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Dear Abel and Sofi, I started my nonprofit that helps disadvantaged kids just over two years ago and it’s been a labor of love.

I am so excited at the progress we’re making. The first 6 months of running my business were incredible, as I watched my vision come to life.

Then, I was hit with a cancer diagnosis. I’ve been going through cancer treatment for more than a year. And I’m about to embark upon stronger chemotherapy over the next three to six months, hoping for remission, as I’ve been told I have a terminal condition.

I’m a very private person, yet I also do not want to appear antisocial as I cope with the treatments. So far, I don’t think anyone knows I’m sick.

And we’ll be taking on three interns in the new year, who are excited to help keep our cause going, which is great news for my nonprofit.

So, given everything that’s happening, is it proper to continue being quiet while hoping for remission? Or do I tell people what’s going on now?

I am not sure if I am anxious, scared, or disappointed at being terminally ill, yet I do know that I am NOT throwing in the towel.

Sincerely,

Silence Is Golden

SOFI: Hi Golden, I am so inspired by your dedication and strength. Many would give up their hopes of running a successful nonprofit, as soon as they receive that kind of diagnosis. But, instead of giving up, you pushed on, and kept working to pursue your dream. That says a lot about the type of person you are and gives me no doubt that you’ll face this next round of treatment fearlessly.

Running a business is stressful as it is. Couple that with your illness and advanced chemo and it could become completely overwhelming. I don’t want your life to get to that point.

That’s why I suggest telling the people around you, including your interns, about what’s going on. It’s my hope that you’ll have many people to lean on as you face this chapter.

I think telling the interns will help motivate them to work even harder for you. They’ll want to succeed for you and hopefully, they’ll want to take on more responsibility. Lean on them, guide them, and collaborate with them. With the right kind of guidance, I believe they can help you keep your business moving in the right direction as you push hard toward your goal of remission.

I also feel that you have to tell your family and friends. I’m sure it will be hard, but they need to know. Will they be sad and scared? Of course. But they know you, they know how strong you are and they’ll believe that you will, indeed, fight your way to remission. Their support is going to be so critical in the coming months. Please let them be part of your journey.

You might also find that a few of them want to get involved with your nonprofit. Perhaps someone can help manage your interns on the days that you’re not feeling up to it.

With all the hustle and bustle this time of year, rushing to get things done and stressing about finding the perfect present, your story really put things into their proper perspective. The fact that you’ve grown your business despite all the obstacles in your way is truly remarkable.

You have such a great attitude and there is so much we can all learn from you. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Sending light and many prayers your way. -- Sofi

ABEL: Dear Golden,I agree with everything Sofi said. Let me just add that we are truly honored that you chose to share your current struggles with us and our readers. Your story really illustrates how for small business owners, the personal and professional sides of life are tightly intertwined and affect each other greatly. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we started this column. So again, thank you. 

In reading your note, it’s easy to tell that you are one of the true givers in the world and you should be applauded for that, especially considering your current circumstances. And like many givers, you try to absorb all of your life challenges on your own, because you don’t want to burden anyone else with them.

While this behavior is noble in many cases, I believe you are perfectly justified to ask for help and to share this burden with loved ones, friends, people you work with, and others at this point. As Sofi said, yes, they will be sad and worried, but they will probably also say that they are relieved you told them what’s truly happening.

I surmise that many have likely noticed some changes, at least in your schedule and your stress level. They might have been too polite to ask you about what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been worried. Perhaps, they’ve been as busy hiding their worry from you, as you have been trying to conceal your illness from them.

Too many secrets detract from a positive business environment and certainly take a toll on regular, everyday life, too. While I realize that you are a private person, I think it’s time to share this burden.

When you finally tell important people around you, it’s my hope that they raise their hands to help with the advanced chemotherapy, offering to pitch in with your cause, taking you to your appointments, and otherwise lending moral support. There are plenty of studies noting that your attitude (which could not be better), coupled with support from loved ones, often contributes to better outcomes including remission.

While I can’t imagine how scary it is to face a terminal diagnosis, I am beyond impressed by your unrelenting drive to fight this cancer and beat it into remission. That kind of perseverance certainly has helped you build a business that’s making the world better and that strong sense of commitment should serve you well as you pursue more advanced treatment.

Also, by sharing your story openly with others who can help, you never know how many other people could hear about your struggle and be inspired to live their lives with even half of the unyielding strength you have demonstrated. If you’re not an outstanding role model for all of us, I don’t know who is.

On that note, I’m sure many of our readers will look at their businesses and their lives differently after reading your story. And I’m looking forward to seeing the additional advice and support they offer you. (We have a great group here already and our audience of wonderful, empathetic small business owners is growing every week).

For all of these reasons and more, I feel you need to take it easy on yourself and let the people around you who want to help lend a hand with everything. As Sofi said, those interns will benefit not only by having a wonderful boss, but also through the opportunity to step up and drive your business forward in ways they could have never imagined. I think you’ll love helping them grow as professionals and as people.

We are praying hard for your remission and that you enjoy many more years just being the wonderful person you are, while also continuing to build your nonprofit. Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to share our thoughts with you.

Let me close by sending you our very best wishes and as much healing energy as we can muster.

Very truly yours, Abel