Angelique Lynch is one of South Africa’s premier businesswomen and. In 2001, the Durban local joined the motoring industry as a marketing production assistant. Her fierce drive saw her rise to the position of Marketing Director, making her part of the management team that shepherded the business through the move from print to digital, and no less than three company sales.
At the age of 28 however, having just been selected to be on the company’s Management Development Programme, Angie was given her toughest challenge. Diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 3 HER2+ breast cancer, her life and her career were in jeopardy.
“I’ll never forget the call from the company CEO once I got diagnosed,” says Angie. “I didn’t expect it, as I didn’t know him well at the time. He assured me that the company would be supportive; that gave me the kickstart I needed to start to build a strategy. I had cancer, but it was going to be on my terms.”
True to Angie’s passion for life and business, she chose to stay at her demanding post throughout the difficult process of a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy, followed by multiple operations, hundreds of tests and 5 years of hormone replacement therapy.
“I knew that I needed something to focus on rather than the illness itself, a purpose,” says Angie. “I was not going to let this disease consume my life, or stop me exploring my dreams and aspirations of working up the corporate ladder. Staying at work was very challenging, but I also feel that it was the thing that kept me going, no matter what. It also taught me that you are more formidable with a strong team of people around you whether family, friends, colleagues or a medical team. ”
A grinding six month schedule of work, travel, chemo every Friday, and recovery over the weekends has given Angie a wealth of experience of how to be resilient in stressful situations, and what tactics to apply to thrive when the odds are stacked against you. She is looking forward to sharing these insights with others in both their personal and business lives in her soon to be released blog Boobs2Boardroom.
“As I was navigating this unexpected journey I learned not only life lessons about love, laughter and mortality, but I was stunned at how many parallels I could make with my illness and the business I have worked in for the past 14 years. I feel hugely inspired to share what I’ve discovered with others who find themselves in similar situations, whether in their personal life or in the boardroom”
Angelique Lynch’s Life Lessons
1.Knowledge is power
Angie quickly learned that her battle with cancer would hinge on her understanding of the disease and process she faced. However, appropriate, knowledge was key.
“Knowledge is power, but only with context,” says Angie. “When I was diagnosed I rushed to Google searching terms like ‘will breast cancer kill me?’ and ‘survival rates’. Google can be a powerful tool, but also the darkest place. The same is true in business, gather information, research, be like a sponge and absorb information. However, context is key, and context is always your own experience, your own journey. Know what information and advice to filter out, and what to keep. ”
2) Take calculated risks
Facing a life challenging threat, Angie found that taking great risk to achieve great reward was necessary, and is armed by that knowledge to this day.
“I chose to take a combo of two drugs that could have life threatening risks, but it was my best shot for long term survival. I also made the choice to work, because I knew I needed to have a bigger purpose and not have the cancer define me,” says Angie. “Living on the edge is not necessarily where you want to be, but sometimes it’s necessary. In business, the same is true.”
3) Have a sense of humour
Confronted with deeply challenging situations, Angie found that humour was the quality that turned the horrific to a bonding experience, and she strives to use that lesson today.
“I remember just before my mastectomy the nurse marked the part of my body to be removed, but she marked the wrong side!” relates Angie. “I was on calming meds and it was lucky that I noticed. Because of the meds I was able to laugh, and it became so infectious it spread to my family. We laughed and laughed all the way to the operating theatre. It didn’t change my circumstances, but it showed us that even though the situation was challenging, we were still able to find beauty in the moment.”
“Those tough times, whether family or business, pull you together. Being in the trenches builds relationships that last,” Angie continues. “As a business leader I want to get my hands dirty. I want to work alongside my team, and to laugh and cry with them.”
4) Embrace imperfection
Faced with the loss of a breast as well as the loss of her hair throughout chemo treatment, Angie was forced to deal with her idea of perfection, and find a new way to frame her world that allowed her new self to not only be welcome, but thrive.
“Losing my hair, I realised how much wonder there is in imperfection,” says Angie. “I discovered that it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you behave. Perfection can rob the moment of realness and vulnerability.”
“In terms of business,” Angie continues, “I’ve learned to not chase perfection there either, as it is almost never possible. Rather I use the 80/20 principal. If I’m 80% sure and I know that the last 20% is always going to be a guess, I’ll go for it. Change is constant. If something seems perfect today, tomorrow it will be not.”
For Angie, her battle with breast cancer is long behind her, but the continued campaign to find success both personally and in the boardroom is ongoing.
“My hope is that in sharing my story I can inspire others to be bold in the boardroom and in life, because although life can be bloody and brutal just like in the Rocky movies, it is when we get knocked down our light and strength can often shine the brightest,” says Angie.