Tag Archive | Paula Tessier

Me? A Motivational Speaker?

FLorence TEDx

“Miss Strang, can we have a News Team meeting tomorrow?” asked one of my favorite, 10 year old, Jamieson Academy news reporters.

“Sorry, I won’t be in school tomorrow, I have to give an important speech to a big group of School Administrators”, I replied.

“What’s your talk about?” asked my inquisitive reporter.

“Well, it is about my book, and my experiences with cancer, and how that led me to a healthier and happier lifestyle.”

“Oh! So then you are a motivational speaker!” he said.

Me? A motivational speaker? I hadn’t thought about it that way before. When did that happen????!!!!!

When I started blogging “The Perks of Having Cancer”, back in October, 2011, it started off as a little project to keep my spirits up during my treatments for cancer. I had no idea at that time where this “little project” would take me, and how my life would change as a result of it. I soon discovered that not only was it cheering me on my cancer journey, but others were finding hope and inspiration from my words as well….many others in fact. By May, 2012, after having blogged about 75 of the perks, and unsure as to whether I would actually reach my goal, I was offered my first public speaking gig. It was at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s annual retreat. Paula Tessier, the Provincial Co-ordinator, asked Me… (can you believe it? ME!)…to speak to a group of about 200 women about my blog.

My first response was, “Are you nuts, Paula? I can’t do that! I’m not a public speaker.” However with a little coaxing, Paula convinced me to make my public speaking debut. I was nervous as hell, but I kept remembering the words that my father taught me as a child, “Do what you fear and your fear will disappear!” So, if Dad was right, by confronting my fear of public speaking, I could overcome that very fear. That made sense, and besides, I had faced cancer head on, so I reasoned that nothing could be scarier than that. I took the plunge.

I could barely eat a bite as I sat at the evening banquet, waiting to be called to the podium to speak. What if I get up there and go blank? What if I faint? What if I puke on stage? All of these thoughts were going through my mind as I made my way to the podium. When I got there, I took a deep breath and dove right in, telling stories from my heart, laughing at times, crying at others.   As I looked into the sea of faces in the audience, I was surprised to see that they were laughing along with me, and crying along with me. I was hooked! In that moment, a motivational speaker was born.

I have since spoken to thousands of people about my experiences, through keynote addresses, presentations and workshops, along with t.v., radio and magazine interviews. In a relatively short time, this has become second nature to me. It never ceases to amaze me how life can take us in directions we never dreamed possible!

Back when my blog first started to take off, I recall my friend, Michelle, saying, “I’ll bet we’ll see you doing a Ted Talk someday.” I laughed heartily. I mean really, a Ted Talk is the holy grail of public speaking. When I think of Ted Talkers, I think of icons like Bill Gates, Tony Robbins, and Steve Jos, not little old Florence Strang from Lawn, Newfoundland! But then, lo and behold, I heard of a Tedx Talk happening in St. John’s in May (TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently, under a license granted by TED.) I put in my application, got an audition, and got picked! So on Wednesday, May 7th, I will be taking the stage at Tedx St. John’s. Am I scared? You bet! Will my fear stop me from doing it? Not a chance!

How Flo Got Her Groove Back!


(L to R) Kelly Ray, Me, Dana, and Suze being photo-bombed!)

If you are as old as me, you might recall the 1998 movie, “How Stella got her Groove Back”.   It is the story of how a forty-something year old woman had gotten into a bit of a rut in her life.  However, she managed to get her groove back by having a romantic fling with a much younger man.  Well, let me tell ya, there is nothing like a battle with cancer to suck the groove right outta ya!  To be honest however, I can’t completely blame cancer for the loss of my groove.  I think it actually took a hike a number of years before cancer attacked me.  Don’t get me wrong, I was happy and I certainly enjoyed my life.  But due to the stresses of daily living, being a single mom and just plain getting older, I had lost my sense of playfulness…..my sexiness…..my OOOMPH!  But guess what guys?   Last weekend, Flo got her groove back!  No, I did not bed a handsome young stud.  Nor did I jet off to Tuscany on a wine-tasting tour.  Believe it or not, I got MY groove back at a breast cancer retreat with a group of nearly 200 survivors, ranging in age from their early thirties to their eighties.

Before I tell the story of how I got my groove back, I will set the scene by introducing you to the old Flo.  The old Flo, “Groovy Flo”, as I like to call her, loved to dance.   And man could she shake her stuff on the dance floor!  Not only could she dance, but she had this amazing ability to remember the lyrics to nearly every song she ever heard (a talent which her guitar playing boyfriend, Shawn really envies).   So while she was grooving on the dance floor, she would also belt the tunes out of her as if she was some kind of rock star. It mattered not that she could not carry a tune, as she couldn’t be heard over the roar of the music anyway.  But boy did she look cool using a beer bottle as a pretend microphone and throwing in a bit of air guitar at random intervals.  Yeah, Groovy Flo could really rock, and rock she did nearly every weekend in her twenties and thirties.

Groovy Flo got a few curve balls thrown at her in her forties.  Her relationships with men were just not working out (despite her sexy dance moves).  Her youngest son was diagnosed with autism.  Then to put the icing on the cake, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.   That was the death of Groovy Flo.  Then along came Spiritual Flo.  You would like her.  Spiritual Flo was really in to meditation, prayer, positive attitude, and trying to find the good in every person and every situation.  Although Spiritual Flo did not EVER rock down (well, except for a few times in the hot tub with her favorite cuz, Lil), she was very much at peace and more content with her life than she had ever been.

Then, as fate would have it, Spiritual Flo went to a breast cancer retreat in May, 2013, where she hooked up with two amazing survivors:  Judy and Suze.


(L to R) Me, Judy and Suze

The three had an instant connection, like three old souls who had been sisters in a previous life and were finally reunited.  At the retreat, they were inseparable.  So it goes to follow that the three of them wound up sitting together at the Saturday night survivor’s dance.  Now let me tell you, you haven’t seen a place being rocked until you are in a room with nearly 200 breast cancer survivors, alcohol and loud music!  But Spiritual Flo was feeling a little out of place.  It had been at least six years since she had rocked it on the dance floor.  Watching those women with their sexy moves really intimidated her.  One was dancing burlesque for God’s sake!   Finally, Suze and Judy enticed her to the dance floor (after a couple of glasses of courage).  At first, she was a little stiff, but the more she danced, the better she moved.  It turns out that Groovy Flo was not actually dead after all.  She had just been sleeping for a few years, and despite the fact that she was 46 years old, she could still rock it on the dance floor.

Now you might think that a battle ensued between Groovy Flo and Spiritual Flo.  After all, how could the two distinct personalities possibly inhabit the same body?    But alas, the two personalities combined perfectly and melded to form a new Flo: a Flo who can meditate in the morning, and rock it down at night.  I like to call this Flo, “Survivor Flo”.

There are not enough words in the world for me to express my gratitude to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF), its coordinator, Paula Tessier, and the amazing committee who work so hard to put off this annual event.  We, the participants, are in different stages of our healing journeys.  Some are still going through treatments, while others are celebrating 50 or more years of survivorship!  For most of us, our bodies have mended and our physical scars have healed.  But many of us still carry with us deep emotional and mental wounds from our cancer journeys.  While our bodies have healed, we still need to heal our fragile spirits.  By coming together to laugh, to cry, to learn from each other, to sing a song with Dana, and to dance with wild abandon, we make great strides in healing our broken spirits.  Again, thank you CBCF!


I like to call this one “7 women, 5 boobs between them”

Perk # 87: Cancer Gave Me The Courage To Step Outside My Comfort Zone

According to the Wall Street Journal, public speaking is the number one fear of people in North America.  Death is number two.  In other words, if you were going to a funeral, you would rather be the one in the box than the person giving the eulogy.   In January, when Paula Tessier, (Provincial Coordinator for the CBCF), invited me to be guest speaker at this year’s Provincial Annual Retreat, I wasn’t sure that I would have the nerve to do it. While I had experience with public speaking, my skills had gotten a little rusty in my time away from work, and the thought of giving a speech to a group of 200 people ranked right up there with bungee cord jumping and running with the bulls.

In perk # 83, I spoke of cancer being my new cause with my goal being to spread the word about the benefits of facing cancer with a positive attitude.  What better place to promote my cause than with a captive audience of women in various stages of their breast cancer journey.  But I wasn’t sure if I would be able to re-confront my old fear.  When I was a child, my father taught me these words: “Do what you fear and your fear will disappear.”  I reasoned that if I could face cancer head on, then I could certainly take on this challenge.  And so I did it!  Not only did I give my speech, but….if I do say so myself, judging from the feedback I got afterwards….I ROCKED IT!  And Dad was right, now that I have done it, the thought of speaking in public again doesn’t scare me as much.  In fact, I have even accepted another speaking engagement for July and I look forward to others as well.

Kudos to Paula and her committee for organizing an excellent retreat.  I learned lots of valuable information, and made some new friends along the way.

Me with my new friends, Susan (left) and Judy (right)


Tip:  Do what you fear and your fear will disappear!