The Essence of Michelle

“A complete and utter badass”

I have photographed Michelle a number of times over the past few years and have lots of wonderful shots. However, these photos are not only of Michelle, but literally her entire family. One of those photo sessions was her wedding where I was the photographer. Michelle’s immediate family has also become willing models as well.  Anytime I put out a call to practice on new flash or camera, they’re one of the first I reach out to. Husband, Marvin and daughters are also very photogenic, but don’t tell him that, I don’t want to give him a swelled head.

Daughters Victoria and Isabelle  are delightful and mature beyond their age.  This is mostly because of their journey as well, a huge part is the love in the family.

Heck, I’ve even used Michelle and Marvin in the one music video I made.  That video was almost a disaster, until Chris, my son reworked it into a viable end result.  I’ve included a link to the video as well. It is Charlie  McKittrick’s song, “ No Bounds“, the you tube official song –  Charlie McKittrick songs https://youtu.be/VE2ziBuEjg8 and the rest of the story on my blog –  https://nkerba.com/2021/02/15/when-opportunity-knocks/ 

I met Michelle while working at my previous company.  She was my Head Office Business development coach.  We immediately connected. She also connected with my assistant Carol and the newly licensed rep Paula Montgomery. Interestingly, when anyone of us mentioned her name or an appointment with Michelle, it was immediately followed up by the following words, “I love Michelle”

Michelle, by any measuring standard, is a beautiful woman, but that’s not all.  She has an inner beauty to complement the outside one.  She was the picture of someone who had it all. 

Before we go on with Michelle, I must share a story that nearly ended our working relationship and friendship.  Whenever I call or email support staff at head office, one of my habits is to say to them – How is my favourite person at head office? They all know I say that to anyone I connect with, laugh it off, and we go on. One such reach out to Michelle was no different.  Spellcheck changed one of the words enough to make the email totally inappropriate for work and in general. I would have never used such language.  It took Michelle three days to respond.  She started the reply by writing that she simply didn’t know how to respond, then decided that it was me and so out of character for me to write something like that.  I returned to my email and read it, I didn’t know what she was complaining about. I read it a second time and was still puzzled. My third reread was as if the offending word became a neon sign in size 72 font. Oh my god, I can’t believe I sent that email without catching it. I immediately called her and apologized profusely, and we laughed about it. As you can see, I’m still thinking about that. No, I’m not sharing it out of respect for her and who is possibly reading this story. As my daughter, Tara the teacher says, “And what did we learn from that?” Re-read your emails twice before pressing that send arrow. To this day, every time I reread something, I think of Michelle.

Several years ago, in 2017, I received a phone call from Michelle, it was to tell me that she had been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of Leukemia called Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia.  She confided in me that had this diagnosis not happened, we wouldn’t have been talking that day.  How can that be? She was the picture of good health.  On her last visit to the office, she was telling us about a challenge she had on the go with a work colleague on workout schedules.  

We kept in touch, by phone or email sporadically, but each time, she shared her journey where she was at and what was next. I don’t like to impose on someone in the hospital, I think they’re there for a reason, and it’s not a social one. As a rule, I won’t visit them there. Immediate family is different. Michelle’s support network of family was indeed amazing, she didn’t need me to visit.

She has come through her treatment not only with flying colours.  It wasn’t just that she came through meekly. It was like punching through a paper poster at a launching event, it was loud and audacious. She was determined that she was going to make a difference to those who followed her.

She put her story in the form of a book – https://www.amazon.ca/Road-Courageous-Living-Audacious-Self-Love/dp/1738694208/ref=nodl_?dplnkId=3a6ec3c6-dc8a-487e-a8b3-e8b3081330d4 

When I received the book, I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. Even though I knew the story, it was incredible to read the things that happened behind the scenes.  You’ll have to read it, but the Christmas one reaches deep inside and tugs at the heartstrings.  I have since gifted it to several friends, and the feedback has been amazing.

This “Essence of” could easily have been a story about Michelle’s husband, Marvin, her children, and her family.  They all deserve their story to be told, maybe for another time.

At some time or another, you reached a fork in the road. At that time, it didn’t feel like it, but looking back, you realize that was a big moment. One that changed your life. Describe yours.  

The day I was diagnosed with leukemia, I decided that if I were given another chance at living, I would dedicate my life to improving the state of the Canadian healthcare system.  Three months after my diagnosis, my oncologist approached me and asked me to participate in a media interview for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil campaign (April 2018).  I had always been terrified of talking to audiences, and the idea made me anxious…but I said yes anyway.  Little did I know it would kick off a series of opportunities that allowed me to open my own consulting business.  I now work with several healthcare organizations to improve patient experiences in Canada. I do advocacy work with non-profit organizations where I get to encourage Canadians to make more courageous decisions – whether speaking up for themselves in healthcare settings or otherwise. I run a support group of more than 1600 immunocompromised people globally, representing 30+ countries whom I also advocate for to improve this population’s safety and awareness during the ongoing (not over) COVID-19 pandemic.  I even wrote a whole book 😉 

What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it? 

I have been my biggest challenge.  It doesn’t come naturally for me to make hard decisions.  Through a significant amount of self-improvement and healing, I’ve had to learn how to make my own courageous decisions.  

What one gem you’ve learned on your journey would you love to share?  

The world is full of distractions and turmoil.  Spending some energy, mitigating risk and preparing for the future is essential. Still, the end is never guaranteed, so allow yourself to be present – truly appreciate the beauty around you and PLAY when you get the chance.

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