Sharing My Story: Maxi Lawrence, CRN Women In Channel Award Nominee 2020

At Computacenter, we have a strong commitment to promoting, encouraging and progressing the careers of women in tech, and are delighted that this year we have 9 amazing nominees in the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020! To even be nominated is a fantastic achievement for our talented, hard-working and passionate group of nominees and we would like to send a huge congratulations to all of them.

We are going to be highlighting their individual achievements and journeys to show just how well-deserved these nominations are. The first blog in this series is written by Maxi Lawrence, International Programme Manager, who wanted to share a life-changing experience that she’s recently been through.

Whilst being at home during lockdown, I wanted to use this opportunity to tell you my very personal and positive story; a story of unexpected events, mental strength & fear and fundamental gratitude.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Maxi Lawrence, 38 years old, grew up in Germany but live in the UK, married and mother of two strong minded little ladies. I am a Programme Manager and have been with Computacenter for 8 years now.  

Maxi Lawrence CRN Women In Channel Award 2020 Nominee

I am hoping I can not only raise awareness, especially in current times, but more importantly offer my support and help to anyone who is going through similar experiences or needs someone to support them.

My story began with a proactive check-up with no symptoms, triggered by a tragic story of my sisters’ friend who was very unexpectedly diagnosed with a football sized tumour aged 42 in her bowel, and ended up being the most challenging, testing, humbling and lucky experience of my life so far.

What the consultant found was a surprise and concern to us all as a family: a very large polyp in my lower bowel. He took some biopsies, sent me immediately for an MRI and CT scan and referred me to a specialist team of experts.

The verdict was the polyp needed removing as soon as possible as well as a need for further checks. After a successful removal and weeks of waiting, I received a message to meet the consultant in person, immediately knowing there was more to this.  

Thankfully, the majority was good news, however there was a small section of cancerous cells which had started to grow in the polyp. The safety margin was small, and the team could only give me 96% assurance that nothing had started to spread. The solution was major surgery. They had to remove 30cm of my bowel.

“Life can be short, so go for what you want to achieve, don’t be scared to take risks and make tough decisions.”

Maxi Lawrence, Computacenter uk

After asking the team what I could do in preparation for my op, I was advised to be as fit as possible. I increased my already active lifestyle with more running, regular Pilates and super healthy eating, all maximising my physical and mental strength and stamina.

I felt as strong and good as I could have done on the day of the operation itself and was ready for what laid ahead – 4-5 hours in surgery.

One very refreshing and positive moment I vividly remember was the two young female surgeons who came to take me through the risks, possible complications & consent form. Being an advocate of female talent in any profession or industry, I loved that two of my team of three surgeons were ladies. They were not only super friendly, positive and upbeat on a Wednesday 7am shift, they also looked incredible. Their behaviour and appearance really made a difference to my slightly sombre mood.

What helped to get me through?

Now 5 months post op, I am delighted to say my operation and post-op recovery could not have gone any better. The consultant surgeon and his team asked if I could be known as their ‘case of the year’ and said it was text book. They have not seen many cases where the recovery has gone this seamlessly.

Women In Channel Awards 2020

I believe many factors contributed positively to my case, firstly the excellent treatment, care and non-disputable support I received from all the medical staff, my family, friends and my team at work. From flowers to post-op visits, they genuinely cared and still do.

I have felt throughout the whole process that I am very much taken seriously, my treatment was managed with urgency and care. The love and support from my husband, family and friends goes beyond all of that and I learnt there is no shame to ask for help, emotional support or whatever you need to look after yourself.

Secondly, my mental and physical strength and overall very positive outlook on life played a key role. At no point did I let my worries or fear overpower my long-term outlook on the very happy life I have and will continue to have. I am excited by what the future holds, both personally and in my career, with an added perspective which I wouldn’t have without this experience.

I have learnt and grown tremendouslythroughout this time. My inquisitive nature and preventative mindset led me to go for the check-up with zero symptoms, otherwise I would have had to wait until I am 65 years old for standard screening. There is no way I would have made it that long without far more advanced stages of the illness.

At times it has been very hard. The not knowing, waiting for results and treatments has been the hardest. Thanks to my naturally positive mindset and self-motivation, I managed to apply several practical things in my day to day life to keep my focus on the positive side of my story. Let’s just say my home office space had more colourful post-it notes than you can imagine.

Computacenter’s Growing Together Programme, promoting and encouraging women in the workplace

Women In Tech Careers

I thank the Growing Together programme for very real and helpful conversations which greatly emphasised my natural behaviour and way of thinking during such testing times.

I am smiling as I tell you this – I genuinely believe many techniques that the programme covers have such a positive impact on anyone, whether the growth mindset or self-fulfilling prophecy, even working on my personal brand just before my story began, resonated with me many times since.

What lessons have I learnt?

Life can be short, so go for what you want to achieve, don’t be scared to take risks and make tough decisions. Be open to accept support or guidance and be kind and understanding about everyone’s personal story.

Whatreally matters when you are at your most vulnerable in a hospital bed, unable to move? What behaviours in a person make all the difference in how you feel and respond to them?

I did reflect on our Computacenter values and behaviours during this time; we strive to be perfect for our customers and I was very much was able to draw a parallel to my situation in recovery.

A thank you to the NHS staff who looked after me  

I was overwhelmed by the reassurance and trust I felt from the credibilityand total confidence all the staff demonstrated. They are experts in their profession, very credible and with huge amount of experience, passion and genuine care.

It made me feel safe, valued and in the best hands possible.

Also, how straight talking and honest they engaged with me. From the first conversation with one of the consultants, to the frequent checks from the nurses on the ward. They told me the truth, honestly yet kindly. They articulated the medical jargon in a way where I could understand every word and took their time to facilitate a two-way conversation.

Finally, the kindness everyone showed towards me was humbling. I have never felt more vulnerable, yet safe, respected and truly taken care off. Their passion for looking after patients and making them better was outstanding and so underrated. Gruelling shifts, modest salaries and less than state of the art facilities don’t dampen the hard work and quality of care I experienced.

It seems very appropriate to share my very positive and lucky story with the NHS right now and to shine a good light on the amazing work they do despite limited resources. In fact, I have written to the CEO and Board of Directors of the NHS trust where I was treated to pay my thanks but equally ask for recognition to all those individuals who looked after me so well.

The journey continues…

As much as I have a further follow-up check-ups, I am super happy, relieved and a little bit proud of the journey I have been on so far. Over and above all I feel extremely lucky. I have learnt a lot about this illness and how for example additional genetic factors can bring your screening age down: please go and get checked if you have any family history. Your GP will listen and offer referrals if needed.

Why did I want to share my story with you? Well, I want to be a positive example to those of you who may also be affected by this or any illness (which so often goes unnoticed for a long time), to not feel alone.

Support is available and on a personal note I am very happy to offer my support to anyone. Being brave is hard sometimes and it is ok to ask for help. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and dealing with it on your own is even harder.

Be curious and develop a preventative mindset, the earlier it can be caught the more straightforward and successful the treatment and care.

Furthermore, my perspective on life, work and wellbeing has changed somewhat. I have been lucky to have had a balanced lifestyle for years, but more than ever before I realise stress is not good for us – our mind or body – so I urge you all to limit stress and learn to manage it.

Be happy, smile and laugh every day and enjoy the things you do, see the positive in any challenge. It’s good for us. Look after your body, be active and conscious of what you eat and drink. You don’t have to be a saint but be mindful. It won’t just make you feel better, but also help your body fight whatever it needs to one day.

I also want to show it’s ok to talk about these very common illnesses like cancer, they affect 1 of 2 of us in our lifetime. Awareness and education are vital in the successful treatment of cancers.

I am super happy and lucky to be smiling right now, but I would have also told you my story if the outcome would have been less positive. If any of you have questions for me or have similar things going on in your life, please don’t be shy and contact me if I can help in any way.

I recently read a quote by ‘Anais Nin’ which really resonated with me during testing times:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”

I will leave you with that and wish you all the health and happiness during these challenging times.

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