How I Got Here

Kristi Seehafer

I had hair in 2006!

In the next few posts, I’m going to give you a bit of background about how cancer got me on the track to personal and professional growth. I want you to know who I am, where I’m coming from, and where I’m going.

I’ve played the violin for 43 years. I’ve been a professional for well over 25 years, playing hours every day. That’s a whole lot of muscle memory, and over the years I had created a finely tuned system of tendons and muscles that did whatever I wanted them to do.

Until my surgery. The lumpectomy wouldn’t have been that bad, but it was the lymph node surgery that really caused some problems.  That was on the left side, the side that holds the violin.  On the right side, the bow side, was the port surgery, and that surgery also cut through some vital cables and pulleys. When I went back to work I was a mess. I couldn’t hold up my violin for more than a few minutes at a time. Just before my third chemo treatment, my port broke and I had to have another one put in. After that, my doctor took me out of work for the rest of the season due to the repetitive motion on the port side. (Gee, sounds like a yacht.) I’m glad I had opted not to do any reconstruction, because the typical reconstruction surgery takes flaps out of the back, and that would have ended my career.  The other option was belly flaps, which might have been great for tummy tuck purposes, but it would have left scars up and down my stomach and I wouldn’t have been able to stand up straight for a couple of months at least. No thank you.

All that to say that I was a physical mess and I was worried about my professional future. I wished I had put some other sources of income in place before I got cancer. (And if I’d known the winning lottery numbers I would have played them, right?)

While I had just started going back to school to become a physician assistant, it was going to be an arduous two years of part time and full time schooling. After my diagnosis, that just wasn’t going to work anymore. There was no way I could afford health insurance without a job, if I could even get it. It was going to be difficult to be a 55-year old woman starting a new career anyway, but a 55-year old cancer survivor? Who would hire me?


No hair, 2011

And this was all before I started chemo. Chemo was the real game changer for me. How many of you out there came through your treatment realizing that you just didn’t want to put up with the usual BS anymore? Going through any kind of crisis makes you realize what is really important in life, and for me it was difficult to come back to a profession that was high stress without a lot of personal fulfillment. At least that’s the way I saw it. I had always wanted to be a violinist and play in a professional orchestra, and I’m one of the lucky few who beat the odds to do it.  I think I’m pretty damned good at it too. But being in an orchestra is not like doing any other job in the real world, and I’ve had plenty of them.

I decided that I needed to find something that fed my soul, rather than sucked it dry. All the meditation I did during my chemo was going to do me no good if I didn’t actively try to find a better life. Part of my new philosophy was that I wasn’t going to be the “good girl” anymore. Hey, I was already a bit of a hell raiser, but when the chips were down, I fell into line. No more! Some of my new philosophies:

  • If something is wrong, I’m going to say so.
  • I’m accepting responsibility only for what I’m responsible for. If someone else messes up, it’s not my problem.
  • I’m going to be positive; if you want to be negative, fine, but I’m not joining in.
  • Do it TODAY (does not apply to mowing the lawn or washing the dishes.)

This may be old news to many, but in the music world plays by different rules. I had a lot to learn about personal growth and development, and this was just the start.

I’d love to hear from you.  How did your cancer experience affect your job and your life? How did you change after your diagnosis and treatment?

See you on Friday!


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How I Got Here — 2 Comments

  1. There will be moments whether connected to cancer of not where growth begins and ends it is all a mater of perspective and most importantly “Living in the NOW!”
    You have accomplished so much, have a wonderful intellect, and there is much to be said and done for someone who has done so much and learned so much. Now how does that get expressed? AH, there dear Watson is the rub? Look forward to how the tapestry gets woven.
    Make it full of adventure, and cliffhangers. All the best, sandy

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