Facing challenges head on and choosing to make a difference in other people’s lives
By Chandrea Serebro
“With a busy career as a casting agent in the television and film industry, there was little time to ever slow down. But, the day of my late stage breast cancer diagnosis in 2014, everything came to a screeching halt.” Addi Lang found herself “living every woman’s nightmare”: “life in cancerland – a rollercoaster experience; feelings of shock, denial, fear, guilt, and depression.” But Addi was determined to change the course of her journey, and, in the last four years since her diagnosis, has defied not only the odds, but set out to change lives. She even made her bucket list dream of going to Israel a reality, a dream come true just as she was celebrating her 53rd birthday.
Millions of people are diagnosed with cancer every day, and, with over 200 different types of cancer, each one of them is experiencing their own version of fire and brimstone. But, Addi felt what she believes to be a universal struggle at the beginning of this dread disease. “The initial struggle of trying to overcome the fear of how your family will survive without you. Facing the reality that life is fragile. We all have a shelf life and expiry date and know only too well what that really means.” The difference, says Addi, is how one copes mentally. And this was Addi’s strongest suite, with a determination and grit that saw her out of the shock of the reality in which she found herself.
Soon, Addi realised that the only way she could beat this illness was through finding a positive approach to living a life of purpose. For her, this also meant being selective of negative thinking, and avoiding people who presented a negative force in her life. “For as long as I held onto bitterness and negativity, through regret, blame, and guilt, I hampered my ability to heal spiritually. It is a work-in-progress, and the first step is to realise two things: we have choices, and we have the right to exercise our choices. The choices can be positive or negative, and it takes a strong-minded person to recognise the difference.”
“Before going for surgery and chemotherapy, David (her life partner and fellow cancer coach, a Chemical Engineer, and Scientist) and I went to see our GP. His response to my anger at the late-stage diagnosis and the reality that most people do not survive this was that I should have been more aware of all the breast cancer awareness campaigns out there that encourage people to go for mammograms.”
“I thought to myself, you want to see a campaign? I will show you a campaign!” Addi stopped all chemical treatments and researched holistic and integrated options, and, feeling that it might be too late to save herself, she felt the need to warn others about their health rights. She took up the gauntlet thrown down to her by life – the start of the “Forever Changed Global Awareness Campaign”, which has been running for the past three years. It is about “choosing how you live your life”, says Addi, helping others through their cancer journey. Addi chose to find positive lessons that come out of any difficulty. “In my case, I believe that it is no longer about my own misfortune, but rather that of making a difference to others.” She discovered a new way to live life “deliberately and colourfully”, with a sense of “purpose and meaning”, in helping educate others by promoting what she has lived and learned.
She does this by hosting the “Dance of the Butterfly” public events, which screen the Forever Changed Documentary, a 50-minute documentary “which will make you change the way you live your life”, Addi assures. “It is a ‘global warning’ campaign – using the arts to inspire and educate people. A ‘roadmap’ created not only by me, but so many others who have fought this battle before. Warriors – because the battle never ends.”
“People are inspired when they watch our documentary,” says Addi. It is a series of personal interviews and stories from people whose lives have been affected by cancer. The documentary stresses the importance of knowing all the options, including complimentary, natural, and mainstream medical treatment options, and empowers people to seek second opinions. It also highlights the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to minimise the impact of cancer.
The film can only be seen at Dance of The Butterfly public events, or in the corporate world when attending Addi and David’s “Live Life Deliberately Wellness Program”, which launched officially in 2017at MediaCom South Africa, which looks to open up the workplace to dialogues on cancer. They are working closely with the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and Employee Assistance Professionals Association of South Africa (EAPASA) to find ways to change the way cancer is viewed in the workforce in South Africa, educating corporates in the management of cancer as a disability in the workplace (which affects not only the cancer warrior, their family and friends, but also colleagues), and looks to encourage government to address the need to implement a much-needed cancer policy in SA.
“The reality is that cancer affects society at large. It does not discriminate, it does not only affect the rich and famous, it knows no age, no race, no region, and has no boundaries. Both David and I are accredited cancer coaches and we hold many hands along the journey of both living with and without cancer.”
“Since being diagnosed, I am constantly trying to hold on to my faith and find my peace with my life, and with my death. When a person goes through any life-changing event, and, in my case, a late-stage cancer diagnosis, you suddenly realise that there are a million and one things that you wanted to do in your life that you haven’t yet done. I wanted to visit Israel for the first time with my beloved Davidka. For us to be in his home country together. To be able to stand at the Western Wall praying together.”
Her reasons for wanting to visit the Holy Land were simple: partly personal and partly to further her cancer research with world leaders in the medical field in Israel, and to screen her documentary at the Israeli Dance of the Butterfly event. But because Addi found herself battling increasing medical bills and loss of earnings due to her illness, the dream of going to Israel became ever more distant.
The Israeli Forever Changed Ambassador, Beryl Schmidt (whom Addi had only met personally once in 2015 on her SA visit), began the “Addi’s Bucket List” crowd funding campaign in November 2017 through the Chesed Fund to raise money to make Addi’s bucket list dream to get to the Holy Land a reality. Crowd funding is not a simple task, as there are so many worthy causes out there. But, with additional support from Addi’s valued supporters, friends, family, numerous corporate lifestyle partners, and marketing companies who further spread the message through social media, not to forget the “heart-warming” donations by many of Addi’s high school classmates from King David Linksfield class of 1982, it wasn’t long before Addi was on her way to Israel, finally living her dream.
“As important as we all believe dreams are, dreams remain just dreams without action. When someone really wants to do something, it is important to take action so that the dream becomes a reality. My dream to get to the Holy Land has been fulfilled through Hashem’s grace and a lot of prayer. The journey was followed by many people who not only encouraged me emotionally and spiritually, but also those who actually assisted us financially through donations, and by the many people who donated their time to organise and arrange the trip as well. I believe that it is important to have many dreams throughout our lives, followed by goals and action plans. And to be surrounded by supportive people who believe in you, no matter what your dreams are. This not only motivates us to accomplish what we set out to do, but inspires us to do more.”
Marketing guru Rozanne Kotton Laufert of Aliyah Angels reached out to help by sharing her expertise and bringing Aliyah Angels on board to sponsor the Israel event, remaining committed to help make the bucket list dream come true. “After not seeing Rozanne for 45 years, being primary school pals, it was like travelling a full circle while we embraced the notion that butterflies and angels had united in Israel.”
After David delivered his informative and eye-opening presentation about the science behind nutrition and cancer, Addi spoke at the event (hosted by MediaCom and Telfed) with fervour, passion, and raw emotion about her journey and the making of the documentary and what it entailed to complete. “The Forever Changed documentary is meant to be a ‘roadmap’ for newly diagnosed warriors.” On stage, Addi laughed, joked, spoke, and cried when she saw her cake and blew out her birthday candles, with an overwhelming sense of relief to realise that she is still in the land of the living. Keynote speakers included Batya Shmukler, (chairwoman of Telfed) and Rozanne Kotton Laufert, Medical Case Manager, International Tourism at Sheba Tel Hashomer Medical Centre. The event MC was Guy Schmidt and well-known performer Zac Hilon entertained the audience.
It has been a life-altering journey for Addi, a harrowing, learning, growing experience. Addi learned not to take your health for granted; not to follow blindly; to do as much as possible to empower yourself through research and to become part of the global community via the web as an ‘e-patient’; to keep an open mind when it comes to cancer treatment options; not to be afraid to ask doctors as many questions as you feel necessary; to take responsibility for your own health; that there is a life after diagnosis; and that we can all create a butterfly effect and make our own change.
In a box
Addi is a nominee for the 2018 Adara Awards, in the category of Health Champion of The Year. These awards recognise Africans for their contribution in various sectors and for building social cohesion amongst Africans within the continent and abroad. Voting is now live and can be supported by registering first online and then voting on www.adaraawards.com/voting/
For more information contact Addi Lang 061 270 8804 or 074 973 9999 or visit: