“Stories can conquer fear, you know.
They can make the heart bigger.”
― Ben Okri.
Every year Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. holds the Gen Blue Experience, one of the world's largest real estate conferences, for their agents to become inspired, learn from industry leaders, network with agents across the country, and introduce Coldwell Banker's new marketing tools and technology (you can read more about 2022's new technology here.) This year, Coldwell Banker sent out a call for inspiring tales from CB agents across the globe. Lindsay Quayle, not only an extraordinary agent from CBVGR's Woodstock office but an enthusiastic, optimistic, and inspiring human, was selected to present her story, to a HUGE audience of peers and colleagues at the 2021 Gen Blue Experience, on the stage of Radio City Music Hall in NYC.
We encourage you to take a minute to let Lindsay inspire you on stage in the video below, but if you prefer to get your stories the old-fashioned way (reading), then read on! Below the video is a transcript of Lindsay's inspiring tale.
Introducer: So let's continue our inspirational stories. Our next guest has a personal journey about overcoming a major life challenge that has most likely touched all of us in some way—cancer. But cancer was just the beginning for our speaker - in what ultimately became a path to a brighter future. So from Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty in Upstate New York, please welcome Lindsay Quayle!
Lindsay: Hello everyone. Seven years ago, I was 32 years old and entering a whole new world. It started with a stabbing pain in my groin that shot me out of bed at night, gasping for air wondering what was going on. And then, the pain came back and began to spread out in my body - slowly going down my legs, up my back, and eventually over my entire body. As the weeks passed, it got so bad that I had become unable to walk normally - hobbling around the house with a cane. I had to stop working. I grew weak and was mostly bedridden, enduring now daily pain… so weak that even bed sheets and household objects like paper towel rolls were hard to lift. As we tried to figure out what was going on, my primary doctor put me on strong medical opioids that barely managed the now-extreme pain spiking and eventually chronic.
After a few scans, the doctor revealed it was most likely some form of lymphoma, but we were still searching for answers. My body then started to shut down, and I had to fight every day. There were nights the pain was so extreme that even with the meds, I would literally howl in pain. Next thing I knew I was in an ambulance being rushed to the ER. They told me I was severely anemic and that I was being admitted to the hospital for further testing and analysis. Here I am, sitting in my hospital bed, not knowing what was really going on - and still, smiling through the pain like a true future salesperson! After six days in the hospital, a lymph and bone marrow biopsy, two blood transfusions, turning into a living skeleton and a hospital transfer came the moment of truth. It had been a surreal month, and I'd already been through so much that I practically surrendered to the process. I was only focused on undergoing whatever treatment I had to go through just to make the pain go away.
I'll never forget the day I was diagnosed. My oncologist, ironically named Dr. SICKder, had a great bedside manner and a much-needed sense of humor. He looked me square in the eye and gently gave me a terminal diagnosis: Hodgkin's lymphoma, stage four B, one of the worst diagnoses. He told me to pull a chair next to him so he could show me my most recent CAT scan. He said, “Look! You're lit up like a Christmas tree! It looks like someone threw cancer all over you! With that much cancer in your body, you should already be dead.” In fact, he'd never seen someone with that much cancer that was still alive. And that's actually me, that’s my skin, pretty shocking considering my age, but no surprise considering what I had been through.
At this point, most people would break down in tears. My reaction? I laughed and said, “Well, I'm not dead yet!” When I asked why I was still alive against all the odds, he first pointed to me and said, “It's you. It's your spirit and your positive attitude.” He then pointed up and said, “And it's, well, you know….” Even the numerous nurses who had assisted me mirrored his sentiments, saying that a patient's attitude greatly affects their survival and overall health. They also said they'd seen people with less severe cases than mine quickly deteriorate when they a bad attitude and a grim outlook. But I was determined to survive, even on the edge of death and even after being told I should be dead. I strangely, not even for one moment, had the thought "I'm going to die." I knew that this was simply a difficult detour that I had to endure that would make me stronger and wiser - and I would beat it. I got my port installed. I cut my hair and ceremoniously shaved my head. (It actually wasn't the first time I had shaved my head: when I was 17, I willingly shaved my head at summer art school because it was one of the few edgy hairstyles I hadn't tried yet!)
Dr. Sickder put me on the strongest chemo available for my diagnosis. I jumped into a week of radiation and began six grueling months of chemo. The chemo was so strong that I could only have it every other week. And when I started, there was no end in sight. I just hoped it would at least ease the pain and maybe beat the cancer. When we started the treatment, Dr. Sickder joked, “Well, if this doesn't work, we're going to have to send you to Germany!” (Apparently there's even stronger chemotherapy available there.)
Cancer sucks. Chemo sucks. Well, it feels sucky. The fatigue is unreal. I had daily nausea, and my appetite was greatly affected. It was surreal not being able to have the energy to be able to do the things I wanted to do or eat when I wanted to eat. There were some days I would wake up, and one part of me would feel terrified, screaming out, and at the same time the other would feel confident - that somehow everything was going to be okay.
I got regular CAT scans that followed-up with an appointment with Dr. Sickder to monitor my progress. In December, three months into my six-month treatment, I went to my regular follow-up appointment after a recent scan and was hoping to hear what I had heard every other time, that the chemo was working and the cancer was slowly receding. But this time, Christmas came early. Halfway through my chemo treatment, Dr. Sickder shared I was miraculously cancer-free!
Here I am, smiling ear to ear with the good news, looking like a chemo patient but already feeling healthier and stronger. The day he delivered the good news, he looked at me with the same marvel as when he gave me my terminal diagnosis. It was unbelievable! People with my diagnosis typically didn't do that well so quickly. It was truly a miracle. When I asked him why it worked, he said, “Well, we don't really know why it works better for some people more than others.” I was just what they call a "super-responder." I'll take it. It was fantastic news and a great relief. And while I was miraculously cancer-free three months into the treatment, my doctor insisted I continue through the entire course for the win - and I happily obliged.
Chemo ended up being a tabula rasa experience for me. It magically wiped away all the BS in my life. All the superficial things just fell away. Things that people use to define themselves, like the clothes they wear, the way they look, their jobs, hobbies, what they do day to day - all of those things disappeared for me during chemo, along with the old me and my fear of death. In those moments of pure survival, just existing moment-to-moment, I took the opportunity to look deep within myself and found my true raw spirit. I had the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and see myself for the first time. There I was, at the end of six months of treatment, still smiling all the way to the finish, looking like a crazy velveteen rabbit, just barely holding onto my eyebrows and hair. So everything was good, right?
Well, almost. Recovery was just as challenging as the time leading up to my diagnosis and the treatment itself. I had to start over, rebuild my blood and my body, come off one-and-a-half years of strong medical opioids, rebuild my finances from practically nothing. As my hair grew back I took odd jobs and stayed with friends, renting rooms to save money. Life was unstable and a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. But as my hair grew back, I did discover I had been rewarded with fabulous chemo curls, a wonderful, short but very sweet reward.
A year into my recovery I had regained enough strength to get a part-time job in a local kitchen and start my housekeeping business back up, that had since been put on hold. I managed to live on a very tight budget, renting a sparsely furnished apartment and sleeping on the floor, while working long hours - determined to rebuild my life.
For those of you who don't know what a port is, it's a bionic vein that is put in your chest to deliver chemo to your body safely. They had initially prepared me to keep the port in for five years but since I recovered so swiftly, it came out two years early. I finally got a car. My housekeeping business took off. I started getting stronger, exercising and doing martial arts, happily grateful to have found my strength and to able to move in my body again. Shortly into that year, many of my housekeeping clients started asking me to assist in property management-related things, rentals and such, and with a little research, I quickly realized if I wanted to do it right, well, I needed to get my real estate license!
And where does one turn when they need to get a trusted guide to help them into real estate? Well, Coldwell Banker, of course! Here I am as the baby agent proudly showing my first sign going into the ground. In June of 2019, just a year after my chemo port was removed, I joined Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty in Woodstock, and started my career as a real estate agent. What blew me away about CBVGR was the support, not only from Village Green Realty but from Coldwell Banker as a whole; the training, tools, technology and opportunities were (and are) incredible. I've never felt a lack of support or doubted that I made the right choice with Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty.
I'm now four months into my third year of real estate (a top producer with $2.6 million gross sales in 2020!) and am going for my associate broker license at $3 million gross in 2021 so far. I always thank my associates and managers for their support, and they always throw it right back at me and say, “No, it's you. It's you who's responsible for your success!” (That's still up for debate!) But really, it's truly an amazing and inspiring group of people. When I chose Coldwell Banker, my life took off, my business took off and it's now evolved into a property management company.
So all in all, I'm feeling much, much better. This experience has taught me that sometimes the only way around something is to go straight through it. Sometimes the biggest blessings in life come wrapped in really scary, ugly packages. I learned to play the cards you're dealt (no matter how bad they seem) and most wonderfully that your friends, family, and community hold the most unexpected gifts and resources if you're just willing to reach out to them. All of those lessons have helped me as a salesperson as well, and I'm sure help you as well.
But who could have thought that enduring excruciating pain and almost dying would be what ultimately brought me to find myself - renewed health, a supportive community, and financial freedom? After beating the odds I know I can do anything I put my mind to. Choosing Coldwell Banker was the final push in recovery to help me pursue the life of my dreams and find real success. You never know what you can accomplish until you ask - and you never know how strong you are until you're tested. With every setback, there's an even greater comeback. I'm eternally grateful to have shared my story with you. May it inspire you to never fear even in the face of death. Thank you!