Today, along with 500 other women, I went with great enthusiasm to hear Gloria Steinem give a luncheon keynote. She'd long been a woman I admired, someone who led the way for so many others. I'd also heard that she was a great speaker so I was keen to hear her for myself.
There was an intake of breath and groan when the organizer explained that Gloria had hurt her back and was unable to come to Ontario to give her presentation. At first I thought he was joking when he said that this was every event planners biggest nightmare, but he wasn't.
Generously they offered to refund the money if people were not happy with the event, and he was quick to advise that they had found a replacement speaker. "Tobin Anderson" he announced. There was a buzz around the room as people acknowledged that they had no idea who she was or what was her claim to fame.
Well, in the ninety minutes that followed, an enraptured audience learned more about Tobin - her courage, tenacity and indomitable spirit as she faced her battle with cancer.
As Tobin herself declared, she was a strange mix for a motivational speaker when her opening lines were usually that there were two certainties in life - we are born, and we die!
You couldn't help but be impressed with her attitude and faith, and her touching sense of humour. This is a woman who has learned to laugh at herself. She finds opportunity in challenges - big and small. Not only has she battled cancer once, but four times and her last bout was only a month ago, but she is determined to go on. Her mission is to help other people face their mortality and find the joy in their lives, living each day as if it was their last.
In the eleven years since her first diagnosis, Tobin has packed in a full life. She gave up her stressful job as a designer for Guess, left a relationship that was hazardous for her health, and moved from Montreal back to Calgary.
But of all the stories she told, the most impressive was her determination to climb mountains in the Antarctica, having never done anything remotely like this before. It took grit and determination to achieve this goal, and she did it.
Tobin's closing remarks were to encourage us all to look deep inside, to foster our love of ourselves and listen to our souls. Be your own best friend, she urged.
By the time she finished, any thought about Gloria Steinem was long gone. Sure we were disappointed, but then if it had all gone to plan, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to hear Tobin, and that would have been a big loss. I am sure everyone left today touched and changed by what they had heard, I know I did.