What happened? Where did you go and why didn’t you make a public announcement?
“On October 8, 2018 I received a diagnosis that would change the course of my life. Aggressive carcinoma in one breast, with a high likelihood of future cancer in my other breast. Do you know what my first thought was? “I don’t have time for this. Our annual open house is November 30!” We walked out of the clinic not knowing what to do next. Postpone surgery until I could “get organized”? Sell the business? Close temporarily? Hire someone to take over my position (which at the time was marketer, book-keeper, manager and full time practitioner), or just leave Donna at the spa with the girls to struggle through the day-to-day business dealings…and come home to take care of me at the end of her day?
The next day at work was extremely hard. After 14 years of owning Namaste, I had developed very close relationships with most of my clients. Many of them had been with me from the start. How could I go on working, and answer their usual inquiries about my life with “I’m great – how are you?” But I did. And I worked the rest of the week like that, keeping this life-changing information to myself and sticking firmly to the rule that I had always abided by (and had my staff conform to)…and that is clients do not ever need to know about the practitioner’s personal problems.
After consulting Dr. Google & my step mom (who had been through breast cancer herself), and a very concerned call from my surgeon, I relented to the fact that surgery needed to happen. Immediately. The longer cancer was left in my body, the greater the chance of it spreading. So I booked in for the next available date, and decided that, come what may, we needed to close the spa. Being fully aware that people may start calling to demand money back on their existing gift certificates (yes, it happens), I wrote up a simple document explaining our situation, printed it up, and had Donna hand it out as clients left the spa. I didn’t want my clients knowing before their treatment with me, because I didn’t want them to feel awkward for being there. Bills still came in, and I was determined to do as much as I could before the surgery – not knowing how much time I would need to take off.
Truth be told, Donna and I had been in the process of listing the business for about a month before my diagnosis. The spa had simply become too big for the both of us to manage properly, and we could not continue working at the breakneck speed that we had been. I could never count on my days off since it seemed staff always needed me to fill in for them. We were exhausted. I have no doubt that the stress of running the business for the last 5 years before we sold contributed to my being sick. And so, with the help of a realtor we had begun the process to let Namaste go. And then cancer happened. Suddenly we didn’t have the luxury of waiting the “one to two years” that our realtor said it would probably take to sell. We fretted, stressed, and talked relentlessly about what to do.
And just like that, life decided for us. Lisa and her partner Warren saw the value in our fabulous little business. I know it was really hard for Lisa especially to not be able to pre-book her regular clients because she had no idea when we would be open again. So before long we were sitting at the spa, discussing details and preparing to quite literally separate ourselves from the thing that had defined our lives for the last 14years.
I had my double mastectomy on November 18, 2018. And I signed our final documents of sale at midnight the day before. I was able to relax into my surgery knowing that Namaste was in the best hands possible. Hopeful that I would be able to re join the team when I was able … and this time doing what I loved most; working with clients, without the stress of ownership!
I didn’t make a formal announcement because it didn’t seem appropriate. I had kept certain clients in the loop of my progress because they had asked me to keep in touch. But as far as detailing my situation on our website, or in a newsletter, or on social media….just isn’t my style. As my long-term clients can attest: I am extremely private. And I loathe pity. I honestly just wanted to move through this period of my life quietly, focusing on something that I had long-neglected – myself. I am aware that some people were upset that Donna and I didn’t take the time to call or email them personally to let them know what was going on. Keep in mind, from the date of my diagnosis (Oct 08) to my surgery (Nov 18), I had 6 weeks to prepare my business for sale, prepare my body for surgery, do all the things I knew I wouldn’t be able to do for weeks after my operation, and work a full schedule right up until the day before my surgery! There simply was not enough time. Nor did Donna and I have the emotional capacity to tell the same news over and over to clients on the phone at the end of our work days. We just didn’t have anything left. But as you all know, everything worked out as it should. Namaste has a bright, airy, big new beautiful space. It has a team large enough to manage its needs. And it has an owner who specializes in owning businesses!”
If you are coming back, do I HAVE to return to your client list? I love Lisa/Rebecca/Danielle.
“Absolutely not! I am so impressed with those girls. It can be a hard transition for clients to see someone new after being with me for so long…some clients 14 years! But they absorbed my clients with grace and professionalism; skill and passion. By all means – if you have been seeing one of the other girls for your treatments all this time, do not feel obligated to switch back to me. It is completely up to you. You could see me for a different service, or vary your appointment amongst us, or stay put. The important thing is that you feel taken care of – plus it is always good to know that we are all capable of providing excellent service should your regular practitioner not be available.”
Are you performing all services?
“Yes and no. I will only be doing pedicures on clients who used to see me for them. No new pedi clients. I will also be adding services back on the menu that only I perform; namely manzillions, dermaplaning and microneedling!”
Are you healthy enough to come back to work? AKA…can you still give a strong massage?
“Yes!! I took 18 months to heal, during which time I did little more than take care of my body. On a typical day I would walk my dog, run the trail, do my physiotherapy exercises and attend a yoga class. On top of that, I have had the luxury of not focusing all my attention on the business. So I am mentally refreshed… and feeling better than I have since I was a teenager. Yes, I can still give a deep tissue massage. And do a 25 min brazillian. I haven’t lost it….I’ve only gotten better.”
Will it be weird for you to work at Namaste…and not be the owner?
“Being able to do what I love most & share my passion for this industry WITHOUT the stress of running the show?? This is an absolute dream come true. I had fantasized about this situation for years. Unless you’ve been the butcher/baker/candle-stick maker for a successful business for years, it’s hard to put into words. But suffice to say I am so excited to get my hands on you again. To show up, do my best, and go home. Amazing!”
Is Donna coming back too?
“No. Donna gave everything to the spa in the 14 years we operated it. She is now living the dream, on our half acre in Oyama. Gardening, baking, riding her bike & crafting. But I promise to drag her to Kelowna now and again to stop in and say ‘Hi’. I know the girls will miss her (and her superior towel-rolling abilities) but she deserves her retirement. She is loving life!”