Cathy's WOW Story:

My birth name is Cathy Byrnes.  I have lived a thrilling and challenging
life, being married more than once to come full circle back to my birth name.  I am now in the process of remembering and discovering who Cathy Byrnes is and what are her next steps.

I’m writing today to highlight what I consider to be some of my most
challenging personal struggles and the ensuing transformations and resulting successes.  

My cup is not half full or half empty, but generally overflowing.  I am
fortunate to have the ability to find the silver lining and focus on the
positive.....most of the time.  Sometimes it takes a good amount of effort, I’ll admit, but it pays off tenfold.

Right after high school, being very anxious to get out in the world and
start my life, I took an 18 week accounting course and began a career in bookkeeping.  Even though my parents would have done whatever they could to help with my education, I was too impatient.

When I was 20 I moved from Toronto, where I had grown up all of my life, to Cambridge, Ontario.  My “boyfriend” at the time had the opportunity to have custody of his 4 year old daughter but couldn’t do it alone, so I moved in with him to raise the child together.  That child is now my beautiful, amazing grown daughter Cheryl.  At the time, raising a child in a fairly new relationship while still being a child myself in many ways, was challenging to say the least. In the years that followed I tried to be a “Mom” the best way I knew how, by trying to model my own mother.  I also continued to advance my career in bookkeeping and office work.  

The biggest challenges throughout these years were relationship based. The man who I loved and shared my life with was an alcoholic.  Leaving never seemed like an option.  I was raising a child who I loved dearly, doing everything I could to help her father to heal and looking forward to the fairytale life that I knew lay ahead....somewhere down the road.  You know, white picket fence, husband, children....the whole works. It was all that I ever wanted and I would make it so.  I was raised in a very loving, nurturing family and knew in my heart that I could make it all better.  We married in 1986.

In 1988, after years of blood tests, temperature monitoring, surgery,
fertility treatments and standing on my head, I finally found out I was
pregnant!  I was overjoyed! The doctor had not thought it would be possible since they had found that I had a severe case of endometriosis.  About a month before my little miracle was to be born   I was scheduled for my second ultrasound.  It was revealed that my unborn child had something wrong with “it’s” brain.  I was rushed to McMaster for further tests and put on bedrest.  Hydrocephalus (excess fluid on the brain) was the diagnosis and emergency surgery as soon as my child was born was the plan.  I also had extremely high blood pressure and possible toxaemia at this point.  I was admitted about a week before the birth and the baby was monitored closely.  The hydrocephalus was advanced and they had no idea at this point the extent of the potential brain damage. We waited.  When they felt they could wait no longer to treat the baby, the doctors decided to induce labour.  18 ½ hours later my little Angel was born.  She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!  They whisked her away to neonatal intensive care for assessment.  It seemed that the prayers and healing love of my wonderful friends and family had some effect since they decided emergency surgery would not be necessary.  

The coming weeks were spent caring for our precious delivery, trying to get this tiny little “failure to thrive” baby to eat, and many doctor
appointments.  It was decided that brain surgery would now be necessary and, when Christina was almost 7 pounds and exactly one month old, Dr. Hollenberg performed the life saving surgery.  It was very successful and Christina began to grow, develop and thrive.  The lasting effects were not nearly as bad as doctors had expected and we felt very blessed.  Still, there was a journey ahead filled with developmental specialists, doctors, therapies, pain, anguish, joy and love.

I did not return to work as expected after what was then only a three month maternity leave.  By 8 months old Christina was stable enough for me to return to work.  My employer had not held my position open past scheduled leave so the job hunt was on.  I worked for a few months at a job in administration but the hours were long and my baby needed me so I continued to search.  In March of 1990 I got a job at a local industrial business as the Office Manager.  The hours were reasonable and I really connected with my new boss, so this looked like a good opportunity.  I had to take Christina to daycare.  Her father was injured at work before she was born, so he couldn’t care for her.

Meanwhile, Christina’s health was a constant challenge.  She was also
followed by developmental specialists and working with the Rotary Centre (now KidsAbility) doing physical therapy, speech therapy and anything else they could help us with.  Her speech development came along well and finally, at 21 months, she walked!  What a blessing, especially considering that many kids with Hydrocephalus are also afflicted with Spina Bifida.  

Right around the time that I found out I was pregnant with twins Christina was diagnosed with Epilepsy.  Then, when I was several months pregnant and on bedrest, Christina came down with sever pneumonia.  Since I refused to leave her side they gave me a bed right next to her so that my pregnancy would be protected.  We almost lost her that time.  It was the most heart wrenching experience I had ever had.  We spent her fourth birthday in hospital.

My twins, Michael and James, were born April 7, 1993.  Christina adored them, helped to bathe and feed them and fussed over them like a little mother.  Their father’s alcoholism continued to plague our relationship and our family life.  It seemed like the more kids and more responsibilities I had the more it affected me.  When I just had Cheryl and Christina I could be with them and calm them when he came home drunk.  With two babies now, and Cheryl gone to live on her own, it was more and more challenging.  And it seemed like each time he found the strength to quit drinking, when he started again it would be worse than before.  By the time the boys were almost two I had to end the marriage.

I found it funny that many people assumed that I would stop working and stay home with my kids as a single mom.  Some even encouraged it.  But I was able to work and wanted to support my family and continue to teach good values to my kids, so I continued to work.  Since I had moved away from where I was raised I didn’t have any family close by and soon realized that I didn’t really have many friends.  My life in Cambridge had been my husband and kids.  Cheryl was on her own now and had given me a beautiful baby granddaughter.  I had one close girlfriend, Sandy, who was a great companion at that time and my family was around to support me when they could be.  The
kids and I were fine on our own.  For about a year I didn’t really do
anything but work and enjoy my kids.

Eventually I joined PWP (Parents without Partners), met some new friends and began to socialize.  I played some game nights, went on outings and signed up to play softball.  It was there that I met my second husband.  We connected almost immediately, had a lot of common interests.....and a lot of children!!  He had four kids of his own who lived with him as well.  Fairly soon, maybe a little too quickly, we moved in together, got married and were suddenly raising 7 kids together, since Cheryl was out on her own at this point.  Soon after we moved in together Cheryl left the dad of her baby and they moved in with us also.  We had many good times and many struggles.  You can imagine that having 9 kids between 2 and 20 at home presented its

In 1998 I had a partial hysterectomy. The doctor commented that he couldn’t believe I was able to have children since the endometriosis was one of the worst cases he had seen. I felt so blessed to have my
children! A few months later my father passed away. I was fortunate to have been able to spend time with him in his last weeks since I was off work with surgery and my husband was able to stay with my kids. About six months later I had to have a full hysterectomy since the situation had worsened again. That was a tough year, but I was still so much more fortunate than some, surrounded by love, children, employed and not wanting for much!

During this time in my life Christina’s health became a huge concern again. With epilepsy plaguing her off and on, she began to experience extremely severe headaches and dizziness.  My work had started to send me to other locations on occasion so I was home less, working long hours and feeling the strain.

I spent a year traveling to all of the locations of my work across North America and then working 18 hour days at home to do a huge fixed asset reconciliation.

The project was quite successful and I received accolades from head office in the U.S. and the corporate owners in Switzerland.  The project was over and it was time to settle back into my office job and a bit easier schedule.

(Continued at Right)


Then, without warning, I lost my job due to a “Corporate Restructure”.  I wasn’t the only one.  Three of us in management were “let go”.  They assured me that it was nothing to do with my  performance, which was far above expectations, but they were going to handle all of the finance and administration from head office in Detroit going forward.  They even complimented me that they were able to do this in part because of the extremely efficient systems that I myself had put in place.  Thanks!

It wasn’t long before I found another job as Manager of Accounting with a local Management Firm.  This job was close to home and reasonable hours but not as exciting or fulfilling as my long time job had been.  Then Christina’s health got worse and she was going to need another brain surgery.  This was done at McMaster Hospital where I stayed by her side the entire time, sleeping on a pull out couch at night.  I worked on my computer at night to keep up with my work responsibilities.  Apparently this wasn’t good enough and, less than a week after surgery, my boss was emailing my saying they needed me back at my desk.  While surgery had been successful and Christina was recovering well, she still needed a lot of care and my nerves were worn a little thin.  My doctor decided I needed some rest so I took a stress leave.  During this leave my boss and I decided mutually that it was time to lay me off.  I had hired very good employees who were working out well and he could run things without a middle manager.  

So.....what next??

Well, I thought at this point in my life, with all the kids at home and Christina’s health still being an issue, maybe I would try to start my own business.  My husband was doing well at work and earning a good living and I had some EI coming my way, so decided to give it a try.  But what kind of business?  This evolved over time.  At first it was going to be small business accounting, but I felt like I was growing kind of bored with accounting.  What had I loved most in my long term job in management and accounting and what was I best at?  I had always loved interviewing, hiring and training my employees.  I was complimented on many occasions for being a great teacher.  I had always wanted to be a teacher but had not had the patience to stay in school!  Maybe I could take one year of Teacher’s College and teach!!  Maybe not.  As it turns out, an undergraduate degree was required before attending Teacher’s College.  This was not the case when I left school.  I had, over the years of raising my family, acquired some
University credits through attendance and correspondence, but it would be a long road to finish that BA!

What else could I do.  Well, my older brother had a training business since 1989.  They did corporate training, public programs, facilitation, etc.  My younger brother taught with them and had always encouraged me to do so as well.  “You’d be great at this!” he would often tell me.  So, I set out on a new path. 

 I was very fortunate to be accepted into a government program called SEB (Small Enterprise Business) through which I could receive the equivalent to EI and guidance, training and mentoring toward the development of my business.  I took a number of courses outside of this, including courses offered by my brother’s company and many others, and developed credibility and skills needed for my new chosen vocation!  With the financial and moral support of my husband, my brothers and the rest of my family and friends I was off and running.  Over the years I became educated and trained in a number of areas including Communication, NLP, Interview Skills, Body Language, Team Building, Leadership, Customer Service and I even became certified as a Life Coach.

My business continued to grow and I watched my children thrive. Christina was still struggling with her health but becoming a beautiful, intelligent young woman and my two handsome, strong boys growing into young men who I was proud to be a part of creating and raising. And of course, the daughter I grew
up with, Cheryl, who now had a wonderful family of her own and was still my best friend.

Unfortunately, the strain of raising each other’s children and so many other challenges had taken its toll on our marriage and my second husband and I separated.  With our settlement and cashing in some RRSP’s (thank God I had them), I was able to buy a small home for myself and my kids, now all teenagers.  Cheryl, at this point, had married a wonderful man with a child of his own and they had two more children together making their family complete with 2 girls and 2 boys.  So yes, I’m also a grandma of four at this point!  

My business and my children continued to grow. In 2007 I met the man who would be my boyfriend for the next three years. He was a great support in my career. He helped me to develop my brand and become more independent in my business. In those 3 years my business has evolved and grown because of this. I have traveled across North America speaking, teaching and coaching and have become known as one of Canada's experts in Mind Mapping. I have taught courses at Conestoga College as well. It seems that I never have to look for business. The more I teach and speak, the more people call requesting me for their next event.

This man was also an incredible support for my daughter, Christina. While I had always focused very much on nurturing her and doing my best to get and keep her healthy and happy, he brought to my attention, and Christina's, her abilities and potential. Beyond both of our expectations and much to our surprise and delight she became a full time student at Conestoga College where she continues to do very well.

He and I have since separated. I will only say that we had different goals and visions for our futures that made us incompatible to share a long term future together.

I have no regrets in my life. Every person who has crossed my path has added something to my life. Each of the significant men in my life has added something of value that I have learned from and will treasure forever. First and foremost, my children have remained my main focus and the most joyful and satisfying part of my life. And at my side through it all, my small circle of best friends, Annette & Dave, Jeff, Kristel and Sandy! And now on my own with my kids again, I am whole, independent, rich in experience and love and ready for my next challenge, my next transformation and many more successes in my future.

Visit Coach Cathy's Website. Call 519-222-2050 or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn Right Now.


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