In today’s episode, I talk with Michelle Berndt. Michelle and I met through Synapse, which is a networking organization that connects businesses and nonprofits to foster community and economic development.
The timing was perfect for her to share the story of her journey thus far and to publish her episode during October, which is breast cancer awareness month.
I don’t want to spoil the story, but to give you a little hint of what we’re covering today, Michelle kicked cancer’s butt and went on to become Mrs. Texas International while wearing a wig. She’s currently the VP of Strategic Development at OneShare Health. And she lives with her husband in Dallas, Texas where they have a zoo of 2 kids, 3 dogs, 2 cats, a rabbit and 20 chickens.
A few key takeaways:
1. Don’t settle for being mediocre – or just fine. Do your best regardless of where you are. You don’t have to always strive to be at the top of the heap if that’s not what you want. But do your best in whatever position you have.
2. There are things that happen in your life to bring you to your knees. We all go through situations in life that will be wake-up calls. Reality checks.
Even when it feels like you have no control over your life. You have no say in anything. You do. You just have to find the silver lining. The one thing you can control is your attitude. And your attitude then affects every single part of your body.
3. Speaking of hardships, everyone has their own level of what hardship looks like. It’s not a competition. Everyone has their stuff behind closed doors. No matter how good it looks from the outside, you don’t know what others are dealing with internally. Nobody the mythological perfect life.
Michelle’s hype song is by Pitbull – Feel This Moment ft. Christina Aguilera. Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jlI4uzZGjU
Michelle’s Website: www.onesharehealth.com
Quick reminder, for community and camaraderie, Come join us in the Fine is a 4-Letter Word Facebook group.
Lori Saitz 0:03
Hello and welcome to Fine is a 4-Letter Word. My guest today is Michelle Berndt. Welcome Michelle.
Michelle Berndt 0:10
Hi, Lori. So good to be here.
Lori Saitz 0:12
I'm so happy to have you here and to share your story with the world.
Michelle Berndt 0:17
Yes, I even wore a little bit of pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
Lori Saitz 0:23
Perfect. I am not wearing pink but that's okay. Yeah, let's start out with the question that I love starting all of my conversations with which is what were the values and beliefs that you were brought up with? that contributed to your to who you became as an as a young adult?
Yeah, absolutely. And I honestly Lori, I think it's what drew me to your podcast. We always grew up that that fine is not okay. And never to embrace fine. To go from fine to great and how do you go from good to great. And if you notice the four letter words are good, fine. Okay.
They're all four letter words, but greats, five letters. And so you know, we we always talked about how do you take your life and your love and your passion to the next level. And that's that's just how we were raised. And it kind of created a competitive side to us, which is good, you know, competition is healthy if you do it the right way. So my brother and I were seven years apart, but we both were raised like that. We're just very passionate about absolutely everything we do.
Lori Saitz 1:32
Hmm. And fantastic is nine letters. So right, we can get even bigger,
right is it. Coincidence? Maybe not that they get a bigger better life is.
Lori Saitz 1:46
Sure, sir. So was it just you and your brother as siblings? Did you have more?
Nope, just my brother and I and we were seven years apart. So a lot of times he would act like my dad. So it's like I had a mom and two dads. So but it was when he graduated was kind of like I was an only child. But I grew up in Iowa, out in the middle of a cornfield. And then, so to my husband, he grew up in Iowa. And when he graduated chiropractic School, 10 years ago, we said, let's move to Texas, let's go to the sunshine. So we literally moved here for the weather.
Lori Saitz 2:21
Just randomly chose Texas because there were other states that have sunshine.
I know I know. But we were like let's go where there's you know, if we're gonna raise a family that there's tons of stuff to do there sunshine, and I literally have a T shirt that says I wasn't born here. But I couldn't get here quick enough. And it's it's true. Like we we are so Texan, we love it.
Lori Saitz 2:42
Wow. Okay, so that was one of the the beliefs that you were raised with that did that serve you in a good way or because there's there can be two sides to that, of, you know, the keeping you always striving to do better. And at the same time, it could also have that other side to it where nothing is good enough.
Yeah, and it has to be balanced. Because I'm also OCD. I'm a perfectionist. And maybe that could have contributed to a little bit of that. But as long as you have a healthy concept of of what great means it works. And that does take time to obtain. But it even carried over to my management corporate world, because I've always managed a team. And I always teach them do not settle. You know, some people don't want to move up in management, and that's okay. But that does not mean you can excel in your current position and be the best at it. And so it's it's worked well for me, but you're so right, Lori, like you, you can't let it take over your life. It's okay to be fine. As long as you're really great at being fine, right? Like, I think there's there are levels of everything. And I'm just a firm believer don't don't settle. You are meant for more in the world. And have you even determined what that is right? Like, do you know your purpose? And are you?
Lori Saitz 4:07
Exactly, yeah, and everybody has to define what their purpose is for themselves. So when we talk about not settling for being fine, that doesn't mean you can't be content? Yes, that means. Yeah, that means you. You're always growing, because growth is part of life. Yep, I'm sure you've heard you know, if you're not growing, you're either growing or dying. Yeah, pick one.
Yep. Yeah, I love that. And to be honest, I am 40 years old and I did not realize that myself until I went through breast cancer, right. I don't think I truly knew my purpose until your life flashes before your eyes. And it you go through a wake up call in life and that wake up call can be very different for everyone. It could be you lost a really big job. It could be a divorce, it could be heaven forbid, there's a death in the family. It could be you're going through a chronic illness. There's several things, it could just be self esteem or abusive relationship. But there are things that happen in your life that bring you to your knees. And it's a reality check. And God strategically plans those. I'm a firm believer of that.
Lori Saitz 5:23
I believe that too.
Yup, mine woke me up. And I’m like totally different now.
Lori Saitz 5:31
So let's get into that story. Because part of the reason where we're doing your episode, and publishing it in October is because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you are going along in life, everything was fine. Maybe it was better than fine. Since that's what you you were taught to strive for. And then what happened?
Yeah, it the first thing I'll tell you is cancer does not discriminate. It does not care your gender, your weight, how healthy you are, your ethnicity, it, your age, it will come knockin, and I was one of those dum dums that thought, oh, it'll never happen to me, because I'm so healthy. I'm a fourth generation stage three breast cancer survivor. So my great grandmother and my grandmother passed from breast cancer. My mom and I went through it two years apart. And I have a daughter and we carry the BRCA 2 gene so for me, the journey is far from over. But I remember watching my mom go through breast cancer and thinking I am so sad this is happening to her, but I'm so glad it will never happen to me. And at that time, I was pregnant with my son. And my ob gyn said you should get tested for the gene. It sounds like it runs in your family and how am I go? It definitely does. Well, lo and behold, my mom had the gene. So I got tested and I had the gene. So this part is very similar to the celebrity actress Angelina Jolie. Her mom had breast cancer, she got tested for the gene and she wanted to be proactive. So she scheduled a preventive bilateral mastectomy. So today, I thought I was conquering the world like I'm never going to get cancer. I'm going to be proactive. Take control of my life. We scheduled the surgery. Well, a month Well, two months before the surgery. At Christmas, I was showering and I found a lump on the left side and I'm like, Well what the heck is this? that literally was not there yesterday, doctors told me I probably had the pre surgery jitters. Not only was it cancer, it was invasive and it was starting to spread. So I went from taking charge my life as women are taught to do too. Oh my gosh, my life's falling apart. The world's gonna end right. So I ended up having a lumpectomy, a bilateral mastectomy, chemo, radiation and a hysterectomy all in one year. And honestly
Lori Saitz 7:57
And an infant. You had an infant.
Yeah, a three year old and a brand new baby. It was a year from hell. I'm not gonna lie.
Lori Saitz 8:09
Wow, what what did you do to get through that? In terms of protected protecting it for your mental health?
Yeah. 100% so important. My doctors and these are medical doctors literally said obviously Michelle medicines playing a role in your healing, right? No one can deny that it's why chemo exists. But what 100% your positive attitude is the reason you are healing and doing so well. Like literally medical doctors. my oncologist, my breast surgeon, my my gyno all three of my doctors told me that and I just was like, it's a mentality. I don't get me wrong. I had days where I wanted to scream. I cried. I was mad at the world. That is okay. It's okay. Course. Okay. But it's hard.
Lori Saitz 9:07
That's part of being human is to recognize those emotions to feel them to allow them.
You have to feel them. Yep. But it's what you do with them. So I chose to pick up the pieces and keep trucking forward once I had my temper tantrum. And I just taught chose to be positive. I actually had the weirdest thing happened when I was going through cancer. The day after I was diagnosed Baylor Dallas, the huge medical facility contacted me and said, we have a favor to ask. And I'm like, why? And they're like, we want to film a documentary on your journey. And this is the day after I'm diagnosed, like I haven't even comprehended what I'm going through. And I'm like, I don't know about all that. And they're like, well think on it. And I'm like, Well, what does that entail? And they're like, well, we'll follow you everywhere. I'm like, everywhere and they're like everywhere, but the restroom. And I'd like I just Wow.Lori Saitz:
How did they find you?Michelle Berndt:
So my breast surgeon, all my doctors were Baylor. And there, they were looking for a younger person because I was 30 at the time, and they wanted to see what it's what happens behind the scenes, right? Because Nothing can compare you prepare you for cancer. And so they wanted to see a younger person going through it, what it's like for them, they just wanted to show reality. I loved the concept. I just wasn't sure if I was ready for it. So fast forward. Next morning, I wake up, couldn't sleep all night, I was staring at the ceiling. My husband's like, What's going through your head? I'm like, What do I do? He goes, Michelle, you have two choices. It is okay to say no. But it's also great to say yes, because every chance you share your story, you have the chance to save a life. And there is a reason that they're asking you because you have a very loud voice that is effective for those around you. And you can be the voice for those that can't. And I'm like you're right. And so we said yes. And they were with me the entire year. They became like family. Those cameras followed us everywhere except for the restroom.Lori Saitz:
In they were in your house.Michelle Berndt:
Yep, work, house, surgery. Like when my bed went through the surgery doors, then they stopped. But it was so good. When they aired the documentary and it's Dallas hope anybody can Google it. When they aired it nationwide. They the younger population just gravitated towards it because there are so many unfortunately young people including kids going through cancer, and you just don't know what they go through. And so this this was so necessary.Lori Saitz:
Okay, so how far how long after you? How long after they filmed everything to the air?Michelle Berndt:
Um, I was I was just halfway through treatment. When they started airing it was four different episodes. So it was a series. And the crazy part was at the end of the treatment, they stopped filming it and people freaked out. They're like, Did she die? Or did she live people that no, because they started with cheese. So they had to go back and do an epilogue to show Michelle's Okay, she's alive. She's thriving, it really was therapeutic to share my story. One thing I learned is when when you go through a hard time in life, sometimes that hard time isn't for you. It's for others to benefit. So you may not know why it's happening to you, you may never know. But you have to be rest assured that someone else is learning from your experience and you are too you just may not realize it till later. And I always tell people, when I public speak, there are two lives when you go through cancer or really any hardship in life. There's the first life that your parents gave you. And there's the second life that God gave you. And the second life is so much better than the first. It's a rude awakening. You went through a lot to get there, but that's when you thrive. And notice thrive is not a four letter word either. So there's all these things you have to do to get to these 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 letter words.Lori Saitz:
Yeah, you know, I think that's the truth for whether you're going through a hardship like cancer treatment or or you know, I help something that is brought on to you or you know, something that you don't choose, and also something that you do choose. It doesn't matter what it is, and that there's this you know, a lot of my listeners are in their, their mid 40s 50s that time when that's been dubbed midlife, I'm not a fan of that term. But let's just go with it that there is that time before when you are able to say before 40 or before some kind of something happens. And then there's that time after where you go, Okay, I'm going to take control now. I've been living by somebody else's rules. And now I'm going to live by my own rules. Yep, those division.Michelle Berndt:
It all comes back to mental right like for those of you listening you I know you're going through a hard time everyone in the nation is there's just different levels of what that hardship looks like and it doesn't make yours any less important than others right? But you to light at the end of the tunnel. And I know sometimes if I've been there, it feels like you have no control over your life. You have no say in anything. But you do. There you just have to find the silver lining. And the one thing you can control is your attitude. And your attitude affects every single part of your body. And here's a good example when I was done with cancer everyone's like, Oh goodness, oh thank Gosh, it's done. Bless your heart. Okay, just now. You relax, you chill, you just stay low, don't do anything. And I'm like, I just kicked cancers ass. I want to conquer the world, right? And people thought, No, yeah, not what you do right now, but they don't control your mood and your attitudes. So I decided to run in a pageant and ended up winning Mrs. Texas, wearing a wig. I was literally bald underneath from treatment and I had scars all over my belly in my hips from my hysterectomy. I controlled my crazy. I love it. Yep.Lori Saitz:
Yes, you Yes, you took control. So what was that like going through that process? The pageant process had you been in pageants before this?Michelle Berndt:
I had um, I started competing in pageants. My freshman year in college, back I ran for Miss Iowa was first runner up second runner up, third runner up, so I never made it to Miss America. And then we move to Texas. And literally, Texas is like a pageant state, like people are born out of the womb with crap. Yes. And people are like, Oh, you're from Iowa. Like this is this is hardcore. And I'm like, bring it like, are you? Are you for real right now no one tells us farm girls what we can and cannot do. And so I started placed a couple times, but I just had this second chance at life and it creates this fire in you like good luck taking it out, right. And I was born two minutes before the Fourth of July. So I'm a firecracker. And so I just was like, bring it on. And I wanted, you know, when you run in pageantry, you have a platform, and obviously mine was breast cancer. And I just knew I need to share this story. I don't need the crown to do so. But gosh, it would be nice. And it was interesting. We put band aids on the swimsuit covered my hysterectomy scars. We literally had a fan backstage, because when you go through treatment, the hot flashes. I mean, it's just you sweat profusely. And so I'm like, I've heard that it's crazy. And I had wigs and it was insane. But the amount of support from the women around me were was just such a blessing and an honor to compete with them. And so when I won, then it was like, okay, go go, go get ready for nationals. And then I ended up placing top 10 out of 72. So it was just awesome. I that year as Mrs. Texas I made over 100 appearances with breast cancer.Lori Saitz:
Wow, that is such a great story. And it's kind of a testament to that's what you were supposed to do. Because all of those events unfolded in that way. Yeah.Michelle Berndt:
And you know, some people can say I just had a really hard life. And some people look at me and they're like, Oh, she has a beautiful home a beautiful family. She's a vice president of her company. She was Mrs. Texas. I've had blood, sweat and tears to get here. And I've lost several jobs. I've had several deaths in the family. I've watched on fourth generation to go through cancer. Do people have it worse than me? Absolutely. Do people have it better than me? Absolutely. But I chose not to settle. I chose to take my hardships and take me to the next level personally and professionally. And for me it worked.Lori Saitz:
Yeah, and it's really about taking what you have in front of you and working with that. And you know that's part of what we do in my program and the fact being find experience we talk a lot about gratitude as one of the one of the pieces of the trilogy for success part because you can have all the less luck you know, if you believe in luck in whatever form there's plenty of different definitions of that but but it's that peace of gratitude, which I you didn't mention, but I'm pretty sure you had a significant amount of gratitude running through your veins in addition to the chemo. And that is what What kept you moving forward as well.Michelle Berndt:
Yeah, faith gratitude. My faith and attitude were everything right? And I'm so thankful to God, you know, there were there were some hard times like there when I when I made it through it, and I did my 100 appearances sadly enough, there were a ton of cancer people I met ended up dying during my year of Mrs. Texas. And it was so hard Lori because sometimes I would come home and I would say to my mom or my husband, why do I get to live? But they don't, like that? That is a question no one can answer but Christ, right. But I wanted answers that survivor guilt. Yes. And I just, I was getting so mad. And it's, I was making all these friends, but then losing them. And it's just, it was so hard. But there's just a reason for everything. And survivors need to be celebrated to, I felt bad surviving what I went through in celebrating it, because so many people were losing their lives. But survivors get to celebrate to, there is a reason you made it through it. And you need to take that and run with it. There is a reason you got a chance at second life. And I think that's where all my passion and energy comes from. Because I'm thankful to be here. And you have to be grateful for what you have. Trust me before this happened 10 years ago, almost 10 years, I'll be a 10 year survivor in February. I compared myself to others
Like every person does, right? Like, I was like, I want that. And I want to be that, Oh, I wish I had that. Now, there's nothing to compare, because everybody no matter how good it looks, they have their stuff behind closed doors you don't know about there's things they're dealing with internally. Nobody has it perfect. And you have to remember that. I know it's hard. But guys, try not to compare yourself to other people because you have no clue what they're going through.Lori Saitz:
Exactly, we never know. And unless somebody chooses to share it with you, everybody has their stuff because we're human. So everybody has their stuff, whether they're sharing it out on social media, or they're only projecting the the good stuff that they want you to see. That's just how we go through life as humans, right? So everybody has something and right it's not a competition. It's not a competition. Just do your own your own thing. Follow your own path.Michelle Berndt:
Yes, I totally agree. It's not a competition. It's survival of the fittest. And you cannot survive life without the correct mentality and something in here. And it starts in your heart.Lori Saitz:
I'm gonna push back on this survivor of the fittest thing though. I don't look at life as a as a competition and survival of the fittest. It's more collaboration. And how can we help and support each other? to not only like you said not only to survive, but to also to thrive? Because if surviving, is living in that fine place, everything's fine. But your soul isn't growing your soul isn't flourishing. That’s where the thriving part comes inMichelle Berndt:
No, that's a really good point. When I think of survival of the fittest, it takes a village right? Like I didn't get through cancer on my own and no one gets through a divorce on their own and no one gets through losing a job on their own. It's it's the village around you, it's who you surround yourself with. And don't ever try to do something alone. Because you weren't meant to right? You you have to call on your loved ones. And so when I think of survival of the fittest, it's you know, who you surround yourself with and who is your village to make you strong inside and outside.Lori Saitz:
Got it. I like that. I like that redefinition of it. And yeah, where do you think that comes from? that we as humans, think that we can do everything alone and we, I got this?Michelle Berndt:
I don't know. To be honest. It is the weirdest thing that people are scared to ask for help. And I was in the beginning. I also think that us women It is okay, I like it. We think we're Wonder Women right? Well, we secretly are butLori Saitz:
um, but you know, we are and at the same time,Michelle Berndt:
but even wonder woman had help, right? Like watch all the movies, y'all. They're great. And she has help too, so no one does anything alone. There's no superhero that acts alone. So I think that's one thing to remember, but you just can't You can't be shy to ask for help. And one thing I also when I public speak I talked about is the caregivers, and it doesn't have to just be with cancer. Your caregivers are your village, right? And so your caregivers want to be there for you. But they don't know how. Like when people want to help you. It's such a weird spot for them because they don't know what to say or do and they just want to be there for you. And so allow them to allow your loved ones to be there for you. They don't need didn't have to do anything physically for you, they can just be there for you mentally and emotionally. But you weren't meant to get through hard times alone, you cannot be too scared to ask for help. We all need it. It's why there's millions of people on the planet.Lori Saitz:
Right? And by allowing other people to help, you're giving them the gift of being able to use their skills, their knowledge, their their loving kindness, in benefit of someone else.Michelle Berndt:
Yes, totally agree. It's, you have to lean on, like lean on me, that's such one of my favorite songs, right? Like, we all have to lean on each other. And that's what will make the world stronger. I don't want to get on a soapbox and do not want to get into politics. But we are in a horrible state right now as a nation. And there's so much You know why? Because not only is there Hey, people live in silos, in our jobs in our life, in churches, like there's just too many silos, and we have to break down these walls, we have to come together, love on each other a little bit more, and lean on me lean on each other. And if we can break some of these silos, the love just pours in over these walls.Lori Saitz:
Yeah, it really comes back to recognizing that we are more alike than we are different. And looking for those commonalities. So you know, you and I met through a networking event, a virtual networking event. But we tend we talk a lot about in the networking, when you're talking to people about networking, and how to network effectively. It's about finding commonalities. I mean, life is networking. And it's about finding the commonalities, what do we have in common that we can talk about that we can start and build a relationship on? and move forward from there? And that's, that's what more people would do better to do as a whole? Just? Yeah, you know, once again, there are more similarities than differences.Michelle Berndt:
Yeah, I wish I can remember the name of the book, but I was reading a book that was talking about like, when you're when you're on a corporate business trip, or even on vacation, and you're at a resort, or you're at a business conference, the person next to you, you're one degree away from them being connected somehow, it could be literally you're related to them, but you have some inner connection. And it's, it's, it's so ironic, right? Like you're one degree away of being the closest person that that person has in their life. And so I'm that annoying person in the airport that talks to people that just want to be left alone, because I love people, I just love loving on people. But I am a firm believer life is all about connections, and it's who you know, and I don't mean moving up corporate wise, it's about having that support system in your life. And a lot of what I'm grateful for in life is because of those around me.Lori Saitz:
Yes, yes. And it's it's becomes kind of a game because I'm a little bit. I don't want to say opposite of you. But I have always been some pretty much of an introvert. Like, I'm not going to talk to everybody at the airport. Okay, so, but if you came over and talked to me, I would talk to you, but I'm not going to necessarily initiate the conversation just saying. At the same time, I think it's fun to meet new people and find out. Oh, you know, so and so how does how did that? That's so random. How do we both know that same person? Or how do we both, you know, grow up in two towns away from each other or something like that. It becomes this fun game. I remember. When I was in college, I did a semester abroad. And I was on a train with a couple of friends. I think we were in Germany. And we started talking with another woman who was on the train who was American. And it turned out like her sister in law or something lived in the same town that I grew up in. And the woman ended up get she was older, she gave us she gave us some money to go enjoy a nice treat at a cafe. It was just completely random. We're like halfway across the world. Yeah. But it so happened. And that was before social media. And it happens so much way more now because the social media has made the world so much smaller.Michelle Berndt:
Yeah, absolutely. So I've worked in sales for Gosh, almost 20 years now. And one thing whenever I have sales reps or customer service reps, I train them and at first they get so annoyed by it, but then they appreciate it in the end. I tell them, don't you ever hang up that phone until you made a connection with that person, Where most people in sales say Don't you ever hang up that phone without selling something right? I believe the sales come from the connection. So I tell them yeah, trust me, trust me there is a connection find it. Get to know them. When you have rapport, the sales come automatically and the referrals and All that good stuff, right? But everybody is one degree away from a connection. And once they embrace it, they believe in it. It takes time, but it's so true. I don't care who you're talking to. When you're on the phone with someone, there is something you have in common find it.Lori Saitz:
Yeah, yeah. Like we said, it just makes it so much more fun. It makes life overall so much more fun. Yes, yes. Before we go, I need to ask you. What's the song you listen to when you need to get hyped up? Like you're in baseball, there's the walkup song. What's your hype song? Is it the one you already mentioned? Or is it something different?Michelle Berndt:
No, something different. I love Pitbull and Christina Aguilera song. Oh, what does it call now? I'm having a brain fart. I'm remember what it's called.
Greg, might need to clean up the space in audio hereLori Saitz:
Looking it up. It's called. Feel This Moment.Michelle Berndt:
Yes. It's so good. I love it. Sometimes we use it in pageantry. Sometimes I listen to it when I'm working now. It's just I am a firm believer Feel This Moment live in the moment Time flies so quick. it flashes before your eyes. I've got a daughter now who's a freshman in high school and it seems like just yesterday she was three years old and I was going through cancer. Feel the moment live in the moment. Even if it's a hard moment embrace it, there's a reason it's happening.Lori Saitz:
Such a good song and a good sentiment to go with it. Thank you so much for joining me today Michelle. How before we go, one quick thing. If people want to get in touch with you How can they do that?Michelle Berndt:
Yep just find Michelle Berndt on LinkedIn and I'm I post up all the time on there on behalf of the company I work for which is one share health we provide affordable health care. I post breast cancer stuff on there you can also Google the documentary Dallas Hope that Baylor Dallas filmed but would love to connect with you guys. But since it's October, I can't leave without saying go get your annual mammogram. Do not wait. Don't put it off. Go and do it just for me.Lori Saitz:
Thank you so much for joining me today Michelle here on Fine is a 4-Letter Word.Michelle Berndt: