A Leadership Lesson Learned From A Mammogram

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Last week I experienced one of the most alarming days of my life. I received a call from my Mom asking if I’d mind attending a follow-up appointment with her doctor. She had a mammogram the week before and they wanted to retake some pictures. This was a cause of concern because my Mom is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed 8 years ago, fought hard, and went into remission. When she called of course I said yes. I don’t get upset or emotional when there’s nothing to be upset about. This was merely a rescan. I assured her that it was probably nothing.

As we drove onto Base I thought about all the trips my Mom had made to this very hospital. All the visits to the Emergency Room with my me, or my Brother, or my Sister. It’s the hospital where I was born. It’s the hospital where my Mom underwent a lumpectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. I waited while they performed the mammogram. When I went back into the room my Mom was visibly upset. They were fairly certain they saw something. They needed more pictures. I continued to tell her that everything would be just fine. “Let’s wait until we hear something conclusive.” After she had the final round of scans we sat there side by side. My Mom ran through possible treatment scenarios. She was deciding how aggressive she would be with the treatment. She also began thinking about the possibility that this could be more than breast cancer. I continued to tell to her to relax and not think worse case scenario. We had no answers. We had no idea what we were dealing with. I still sat there, emotionless, telling her I really didn’t think there was anything to worry about.


Then the nurse called us into a separate room. And then the doctor walked in. It was at that point I new this was not good. I could feel the tears welling up and I was on the brink of losing my composure. I thought “I am actually going to hear someone receive a cancer diagnosis. And not just anyone, but my Mom”. The doctor explained that after the repeated scans he didn’t see anything worrisome. Everything looked good and he’d see her again in a year. Two deep breaths later, on the walk back to the car, I smiled and told my Mom, “See, nothing to worry about”. Internally I was shaken. We laughed and I asked that we not do this again. We both agreed.

The truth is, this is the first of many appointments I’ll probably attend with my Parents. It’s the responsibility you assume. Just as our parents did, we become the calm reassuring support system. We listen carefully to what the nurses and doctors say. We ask questions. We allow our parents to be the patients and experience the emotions that are real to anyone in that situation. The same can be said in business. Sometimes you fight hard for a promotion, but sometimes circumstances occur and leadership is assumed. Those leaders that assume responsibility in times of change and discord are often the most impactful.

How do you respond to assumed leadership?


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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