I’m a Sur-Thriver
While life is never perfect, looking back on it now, I wouldn’t want it to be. I’ve learned more through my adversities than my triumphs—and when life turns up the heat, the real triumphs can begin, and true purpose can be born.
My sur-thriver story begins in Manhattan, where I was born and raised by a brilliant millionaire father and a beautiful model mother. Life was full of endless possibilities and no limits until my silver-spoon lifestyle came crashing down when my father was brutally murdered while on a business trip. He was targeted by organized criminals who wanted him dead, although this is still an unsolved cold case to this day. This began my struggles…and what would happen in the next 40 years would be nothing short of miraculous.
As the floodgates of my new reality without a father providing for my every need set in, I didn’t lose faith in my Hollywood dreams of becoming a star; after all, I was young and invincible. So, at 15 years young, I secured a job at a local Irish pub making $400 a day working weekend brunches. In this way, I paid for my private high school for young actors (like you saw in the movie Fame) and dance classes on Broadway. I was also able to pay the mortgage and many of the household bills my mother and I now shared together.
I was so determined to earn a living now that I graduated high school early at 16. I immediately went on to attend a year at Marymount College and then went to the New York Academy of Theatrical Arts. Never missing a beat, I worked weekends, went to school, and auditioned for everything I was a fit for—including soap operas, movies, TV commercials, and many Disney productions. I discovered that I loved entertaining, working, and being busy—which I now know is a character trait that is still serving me well to this day.
I would love to tell you that all went great after I bounced back from the murder of my father, but as you can imagine, it was only the beginning of my obstacles and the depth of strength I would discover inside myself on the road to my Emmy Award–winning night.
I was married to an abusive man for seven years in my 20s. And at 32, I lost my mother to cancer, which killed her five months after her diagnosis and left me crushed beyond words. I lost my lifetime best friend at that moment. Unfortunately, this would not be the end of cancer striking my life, as a few years later, my brother would get it. Thankfully, he survived. But a few months later, I would hear the doctors tell me that I too had cancer: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
God is so good though and didn’t make us go through this life-threatening adventure alone. Three years before my cancer battle, I married my Prince Charming, Brian, who never wavered through our storms. My cancer battle would be hard, but it’s also been the road to my biggest triumph, my purpose, and my legacy.
Life-changing news came after my cancer surgery in 1999, when the surgeons removed my thymus gland, half of my left lung, part of my right lung, and the lining around my heart. They also disconnected half of my diaphragm and removed the left nerve to my vocal cord. They told me I would never speak above a very faint whisper ever again—that it would be impossible.
End of story and the end of my red-carpet dreams, right? Absolutely not.
Where there’s faith, there is hope and a future. It just might look and sound different from what you first imagined. However, being flexible and willing to ride the tides and keep your heart on your dreams makes a world of difference. The journey will change, but the goal remains intact.
In 2010, I was crying tears of joy as I sat at a beautifully adorned round gala table with Brian, my daughter Angelica, and friends. I was dressed in elegant formal attire. We all cheered when the on-stage presenter spoke those famous words I’d spent a lifetime dreaming about, but thought would elude me forever: “And the Emmy Award goes to…Aurea McGarry, Live Your Legacy TV!”
Shocked, weak at the knees, and barely able to grab my husband’s hand, we walked together through the crowded room of fellow TV professionals to the spectacular stage, where I accepted my golden statue award and told the audience that their dreams can come true, too. After all, if I just won the highest award in my industry for having a television talk show and I should not be able to talk, then what was stopping anyone else from their dreams coming true, no matter what their circumstances might be?
As I returned to my chair, my friend reached over to me and said, “Your mother would be proud!” This made that night even more special.
Believe in your miracle—and never stop working for it!!