COVID-19, it is an isolating process. No one can come see you except the presence of God. That is scary…..

I am here to encourage you today. Tough times do not last and my hope is that this pandemic will not last.

December 3, 2016 my dream of owning an African themed restaurant in the south shore of Massachusetts was finally becoming a reality. The building commissioner had approved construction. Fast forward to January 4, 2017. I woke up with severe breast pain. By February 9, I was in the breast clinic undergoing a bilateral mammogram, a breast ultrasound, and a biopsy. On the same day, the building commissioner approved the opening of the restaurant. February 14, 2017, it was confirmed; stage 3 breast cancer metastatic to the lymph nodes. I just had a baby – TamBo’s Kitchen, (that came with substantial amount of debt) and I have a life threatening disease.

Today, I am alive, TamBo’s Kitchen is alive. However I am facing another whirlwind: COVID-19. This virus, in Governor Cuomo’s words is “acting like slow moving hurricane”. The hospitality industry has become one of its casualties. For me, this looks kind of familiar. TamBo’s Kitchen was an infant. It is now a toddler. What did I do then that I intend to do now? How did I thrive through cancer treatment without loosing everything?

  1. I will not be ashamed to seek, ask and receive help: I did not go through my cancer journey alone. I brought in my sister friends to manage the business on my behalf while I underwent active treatment. Only a living person can run a business. I took care of myself, they ran the business. This time, the help I need is the financial means to keep the business afloat. I have applied for all SBA grants and loans applicable to me so I can continue to keep the restaurant open and pay my employees.
  2. I will accept what I can control and what I cannot control: all storms, plagues and adversities have an expiry date. It will pass. That I know. The exact expiry date; I do not know. It’s okay not to know. We have been told we might have to wait out the lock down til May 4. What if it its all of 2020? Acceptance is crucial for my mental well-being.
  3. I will put structures in place and adapt so I can thrive: Nobody prays for cancer. I won’t wish it on my worst enemy. Despite the toll it took on my health, I was forced to outsource and put structures in place so the business could run. I could not market aggressively, but I was blessed to have a customer base from catering to keep the business afloat. With COVID-19, 70% of revenue will most likely be hit. I must go back to the drawing board and re-strategize.
  4. I will pray: Apostle James encourages anyone going through troubling times to pray. Prayer is an act of surrender. It is understanding that certain aspects of life are bigger than we are. Just like I did then (and continue to do), I will continue to lift the nation in prayer, lift our leaders in prayer, lift the CDC, WHO and all local boards of health in prayer for wisdom, skills and everything needed to flatten the infection rate curve.

This too shall pass.