The statistics are grim, indeed. One out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Bron Watson was one of those eight. She is a delightful Australian mom of five energetic boys with a business of her own. She had a full plate when the shoe dropped.
Bron is an entrepreneur with a thriving business who didn’t have a Plan B when she received a life-changing diagnosis. Her “just for today” approach and “one percent at a time” mantra will inspire you to think about major life events in a new way. And her contagious laugh will endear you to her, for sure.
Listen to how she overcame it all so she could tell about it and help other women in this unusually fun episode while talking about the difficult subject of cancer, surviving and thriving.
This is another inspiring conversation in our series with women learning what it means to thrive. Don’t miss it. I invite you to watch our video conversation on RHGTV Network—the Empowered Connections Channel…
or read the transcript of our conversation below:
from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition
Bron Watson: Success Despite Adversity
~María: Hello and welcome. This is from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition. I’m María Tomás-Keegan, your host. And this is my continuing series of conversations in which I chat with strong supportive women, who have inspiring stories of transformation to tell and they are courageous enough to share them with us here.
I am so excited to share with you my first international guest on the show and her name is Bron Watson and as you’ll soon hear, she is from Australia.
I’m inspired by this woman. She is an entrepreneur with a thriving business who didn’t have a plan B when she received a diagnosis of advanced-stage breast cancer. Her story will inspire you too.
We call this episode, “Success Despite Adversity.”
~Bron: Thank you! It’s wonderful to be here and have a conversation about this with you.
~M: Thank you so much for being here. Please share what it was like for you being seemingly healthy one day, living your days to the fullest, and then having surgery five days later.
~B: You know, Maria, it’s something that… In my previous background is I’m a nurse and a nurse educator. And I’ve talked to thousands of people who have been diagnosed with cancer. And when it’s you, I was not prepared in any way. And yes, I was diagnosed on a Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning by 20 past 9 in the morning, I’d actually been looking to see a surgeon in Sydney, which is four hours away from where I live, and then the following Wednesday being on an operating table. You’re free-falling, so you don’t even have a chance to process the whole thing. And to top it off, we were moving on the day that I was diagnosed. So, I’m moving, I’m finding someone to mind my five children who happened to be my best friend who lives 14 hours away, and it’s just you go into crisis and of course, just managing what has to be managed. So terms of how it felt, terrifying. There’s no other word to put it. Terrified because you don’t know what you’re up against, you know that you have to have surgery, you know that there’s a tumor, you know that this is not good. And you’re just hoping that it’s not a stage of… Breast cancer is by stages and by grade. And so, of course, I spent my whole time thinking, “Please God. Please God, don’t let it be to be too big or too aggressive. And yeah, terrifying just beyond words, to be honest.
~M: Wow! I can’t imagine. I know that the statistics are not in our favor, but this must have been just a grueling time for you. So please share a little bit more about what you went through.
~B: Well, I run my own business. My business is called Bron Watsons, so people want me and which is great when things are good, but when things are not good… You’re being a wife… For me, I was a wife, I was a mother, I’ve got a business own, I’ve got a community, I’ve got clients and it’s so many moving parts, which is when you’re healthy or when you’re well because the cancer didn’t make me sick … the treatment did. The treatment was chemotherapy and radiotherapy, so because it had spread into a lymph node under my arm, I don’t know how many because they never investigated, because they chose to hit me with terrible chemotherapy. Mad that I had that it was 30 years old and so, so vicious that out of a 21-day period, twelve to fourteen of those days, with just a [undetectable] because of the drugs, because of the medication, but you’re taking drugs for the side effects, and then you’re taking drugs for the side effects of the side effects and it’s just this terrible space where you literally have to focus on just the moment, just the minute of nausea, of losing your hair within three weeks, you know, my hair fell out very quickly after one dose, and then having to find my hairdresser to shave off what was left. That’s probably one of the worst experiences I’ve ever been through is… My hair was down to here and it was blonde, and it was curly… And to have my head shaved and you’re thinking, “Oh you know it’s only hair.” Well, it is only hair, but hair defines us, which I didn’t realize so much until I didn’t have hair.
And just to have the red face because the drugs that are we given cause makes you go red, and then round, and no hair, and then it’s summer in Australia, and it’s so hot. That time is so family-etched but the way I survived that was to just focus on the day. So, just for today Bron, we’re going to drink water, we’re going to take that tablet that I know you don’t wanna take because you need to. And a lot of people come through and they offer you lots of advice, people who you don’t even know send you information on alternative therapies which is great. But when you’re in the moment… And for me, I didn’t get a chance to even explore that before I was bombarded with chemotherapy. So those five months of chemotherapy made my skin scrolling right now. It’s defined me now. It was a defining moment that just the sickness alone brought me to a space where I had to focus on me, I had to focus on the day because I had nothing else.
~M: You said you didn’t have a plan B for your business and your business is all about you.
~M: What did you do about your business while you roll all of this was going on?
~B: That’s a really interesting thing. I was a mentor in consulting, in marketing, and social media and I had a lot of high-level clients. During that time, I cut out that entire section of my business. I did not have income protection, which is something we have here in Australia. I have every other insurance. Oh, my husband has income protection, but I didn’t put it on me which is probably the worst decision I have ever made. And it meant that I had to work at some capacity. One of the worst times was having chemotherapy on a Friday morning and running a Facebook Live for my clients because the person who I am… I like to deliver what I say I’m gonna do like I really wanna deliver what I say I’m gonna deliver. So I delivered that piece of information four hours after leaving chemotherapy. They didn’t know. They didn’t know, but I did and that was the moment when I said, “This is never ever gonna happen again. I’m never gonna be in the situation.” And thankfully, I have some amazingly beautiful clients who rode through this time with me. And we’ve come out flourishing out the other side but during that time… That’s why I call it “Success Despite Adversity” because the adversity kept coming. The allergic reaction to particular chemo… Just those sorts of things, or when I went neutropenic when my white blood cells are really low, which means that you’re super susceptible to infection. And that’s where I went, “We need to really think about how we wanna live and that’s where the just for the tip for today. And as I say, I’m just so, so grateful to the clients who did ride through that time with me. I am forever grateful, and we lived through and now we’ve re-defined and that’s the best part. I wish I’d known this 10 years ago, but without the cancer.
~M: Without the cancer. Yeah, absolutely without the cancer. Would that be… Wouldn’t that be great if we could do that?
I’m not sure what the statistics are in Australia, but here in the US, it’s one in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
I can only imagine what that emotional ride must be that comes with that. So would you go deeper into that emotional journey that you experienced in our next segment?
~B: I would love to. In Australia, it’s actually one in seven now.
~M: That is so frightening. I shared that with my husband. I’m getting goosies as I say this because so far in my lifetime, I’ve been blessed, but those statistics are just horrifying to me.
~M: Bron shared her story of five days from diagnosis to surgery and the treatment that followed and how it affected her.
So next we’re gonna go deeper into some of those emotions. Hello Bron!
~M: You talked about learning to live each day just for today. Can you help us understand what were some of the emotions you dealt with, and how did that reminder, “just for today,” helped you through them?
~B: It’s the way I lived. And I almost called it “my old Bron.” In that I was really busy, I had a flourishing business, I had my kids and I was around looking after everyone that’s looking back, that’s what I realized. And the “just for today”… It made me live the day in second gear, so instead of living in top gear, it brought me back to second gear. And what that did was give me the space that I needed to become aware of what that lifestyle and emotionally what it was doing to me throughout that time. So when you slow down because you have to, because you’re sick… You get to sit back… Well, you do not get to sit back, you get to lie back and you go, “How did I get here? How did this happen? And when it was the thoughts of the “Why me?” Because of course, there’s grief, because there’s sadness, there’s a loss, there’s a massive loss. Not only did I have a mastectomy, but there’s the loss of life as I knew it. And as I said, when I get to that got to live in the day and the feelings of that when that would come up, I would choose. There were two choices. I could have either gone into a victim, which is like, “Oh you know, why me? I’m the one out of seven Australia now, one in seven. Oh, I’m the one.” And it’s horrible being the one… Like to be the one out of seven, how did I get here? I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’ve lived a healthy life. My oncologist said to me “Bron, you are so disgustingly healthy.
And there’s lots of reasons why, and I believe stress was one of those things, they’ll never quantify it, they do in terms of research. It’s stress, absolutely, and why? Because I was living in top gear. And that top gear means you miss things. You miss things for yourself, you miss things for your family and the grinding hold of the treatment of breast cancer brought around such a realization that I go, “I can’t believe that that’s what I was doing.” And so instead of focusing out, I started to focus in going for a new and only person who can get you through these. You’ve got your family will love you through it. My husband was beyond amazing call just became everything that I couldn’t be. Whereas I never probably allowed him to be that person before. So it was incredible to accept help. And I think as women, especially when you are successful and especially when you’re working hard and doing the best you can with what you’ve got it’s that whole self-awareness is so powerful. So that’s why I chose to use this as a learning. And I’m so grateful, I’m grateful for what I’ve been through, which sounds kind of weird. Not grateful for cancer, but I’m grateful for being able to… Before, I didn’t get a chance to enjoy life the way it should be, which is in second gear, which is having the awareness to stop and smell all the roses, to be able to choose the day like today, “Hi Bron! Just for today. How would you like to have your day? How would you like to feel?” That’s the most important thing. It’s the feelings and aligning with yourself and going in first… Going into giving yourself permission to enjoy, rather than worrying about everyone else.
And it’s a very, for me, a very enlightening moment to be able to go, “This is my life now and I don’t know how many days I have on this earth, but let’s make them amazing.” Let’s make them amazing for me, which in turn, of course, makes it wonderful for my family, but the focus is just completely different. And if that’s one thing that I can say is it’s just wonderful to live in second gear, just slow down! Because you’re missing… I missed so much I can’t talk for anyone else but I missed so much. And that’s the hugest feeling and that in itself brings I think just not just the resilience but it’s the piece that it’s okay, that it’s okay and I’m gonna be okay.
~M: You said so many powerful things in that time, Bron. I told you you’d be inspired by Bron right?
I just appreciate you sharing your story, your attitude, your bubbly personality. The way you got through this, even though the sadness and the grief, I’m sure at times overtook you on those days, you were lying around. And the fact that you chose very consciously to live one day at a time. Just for today, drink water. Just for today, take this tablet that you need to take. Just for today, breathe. Just for today. I love that message.
It is so important for those of us who live in high gear most of the time to take it down a notch, to take it down to second gear, so we don’t miss things. So you’ve taught me something. It’s not that I didn’t know it. I think we all know it, that when we move too fast, we are missing things. We’re missing the things that could delight us. Yeah, I could go on.
You are amazing, your approach to this insidious disease. It’s a lesson for all of us, regardless of whether we face cancer or any other adversity. “Success Despite Adversity” is the title you gave this episode and I love how you live that.
~B: Thank you. Thank you. There are still days when it does overwhelm me when I catch a glimpse of myself or… And it’s a feeling of loss because that’s what it is. And as you say, it doesn’t matter what your adversity is. It’s the same feelings of loss and something that you didn’t choose.
We didn’t choose. I didn’t choose this journey. It’s what you do with it. When I say do, it’s about being, I think. It’s about who you wanna be to be able to do what has to be done, and that’s something I’m sure you can really understand.
~M: Yeah, no, that’s so important to say. Thank you for saying that. You’re right.
It’s not how much we do, it’s who we decide to be when we’re doing it.
~M: And you said you had the choice not to be the victim. That would have been so easy.
~B: I wanted to be the victim.
Oh, come on, let me be the victim. But the thing is…
~M: Just for a minute, just for a minute, please let me.
~B: Let me hand over all responsibility to someone else, I wanna… But doesn’t mean you don’t have that pity party or that feeling of grief for yourself. Of course you… That’s a normal human emotion. It’s more around, “Well, now what?” in terms of what goes next.
I might have been lying in a bed sick, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t allowing the lessons to be learned ’cause again, that’s again a choice, a choice to use what’s happened as a lesson.
~M: And we have to stop and be aware, right, in order for us to see, feel, hear, whatever it is, those lessons, right? We have to be open to them. So that’s a great segue in our next segment. We are going to ask you to share what you’ve learned on this amazing journey of yours and I like to say we save the best for last because this is where your lessons can become the golden nuggets of inspiration for another woman.
~M: So we promised our viewers that you would share the lessons you learned that helped you today, live life in a new way. Help us understand, first of all, what you mean by one percent at a time, and then share more nuggets of wisdom. So the rest of us can learn from you.
~B: Okay, so I don’t know how much you guys have looked into productivity and ways of doing things. And there’s almost do this and do that, and five things for the week, three things for the day. For me, going through adversity, going through the treatment of breast cancer, it wasn’t possible to follow any kind of system because I never knew what the day would be like. It could be one of the days that I ran on high energy due to the effects of medicine or it could have been the day that I was nauseated and couldn’t move. And what I came up with with the 1% was just for today, just do one thing one percent of something.
So it was a choice to choose to do something because as you and I both know, doing nothing is still a choice but it’s choosing just one percent. So it meant up for me in my state of vulnerability that I only had that 1% of something to focus on rather than the huge big picture.
Big pictures are great. We need visions, we need purpose, we need all of those things. But when you’re in the thick of adversity, it’s very, very difficult to go five years in advance because for me it was just too difficult. So rather than focus on the bigger things which I still had in place, I brought it back to something that was doable because I wanted to achieve something for me, and it could have been drinking water 1% because 1% plus 1% adds up to many percents. And if we all just focus on just one small percent at a time, it’s doable and achievable. And rather than the overwhelm that kicks in when you’re developing something bigger, I’m not saying those productivity tools and that those things are not great because they are, I still use them to this day, but just for today, I have my 1% and that’s my thing, and that’s what I achieved.
~M: That’s a brilliant strategy when things are not going your way and something happens that you didn’t choose.
~M: And it could be… I’m just thinking about some of my clients, it’s a brilliant strategy. I intend to share it with them. I’m gonna shamelessly steal it from you.
I talk about baby steps, but when you put it in those terms, 1% at the time, you do 1%, and then you do another 1% you say, as you say it adds up, it is so much more manageable when you think about it in those terms. So whether you have the loss of a loved one, you’ve gone through a divorce, you just lost your job, whatever that adversity is, taking it down to a manageable level so that you still feel like you’re doing something and you’re choosing to move forward and ever so slightly a small step. I love that. I think it’s a brilliant strategy.
~B: Yup, that’s it.
~M: What else?
~B: Yeah. As I said, just for today, go live what you love. You hear it a lot especially the business… Well go and do business with your passion. Easier said than done if I may add but when you find your thing, you embrace it because I could… As I said, I had a choice. I could have been… I could have chosen not to learn anything from that experience or I can choose to go, “Man, I’m giving it everything I’ve got today.” I had a lot of people say to me, “Oh my goodness, Bron, you’re so strong.” And my quote is “You don’t know how strong you are until you haven’t a choice.”
I just did what I had to do to survive ’cause I survived. It was all survival. Even though 1% was surviving because the surviving at 1% equal thriving but you just don’t know it at the time, because for me I was so physically ill, let alone.
So depend… Whatever your adversity is it’s staying on that. It’s knowing that that’s what you can do. What else?
Let me think, I’ve completely lost my train of thought.
~M: That’s okay. I’ll give you a second. I think that’s another great tip for people. And again, it doesn’t even necessarily pertain to business, do what you love in business. But when you are feeling… when you’re feeling down, when you were feeling loss or a grief, if you just go out and do something you love, like walk in nature, or take a bubble bath, or that self-care thing, doing things that you love to do, even though you are ill. And maybe you can’t go for a walk because you’re so ill, but read a great book. Whatever it is for you, do something that you love to do so that it just feeds your soul, a little bit.
~B: I live right now at the beach here in Port Macquarie. I would go to the beach just to put my feet in the water to feel sand, to feel the water because obviously, mother nature is so healing. And what that did was, even if it was for literally 20 meters, I’m kidding you, I took photos when I went because I wanted to remind myself of where I was and where I am now. And standing on the beach and just letting the water lack over my feet going, “I’m healing. I’m healing right now.” That is so powerful and it’s a one percenter. So it’s just doing something that’s right for you. It could be sitting outside, it could be enjoying a cup of tea with a view, it could… It doesn’t even… You could live in a city and still feel the same, but it’s that it’s the present. It really is the present. And listen to the lessons that come, listen to what you learn because we all learn something and it is a choice to learn it. Compared to the old Bron, the old would have gone, “Oh wow! I can’t wait to tell everyone what I’ve learned. Whereas the new Bron is going, “I’m just demonstrating. This is what I’m doing, this is what I’ve learned. If you’d like to learn more how, you ask. If you don’t, that’s totally cool.” It’s a completely different way of looking at the learning because I’m learning and I continue to learn for myself and… Yeah, when you least feel like getting out and doing something, mother nature heals all wounds. It really does.
~M: When I’m having kind of a bad day, and I admittedly have not had the kind thing, but dear Lord… The kind of experience you have with health issues. But when I’m just having a blue day I love going to my backyard with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and especially at sundown and listening to all the birds going to [undetectable].
They are chattering and chirping, and it just… You’re right, it’s just taking yourself down to the moment and just being like you said before. I think that’s so important. Did you get your train of thought back?
~B: I did.
~M: Alright, give us another.
~B: Okay, so my next advice would be, is to really, really focus on what you can control and what you can’t. It’s written around, it’s banded around, it’s in a million different books that live it, live it every day. Is it something you can control or is it something you can’t? I can’t control where the cancer comes back. I can’t stop amputating so I can do everything from a health perspective, from a mindset perspective, but it’s something that I actually can’t control. I can do loads to minimize it so I can either focus on “Oh my goodness! Is it gonna come back? Is it gonna come back?”, “Oh, okay. Just for today. I know I’m cancer-free. I know I’m doing the best I can today because I don’t know what tomorrow holds, I don’t know what next year holds but today I’m great and it’s a choice I can choose. So it’s really focusing on the input into any perspective of what’s happening in your life, whether you lose a job, you can’t control that. It’s gone. It’s what you do with what’s next in terms of how you use that to grow. I don’t wanna use the word benefit, but to grow because while ever we’re growing, we’re learning, we’re going from that survival to thriving and you can thrive while you’re surviving. And it’s really… I cannot stress enough the importance of learning what you can control and what you can’t. How control people? You can’t control loads of things. And that wasted energy when you don’t have a lot, use it for yourself, put it into yourself ’cause that’s where I believe we do then benefit. We then just becomes so much more for ourselves. But then that in a ten goes towards our friends, our family, as communities.
Yeah, so that’s a… That’s another little tip.
~M: Yeah, and it’s so important that we do hear it a lot. Don’t stop trying to control what’s out of your control, what’s out of your power to control and control what you can. And the truth of the matter is, I believe, is the only thing we truly can control is us… It’s ourselves, right? I can control me. I can control how I respond to any situation, adverse or otherwise.
And you’re right, it is a choice. And we can mire ourselves in the muck when we are trying to control everything around us when it’s just not ours to control. It’s just not. It’s not ours to control. And just acknowledging that and being good with that and that for those of us… I’m a recovery perfectionist, admittedly. I’ve tried for a very long time. I was in a second marriage to wait too long trying to change the dynamic of the marriage, and I was trying to change him. I’ll never get what my first coach said to me, “What makes you think you can turn an apple into an orange?”
Trying to control something that’s out of my control. So yeah, that’s… That’s another great tip to share and I so appreciate that you brought that one up because I think it’s a very important message for others to learn.
~B: It’s a tough one too, though, very tough because when you’re in the sick of something adverse, it’s like a free fall. For me, I would always think, “Right, cool, so I’ve had surgery, we’re gonna be going this way. And then something would happen and I get swam to the lefts so I kept taking all these left turns and I’m setting the GPS to go, “I want the straight to the road over here” so I could feel comfortable because I like things… I like to know what’s coming next. I’m not one to go, “Oh I love surprises!” No, we don’t love surprises.
So I kept having these left turns and it’s a scramble. I would scramble trying to come to terms and trying to make sense and try to control or try to bring it into something where I could understand it all, process it. And it’s a really tough one to know that that’s when you can’t control it. And it’s taking responsibility or how you feel, and then what you do with that situation because it’s out of control and you can’t stop it. I can’t stop that I’m gonna be allergic to chemo and then I’m gonna get given a stack of extra drugs and it’s gonna make you even sicker, but I can go, “Well okay, I’m gonna manage it today ’cause I know that I’m just gonna get really sick before I get really better.”
It’s only today… What are we now? It’s April … end of April. I didn’t finish my treatment until May… Next month in May will be one year since the end of my treatment and I think, “Wow I start a very long time”, and it feels like a lifetime but it’s not. And I think that’s a thing when you stop projecting when you just keep it to today and you keep… You just keep that second gear going, even when you’re wanting to go to third and fourth and top gear. You keep into that second gear because then you can go, “Right. What’s really going on here? What’s this? Is this something that I can look out for myself? Can I control this year?” So no, it’s very… It’s just that one question can you… Yes or no? If it’s a no, don’t fade it energy. It doesn’t mean you don’t get scared, it doesn’t mean you don’t get sad, but you can choose to go, “Well, I’m choosing to focus on this.”
~M: I love that. Ask yourself one question, can you control it? Yes or no? And if it’s no, as hard as that is, let it go and focus on you. Let it go and focus on you. You’re right, it’s very hard. That is a practice I’m still working on. I think we’re all working on… Everyone works on that.
And some people haven’t learned to work on it, but it’s something worthy of working on, I believe.
~B: One hundred percent. Over the years, a lot of people tell “Bron, just let it go.” And I never understood. It was like I was in a different paradigm, I just could not understand what letting go meant. I go, “Man, what does that mean?” And what I learned for me was letting go wasn’t doing something. It wasn’t doing. It was being because if I’m in the present, I’d actually let go but I didn’t know that I’d let go. And being in second gear means that I am a lot more aware which means I’m automatically letting go, but I didn’t realize it, so I used to think that letting go was a thing you had to do.
~M: You know, I’m so glad you said that. That is a beautiful distinction to make. Letting go is just letting you be.
~B: Yes, that’s it!
~M: Let and be.
~B: It took 49 years for me to realize it. There’s nothing else. I’m super excited to realize that because I’m now no longer have this hang apple, whatever you wanna call it, around letting go because I always thought it was something you had to do. You don’t have to do anything. That’s the point is it you don’t do anything, you just be.
~M: Yeah. I’m so glad we got to that point because it’s an important one. I write about letting go all the time, and I talk about it a lot. It’s something that I have been practicing for myself for a long time but you’re right. I’m so glad you said that. It’s not something you do, it’s just you being. On that note, I would love… I am sure there are gonna be lots of people who wanna get in touch with you because they wanna hear more of your story, they want your energy. I would love for you to share how they can best get in touch with you.
~B: Sure! Well come for me on Facebook, which is I am Bron Watson is my name, so facebook.com/iambronwatson and please put by my website, so www.BronWatson.com. I’m more than happy to talk and chat to anyone in this space because it’s so important for business life, however you wanna live. And you know what, thanks for having me, Maria. It’s actually being a lot better than I thought it would be. I thought it would be bad, but it was like, “Wow!”
~M: I am so happy. I am just delighted that you joined us from Australia. It was a bit of a challenge to find a good time for you and for me to talk since we are, I don’t know, some number of hours. You’re tomorrow already.
~B: I’m tomorrow. I’m Tuesday morning.
~M: Yeah, I was so glad that you joined us. I’m so glad that we were introduced.
I always tell people that they will be inspired by these conversations and the truth is I am often almost always the first one to be inspired and this conversation is no different.
Your message, Bron, to find success despite adversity, and doing it 1% at a time are powerful messages to leave with us. So thank you so much for being here.
~B: Thank you for having me.
~M: And thank you all for being part of our community and for watching this episode with Bron Watson. This series of conversations was inspired by my latest book, Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph. My book, the articles I write, and these conversations are intended to share stories from the heart and life strategies that can help others.
I invite you to share them with the women in your life so none of us will ever feel like we are alone ever again.
Many of us have gone through similar experiences, and we’re here to support you.
I believe it’s our time to thrive. Will you join me on that ride?
I’m María Tomás-Keegan. ‘Till next time.