There are different kinds of resilience. There’s blocking out the noise and potential vices of first-time independence to graduate summa cum laude with a double major. There’s a more psychological resilience of being extremely introverted growing up to enter a field in which communication with others is the foremost prerequisite.
There’s having a plan for finding that first job out of college with a résumé and internships the envy of the competition only to apply for hundreds of positions over several months and not receive an offer. So you just start your own company, which through sheer will and obsessive work ethic, becomes successful within a few years.
This was Lindsey Walker’s life as of the spring of 2018, as the founder and CEO of Walker + Associates Media Group, an Atlanta-based public relations firm with a focus on media relations and event coordination for brands across entertainment, beauty and lifestyle. Her clients included BET, Interscope Records and FX Networks. The work was tireless, often keeping her up until 4 a.m. She either ate fast food or no food at all, and would routinely go months without exercise, instead putting all of her energy into the business.
And speaking of resiliency, with all of that going on, the 27-year-old was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Before finally going to the hospital where she received the diagnosis, she had battled a 103-degree temperature and struggled to breathe for a few days, thinking she had a cold. An X-ray revealed a huge mass in the front of her chest, which led to a biopsy. Six months of chemotherapy needed to start immediately, so she went home to St. Louis, and Siteman Cancer Center, where family and friends could help during the torturous process.
“The experience of chemo is not one I would wish on the devil himself,” Walker says. “I cried a lot. I thought I was going to die.
“I couldn’t swallow food. It was painful to walk—people carried me sometimes because I couldn’t walk. I’m 27 and being carried. My hair was down to my shoulders, and I lost it all. There’s no safe zone, no control of yourself. It’s such an isolated process, too, having to mostly stay away from family and friends for fear of becoming sick. It’s crazy to think about, everything hurts and it’s not from the disease itself, it’s from the medicine.
“No one is prepared for that journey. It’s indescribable. I am not grateful for going through it, but I am grateful for the lessons learned.”
After completing her grueling treatment on Dec. 13, 2018, Walker was cancer-free. She made several promises about how her life would be different moving forward. Walker still wanted to strive professionally, but this time around it would be on her terms: No more around-the-clock hours, no more focusing entirely on the next client, the next press release, no more obsessing about everyone else except her. She began working out a few times a week and maintaining a healthy diet.
“When you have an awakening experience when you aren’t sure if you are going to live or die and you receive another chance in life,” Walker says. “We think going, going, going, do this, do that, next this, next that—we don’t treat ourselves like we deserve. We aren’t robots or mules.”
Growing up, Walker’s favorite hobbies were reading and writing. She started journaling at a young age and if her mother couldn’t find her in the grocery store, she usually turned up in the book and magazine section. So when she was approached about writing a book detailing her expeirence, the decision was a no-brainer. Thriving Through the Storm released in March 2020 as a memoir of not only her battle with Hodgkin’s, but the self-care awakening the painful process afforded. Perhaps the book’s most impactful lesson is that sometimes what is learned overcoming adversity, even cancer, is just as crucial as the journey itself.
“When I was going through chemo, I didn’t allow myself to cry, so writing the book, I really relieved myself of those emotions, I was holding in so much just to survive,” Walker says. “Things happen that are so much out of our control, it’s how we respond to them that defines us.
“I learned it’s OK to just be me in any circumstance. I also learned that I am resilient. We often don’t appreciate that about ourselves.”
Almost six months to the day of her book launch, Walker turned 30 years old, in many ways having already experienced a lifetime of highs and lows. The obvious question becomes what’s next for the successful entrepreneur, published author and cancer survivor?
“I’m not married, and I’d love to leave my business to my future children,” Walker says. “I want to continue thriving in my industry, I don’t think I’ve reached my peak yet. Maybe in three to five years, transition to another entrepreneurial opportunity and step away from the day-to-day.
“I guess the possibilities are endless.”
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo courtesy of Lindsey Walker/Artistry Studios