What Cancer Treatment Taught Me About My Real Estate Business

What Cancer Treatment Taught Me About My Real Estate Business

For those who don’t know me my name is Lorei Velazco and I’m new to J Phillip Real Estate, but not new to the business. I’ve been around for a few years, but I had to take a few months off last year and into this year. But that’s about to change.   Getting myself back into the swing of things makes me feel excited and anxious all at the same time. I feel like I’m brand new to the business. The good thing now is that I know what I’m getting myself into. =)

I’m hoping for a smooth transition and I would LOVE to be super busy. I just hope I have the energy to keep up.

You see, the thing is last year my life went in a direction I never dreamed of it going. It all started in April when I felt a lump in my breast. My father and step mom, Susana, were visiting me from Venezuela and all I wanted to do was go out and have fun. I only get to see them once a year and I did not want to spoil it with something I thought would turn out to be nothing.
Susana is like my real mother and thankfully she encouraged me to go to the appointment. I remember telling them I was going to cancel it. I thought I was being paranoid. Susana and my father said, “Come on, just go. So I went.”

I’ll never forget the moment the doctor walked into my patient room and I told her why I was there. Upon hearing this, my doctor told me "Lorei, it’s probably nothing but lets take a look".

An hour later I was at the hospital getting an ultrasound and moments later a biopsy. I was told I’ld have to wait a week to get the results. But I didn’t have to wait a week. I barely had to wait 2 days.

On the 12th of April, I found of I did have cancer, Triple Negative Breast Cancer to be exact, and three weeks later, at the age of 33 years old I had a bi-lateral mastectomy (yes I’m an open book) and they removed 23 lymph nodes (6 tested positive with cancer). Before the surgery I was told I was Stage 2.

But I was actually Stage 3.

I remember a few weeks after the surgery I was on the Internet researching all that I could about the cancer and was examining the different stages and realized that I was actually stage 3!!!! I was devastated. Later that week at the doctor’s office I asked what stage I was in hopes that I was wrong and I was told “Stage 3”. I told them I thought I was Stage 2 and they said after the surgery I was confirmed to be 3 because of all the lymph nodes involved.
I was devastated but I had no time to react. My life changed so quickly and it would be months before things slowed down.

Well, the only thing that did slow down was my real estate business. I remember calling my clients before my surgery to tell them the news. I ended up referring all but two people out. These two clients (buyers) told me that they wanted to wait for me to gather my strength. They wanted to continue working with me. I was so flattered.
  The whole time I was sick I only worked with these two clients. But let me tell you something….it was not easy. But I’m glad I did it.  

I remember thinking to myself that I was crazy. And those around me did too. Nearly every week I had to go to the emergency room. Chemo was super tough on me. I remember my oncologist telling me that he thinks I suffered every side affect in the books.

A few weeks after my surgery, I began 4 months of chemo. Two weeks into chemo is when I called one of my buyers and told him I was ready. This client was amazing. And then two months later I started working with my second client. And that client was just as amazing.

Working while on chemo was SUPER tough but I learned so much and I’m so glad I did this.

My first and most valuable lesson is communication, followed by setting realistic expectations, to making sure everyone understands there role and my role in the transaction, and finally qualifying people.  

Being as sick as I was during treatment was a true test of my skills and strength.  

First let me focus on communication. I always knew communication was key and I have always prided myself in my communication but I also learned that I had areas that needed improvement. For instance, even when I had no updates to provide I needed to let people know this. I think this was a big eye opener for me. And I learned that people appreciate a phone call, but they would also be okay with text messages or an email.  

Secondly, I learned that it is imperative to set realistic expectations for people and to be honest even with myself about these expectations. For instance, there will be hiccups as a transaction goes through the different phases. There are always hurdles to overcome and obstacles to defeat. I have yet to have a closing that was smooth from the beginning to the end. As these hurdles arise they must be addressed and dealt with appropriately. And I must communicate these concerns quickly and make sure everyone knows what is going on.  

Thirdly, it is SUPER important that everyone knows what my role is and communicate this early on. While going through treatment I did have a situation where boundaries were broken and expectations of me were outside my realm. When I expressed this problem to my broker (not J Philips) I was told I could report it to their superior but due to my health my broker told me I should let it go. I learned that it’s important to know when to stand up for myself and when to just let things go. Like my husband says, “Pick Your Battles Wisely”.  

And finally the qualifying aspect of my job and being sick was quite the learning experience. Pretty quickly told myself I would not be able to be someone’s tour guide, which can happen when a real estate salesperson does not qualify someone correctly.  

And qualifying someone requires me to be very specific about my expectations and to know the right questions to ask. For instance, I have to be firm about the areas I work, I need to be firm about gathering pre-approvals and proof of funds, I also can’t be shy about connecting buyers to mortgage professionals, and asking tons of questions to narrow down a search.  

In the past I would literally work with 10+ people and hope to close one or two. But I knew I could not do this while going through treatment. So I drafted a very good "Home Buyer's List" and made sure to qualify people early on. This was very helpful and I’ll continue to use this form.  

Those were the most important things I learned. But I also learned some other things like always try to make the close. And its not that I am pushy or being greedy. I just need to know when to guide my buyers into a home that they may be confused about. It is my job to not only qualify buyers and show them homes but to ultimately help them figure out when to bite. And this can be done by asking them “DO you want to place an offer?” to giving them comparables to asking them “Do you like the home, why or why not?”.  

Okay, back to my appointments with these two buyers. I would literally wake up minutes before my appointments and met them. I had to save all the energy I could to last through the appointments.

After chemo I had to do 6 weeks of radiation 5 days a week. At first this seemed like a piece of cake. Radiation was so much easier but the fatigue was intense and the pain from the radiation burns were no joke either. About 3 weeks into that treatment I stopped working all together.

I used the entire month of December to recover from radiation. I was exhausted. I then resume physical therapy in January. I say “resume” because basically from June to mid December I had physical therapy. Physical therapy was so important. I went 2-3 times a week and in January I went 1-2 times a week.

I needed this therapy because of the weakness and muscle loss my entire body experienced. I had absolutely no strength. NONE!!!

I remember I did an open house in January and I thought I was going to pass out by the time it was over. And then for the next week I pretty much had to gather my strength back. It was very unnerving. After that open house I realized that I had to do something to get back into shape and that is when I joined a gym. No more excuses.

I was so tired of struggling to go up and down stairs (night time is the worst). Even today I struggle. In December, the struggle started at about 6PM. And now I have a hard time starting about 10PM, which is fantastic. It’s the little things in life now that make me super excited and going up and down the stairs with ease is one of the things that makes me happy. But just the same…it can be the little things that make me struggle or test me. I do have to fight back tears here and there.

Thanks goodness from my amazing support circle, my mom, step dad, sisters, brothers, cousins, in-laws, friends and uncles and aunts have been amazing (remember I also mentioned my dad and step mom). I talk to my mom nearly everyday and she always knows what to say and she bring me so much comfort. Same goes with my brothers and sister, especially my Brother Ralcy and Sister Hailie. But even my stepbrothers and sister have been a supportive shoulder to vent things through or whatever. I could go on and on about this support group. Every one from my friends and family have been wonderful.

Thanks to the gym that I see my strength increasing and I can see my stamina improving as well, which makes me want to focus on growing my business again. I want to recreate my real estate business.

I have about a good 8-10 hours where I feel more or less myself on an easy day and about 6 hours on a busy day. I literally can't work more than 4 hours straight!! But the good news is I rarely find myself working more than 4 hours straight with clients!!! So this is a fantastic point!!! A point that makes me excited!!!

I’m ready!!!! I’m so excited to hit the road and meet potential buyers and sellers. I’m pumped. Lets do this!!!!

I find that I can comfortably start the day about noon and work up until 7PM. If I do any more I’ll collapse. I have learned that I need to listen to my body and rest when needed and not to over do it. I have been instructed to not over do it, especially because I do have one more surgery scheduled where I’ll need about 4 weeks to recover fully.

If I can make one appointment a day where I spend anywhere from 1-4 hours working with a buyer or a seller I would be so ecstatic. The rest of the time I can focus on other aspects of my business such was phone calls, emails, social media, blogging, advertising, research, and so forth.

I have high hopes for the year.

Valerie Martinez-Friedberg Headshot
Phone: 914-839-0459
Dated: March 11th 2014
Views: 5,283
About Valerie: ...

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