By Susan Doran
When Juliana Vallée’s vision first began to deteriorate, she didn’t realize she was setting off down the road to living with an inoperable brain tumour.
She was referred from specialist to specialist, each more alarming than the last, from optometrist to ophthalmologist to neurosurgeon. After undergoing various scans and then a biopsy, it was determined that a tumour was pressing on the optic nerve behind her left eye.
It turned out to be benign, “a huge relief,” says Vallée.
But the tumour’s location near an artery made removal too risky. A gruelling round of radiation followed (it was only minimally effective), after which she says her “memory was not so great” for awhile. This led to much good-natured teasing by her four children.
Her memory has since improved but the teasing continues and includes jokes about her poor vision. “My sons wrap pink tape around their hockey sticks so I can pick them out at games,” Vallée laughs.
Now, about a year after treatment, she is doing well. “I choose not to be a victim. What has happened to me has made me who I am and motivates me to go where I need to go,” she says. “I could have hidden under the covers in bed, but I chose to push through.”
The tumour is still there, along with some nerve damage on the left side of her face, severely compromised vision and headaches to boot. And here’s the topper – there’s apparently no way of knowing if the tumour will continue to grow.
Where work is concerned, this would be a showstopper for some people. Before diagnosis Vallée – who lives in Burnaby, B.C. – was the owner of a successful Keller Williams franchise with more than 100 agents. When the tumour was identified she took a hiatus from her real estate career to spend more time with her children.
But now she’s back at the wheel, albeit in a different lane.
She’s made the switch to a cloud brokerage. A couple of months ago she decided to become a sales rep with eXp Realty. She liked their business model and had “noticed a lot of mega agents moving over,” which helped convince her to do the same.
“It seems like the new way of doing business – the way of the future,” says Vallée. “I like that it’s virtual. I am very technology based.”
While technology adoption in the real estate industry has historically been slow, Vallée says cloud brokerage platforms are quietly gaining ground.
eXp is growing fast. It has operations in four Canadian provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and (most recently) Saskatchewan, with plans to expand soon into Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, along with other parts of the world.
Working with a cloud brokerage where there is no need for an actual bricks and mortar office can help with time management, Vallée says. The brokerage’s virtual campus is an example. “Now I can attend training from anywhere. I don’t have to drive somewhere.”
To date she has recruited a handful of agents for her new team, the Juliana Vallée Realty Group. As the vision in her left eye is almost non-existent, her daughter helps with admin work and reads documents for her.
“I still have the other eye,” says Vallée, ever the optimist.
Committed to personal growth, she maintains that a positive mindset is crucial.
“I’ve always had a positive attitude and been a fitness buff,” she says. “I believe that mindset is everything. I look for the positive in every situation. How you talk, the people you surround yourself with, impacts how you feel. It comes down to self awareness and emotional intelligence.”
Telling her story has helped her process her feelings. “When people hold things in, that’s when depression happens,” she says.
Exercise is another of her coping tools. A fitness competitor who trains rigorously, she has received a “most inspirational” award from Status Fitness Magazine. She even continued to train throughout the time period when she was undergoing radiation treatments. This raised a few official eyebrows at the medical facility.
“I was asked for ID a couple of times,” she says. “Due to my training, I did not look sick.”
Vallée is currently taking no medication, although doctors have proposed steroids and possible surgical options. “I’m avoiding that,” she says. She’s taken healing into her own hands for the time being, with the purchase of a pulsed electromagnetic field therapy machine for her home.
“I haven’t told my doctors yet!” she confesses.
Vallée has been in the real estate business for nearly a decade. Almost right out of the gate she was named rookie of the year at her then-brokerage. A business coach herself, she is passionate about the importance of coaching, and says she has coaches for all areas of her life.
She views educating her clients as one of her key roles as an agent – helping them “to bypass their blind spots,” giving them advice from a perspective they may not have seen themselves.
Still learning the ropes at eXp Realty, Vallée hopes to be back at the top of her game before too long.
“What’s happened to me with the tumour I view as a gift,” she says. “I see life in a different way now. I am a different person than before. I believe in living a limitless life.”