You never think it’s going to be you. You never think that the impossible things of life, the ones that only happen to “other” people, can happen to you—that is, until they do. Alyssa never expected to have a series of unfortunate, life-changing events happen in her life. But Alyssa learned that within those moments of pain, there is often something beautiful developing beneath it all.
At 34, I’ve now had the “impossible” arrive on my doorstep — twice. The first time was with my younger sister’s sudden death from bacterial meningitis while we were in college. Healthy and vibrant one day, then gone the next, her absence rocked the very foundation I stood on, literally bringing me to my knees. And the aftershocks of the void she left behind echoed through the years but, in time, happiness and joy returned, seeping back into the hollow places. Life moved on, as it tends to, and I choose to take her with me, stitching her sweet presence into the very fabric of my being so she would be with me wherever I went in life.
I graduated from school, started my first job, and got married. But then the unthinkable happened again. Just over a decade after my sister’s death, I was suddenly facing my own mortality. In May of 2008, six weeks after running my best time in a half-marathon, I was informed that I was in Stage IV of one of the rarest and most aggressive types of cancer known and given a less than 1 percent chance of survival. I was 31 and had never felt better. What came next arrived in a blur of bad news, each blow harder than the last, compounding the horribleness of it all. “Less than thirty documented cases…” “metastatic disease…” “poor prognosis…” “never going to be able to have any children of your own…” “high dose chemo…” “two back-to-back bone marrow transplants…” “nine months of mandatory house isolation…” “we just don’t know…” “we just don’t know…” “we just don’t know…”
If my sister’s death was soul shaking, my diagnosis was soul shattering. In the blink of an eye I found myself leaning out over the edge of this life and the next with the weight of my impossible circumstance and such staggering odds pushing me from behind. But then something quite profound happened. With a sudden clarity amidst the chaos swirling around me, I heard a voice within calling me to leap out into the unknown and to trust. I couldn’t go back; there was nothing to go back to. I couldn’t run away; it had already caught up to me. All I could do was summon all the courage I never knew I had, take a deep breath and step out into the unknown on faith and faith alone.
I won’t tell you that my journey was easy. It was not. But I will tell you that it was worth it. Through these two life-altering experiences, I learned one of the greatest lessons of all. These two experiences both jolted me awake in life in similar and yet very different ways. And I learned first-hand what the words “hope” and “faith” really mean and the transformative power of the mind. We each find ourselves shattered, in big and small ways, at some point in our lives. What’s important in those moments is what we choose to do with them and daring to believe that, no matter what it looks like, Something beautiful is Happening™.
Read how Alyssa answers our Identity 5 Questions:
What have you accepted within yourself and/or within your life? Is there anything you are working on accepting?
I have accepted my power, that whatever I choose to believe of myself and life becomes true and that nothing is “impossible.” We are stronger than we know and, even when it doesn’t seem like it, we have everything we need to do what we are called to do in this life.
I’m working on accepting that there are only so many hours in a day. When you think you might die and then get a second chance at life, you tend to want to do everything—yesterday! But the knowing I have now that everything is right on time helps to temper that.
What do you appreciate about yourself or your life?
As far as my life goes, I appreciate everything! But as far as myself, I really appreciate my creativity, my spontaneity and my desire to learn. I’m not afraid to jump at opportunities as they present themselves, to really put myself out there, try new things or go new places. I’m quite comfortable outside of my “comfort zone” because of what I’ve been through, which I like because that’s where the “magic” happens! That’s freeing. I think it’s important not to be afraid to take risks and really stretch yourself. It’s how we learn and grow but we have to be willing to be uncomfortable for a little while.
What have you achieved, or what are you working to achieve personally, physically, or mentally?
I’ve discovered an inner strength that I didn’t know was possible and with that, also an awareness of what life is really all about. I see the layer underneath things now, the people behind the masks, and the lessons behind the circumstances. I’ve also come to know that our minds and hearts are the only things we truly ever have any control over. So I’ve accepted control of that and try to let go of the rest. Right now I’m working on my first book and getting a literary agent. I’m also hard at work sharing my journey through my website, Facebook page and various media outlets.
What is your no-so-perfect way?
We are all unique with quirks and imperfections, so why not flaunt them and embrace them! I have a really strong innate drive to push myself and, while good in many ways, it can also cause me to over do it. I used to be relentless—running six miles every morning before dawn, working 10+ hours a day, skimping on sleep and basically burning the candle, so to speak, at both ends. I joke now that I’m a “Recovering Type A”…a work in progress but, hey, aren’t we all?!
How would you complete this sentence, “I Love My…” This has to be about you, physically or mentally.
LIFE!!! I really do. If the question had been “I Adore My… or I’m Enraptured By My…”, the answer would be, hands down, my AMAZING, FABULOUS AND PERFECT HUSBAND because I more than love him. He’s the best part of everyday. I truly am the luckiest girl alive.
To learn more about Alyssa, her journey or to contact her, please visit her website at www.alyssaphillipsinc.com.
Photo of Alyssa in black sweater courtesy of ©Marie Thomas.