By Rachele’ Davis
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer, I wondered what it meant for my life — and for the business I had worked so hard to build.
I could say that June 19, 2019 was the day my world came crashing down. The floor disappeared beneath my feet. All hell broke loose. But I’d be lying. I actually look back on this day as the moment that opened me up for some of the richest living I have ever experienced.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on this day at age 39. No family history. No warning.
For a few weeks, my oncologist was talking Stage 3 breast cancer. To add insult to injury, after an ovary lit up on a PET scan, there was concern that I might also have ovarian cancer. Unusual, but not impossible.
After more testing and many more doctor’s appointments, ovarian cancer was ruled out completely, and my breast cancer was officially diagnosed as Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma. Genetic testing showed I am not a carrier of the breast cancer gene.
I had the most common form of breast cancer. Two fairly sizable tumors that had not metastasized anywhere else in my body.
After taking several weeks to get my footing and recover from what originally felt like a punch to the gut, I was steadied. A little shaken, but steadied.
I began chemotherapy on July 17. I started with the hard-hitting stuff first, four rounds every other week. Then I moved to 12 consecutive weeks of a lesser chemo drug. It was nearly five months of chemotherapy, with my final dose the day before Thanksgiving.
After chemo, I took about four weeks off for my body to rejuvenate my numbers, then tackled a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction two days before Christmas.
I’m currently gearing up to begin taking a hormone-blocking pill for the next five years, as my cancer was (past tense now, so any and all fist pumps are acceptable) fed by my estrogen. I will also finish this course with a total hysterectomy in the spring — again, because of the estrogen aspect.
Here’s another complication: I’m a private investigator and small business owner. Very small, that is — my PI business, New Hope Investigations, consists of one investigator: me. No other employees. No help. Just me.
So for the last half of 2019, I had a few decisions to make:
Do I close up shop temporarily or even permanently?
Do I try to continue working through the chemo and surgeries?
Do I reach out to other investigators for help?
Do I stay quiet about my diagnosis because it might scare potential clients away?
I decided to continue plugging away as long as I could. I was not going to let cancer steal my livelihood and all the hard work I have put into my business for the last several years. As long as I could work, I would work. I wanted to keep my life as normal as possible. And for the time being, I decided to keep my diagnosis to myself as I operated professionally under New Hope Investigations.
But one of the best decisions I made was to write about my cancer and share it with my family and friends. I process through written word, so I knew this would be the most important and best choice I could make. I shared my cancer journey as it unfolded, week by week. In fact, I’m still posting weekly updates on a private-group Facebook page (which you can join here, if you like).
As I shared my story and my faith in a God who has permeated my soul with a profound peace from day one, my family and friends started sharing how my updates were lifting them up, changing their perspectives, and giving them more hope and less fear in a world where fear rules. My struggles were pulling them out of their own struggles. My realness was making them feel less alone. My fight was inspiring them to fight.
There was suddenly purpose in my cancer.
So while cancer is a most horrible disease, I’ve learned that how I choose to react to it makes all the difference. And by sharing my struggle with my people, it has made all the difference for them, too. We’ve grown a community together that gives hope, peace, and goodness to all of us.
Meanwhile, as I shared my cancer journey on a personal level with my friends and family, I kept working on a professional level as a private investigator. I continued taking cases and working as much as I could. My productivity slowed, but never stopped. I did not compromise my work ethic on any cases or put forth any less effort to get every job done and done well.
As I continued to work, I counted my blessings that my family does not rely on me to provide a certain level of income for our household. We can get by just fine with my husband’s income. Mine is supplemental. I also don’t have to carry my own health insurance, as my son and I are both on my husband’s plan. So I am luckier than many.
But I’ve considered other private investigators out there who have struggled, are struggling, or will struggle in the future with these realities due to health issues that arise. What does a small business owner do when he or she is diagnosed with cancer and has to make the time to attend 20 doctor’s visits in two weeks? What happens when the medical bills start coming in and thousands of dollars are expected to be paid immediately? How do they keep their doors open when they have to take on weekly chemo treatments that knock them out for days and days on end?
The solo practitioner is supposed to present a brick-wall facade of strength and success at all times, even when their health is failing or their personal world is crashing down around them.
All the while, the solo practitioner is supposed to present a brick-wall facade of strength and success at all times, even when their health is failing or their personal world is crashing down around them.
How is an entrepreneur, who may also be a parent and a family’s primary income generator, supposed to deal with all that?
I believe the answer begins with what I found in my friends and family: community. I had people begging for ways to help lighten my load. Over the past seven months, people have given me food, gift cards, words of encouragement, gifts, time, money, and resources. I had to learn to lean on others and accept their help when they offered it.
As my village lifted me up, I also chose to keep plugging away, one day at a time, even when I didn’t feel like it.
Lastly, I kept my sanity by finding an outlet for my emotions and processing what was happening to me. Every person has to find their own outlet. Mine was writing.
I finally wrote a blog post about my cancer around Thanksgiving, when I considered all the things for which I’m thankful. I was finished with chemo and felt confident that I was far enough along in my treatment that it wouldn’t scare potential clients or other private investigators away. (In hindsight, I think my fears were very likely just that — fears).
Sharing my story with friends and family — and now, with my colleagues — has made my burdens feel ever lighter.
If you ever find yourself in the same shoes I found myself in this past year, I would ask you to do one thing: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are not alone. You can do it. Don’t struggle in silence. I will be your biggest cheerleader and do anything I can do lighten your load.
From one small business owner to another who has been through it, no one should go it alone. Our businesses are certainly important, but our camaraderie and kindness toward one another should always go far beyond even our best business practices, ideas, and accomplishments.
P.S. I’m cancer free. New Hope, full steam ahead.
About the author:
Rachele’ Davis became a licensed private investigator in Missouri and Kansas in 2016, then launched her one-woman agency, New Hope Investigations. She specializes in locating and researching people through social media and open source investigations and has a personal interest in adoption searches.