Did you know a large part of the population fears public speaking more than death?
I went to my speaking engagement not having one micro-clue what to say. I've been too busy to even give it much thought and was sure I was going to flop hardcore. I've had experience speaking to my university classes for presentations and it always took a lot of research, writing and planning to have up to 5 minutes of material. I even took a public speaking class because of my terror of speaking in front of people. I always thought I would pass out but that's because apparently when people get nervous when speaking in front of others they stop breathing. Absurd but true.
So I walked in and was greeted by the kind woman who I had invited me. The group is an exclusive group of women who raise money for scholarships for women. The group has history and they began when women weren't expected to attend post secondary. They believed otherwise and fought for it.
I met them the year I became sick and they gave me a generous scholarship for school. They had been keeping tabs on me since and now wanted to hear from me.
I stepped into the house and was ushered upstairs to wait until it was time for me to speak. Then I was brought down to a room with about 20 people. On the way there in the car I began mulling over what to say. I came up with, starting at the beginning. Genius, right? Okay it was obvious, so I stood in front of them and asked them what they knew of my diagnosis and what I'd been through. Of course they didn't know anything other than I had cancer.
So I began telling the tale from the start. From not feeling well, to diagnosis, to my reaction to being told I had leukemia and being carted off in the helicopter. I mentioned some of the details that are stuck in my mind forever like how the helicopter flew low over the water so I could see the blue of the ocean with the sun sparkling on the islands and then how we landed on the roof of the hospital in the middle of the city. I asked the hospital paramedics where the heck I was because I was strapped down and couldn't move my head so they turned my stretcher in a circle to give me the 360 view of the city. It was the most glorious and most physically painful moment of my life.
I spoke of my children and how we had never been separated. I spoke about how hard it was to be away from them and then talked bout my chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant. I told them how my only sibling had a 25% chance of being a match for me and that he was. I also told them about the others who were going through the same thing with me that had large families with no matches. I told them how grateful I am to still be here and the struggles that have come for me and my sons since. I even mentioned how the other people I went through treatment with died and how I still feel the weight of that on me.
There was so much more to talk about than I had ever realized. The trick to public speaking is to know your topic and no one knows the topic of me like I do. As I talked about these things I could see the emotion on their faces and it made me realize the gravity of it all, it's been quite a road. This is the first time I've told my complete story from beginning.
So, I stood there for 40 minutes with grace and composure talking about the worst time of my life and had them laughing at the end.
Rather than failing, I achieved. I rocked the house.