I heard someone say that graveyards are the wealthiest places on earth. They’re full of…
Plumery. A collection of ornamental plumes.
Plumery is also the name of a fine jewellery business owned by Danielle Klar, who began her career as a medical officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. She has two medical fellowships and is still a practising GP. She has several degrees, including a Master of Management and a Master of Business Administration.
All was going swimmingly in her career trajectory until the day Danielle was diagnosed with breast cancer. And then during her recovery, she almost died from massive clots in her legs that went to her lungs.
So what did Danielle do in her downtime? She became a qualified gemmologist and opened Plumery.
However, it wasn’t an easy journey to Plumery—far from it.
“Danielle is a fine example of how embracing vulnerability, rather than avoiding it or fighting it, can make our lives better and more rewarding,” says Dr Kim Vella, an accredited career coach who has asked Danielle to speak about her story at the upcoming Network of Possibility.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Danielle was born in Central West NSW and grew up with strong rural ties. She was introduced to geology and gemmology as child, when family trips became chances to discover landscapes, rocks and gems. Always creative by nature, Danielle loves photography and drawing.
“Once an adult, my creative side couldn’t flourish because I never had time,” she explains. “My professional life was super busy. I’m a competitive person by nature and was determined to get to the highest levels in my career. I was very focused.”
Then Danielle got sick. Breast cancer surgery turned out to be anything but straightforward. Complications meant more surgery and Danielle’s ability to control disappeared. Treatment, which included skin grafting, took about six months.
“Just as I was beginning to feel I could go back to work I found myself facing another major life-threatening event,” says Danielle. “The doctors discovered major clots in my legs and lungs. It was then that I really did lose control.”
Danielle was ordered to take six months to recover, with long periods of full bed rest.
“I was so sick and so short of breath I couldn’t even finish a sentence,” she says. “Being forced to stop gave me time to think and I found myself asking whether I wanted to go back to my high-pressure job. I asked myself what I wanted to do and how I wanted to shape my future.”
Always passionate about vintage jewellery, Danielle focused on another ‘life moment’. On a trip to Europe she spent all of her remaining Euros on a 1930s German sapphire ring. She wasn’t a gemologist at this stage and after making the impromptu purchase she suffered buyer’s remorse.
“I didn’t know if the ring was genuine or not,” says Danielle. “Luckily, when I had it appraised in Australia it was worth twice what I paid, but I decided to never buy again without being sure.”
She started a gemologist’s course and began buying gems at wholesale jewellery shows, designing pieces for friends, family and other contacts.
“My husband, who is an Orthopaedic surgeon, asked if jewellery made me happy and I said yes. He encouraged me to pursue my interest, reassuring me that if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out,” says Danielle.
“So I quit my APS position and started Plumery. I work there part-time and as a doctor in our medical practice part-time. My daughter now also works at Plumery.”
“They couldn’t be two more different businesses and we’ve even set them up side-by-side,” says Danielle. “On one side I wear my medical white coat, write scripts and take blood. On the other, I remove my white coat and put on beautiful jewellery.”
Kim says she invited Danielle to share her journey at the Network of Possibility because so many professionals, including leaders in the workplace, see that strong ambition and working harder, faster and longer are their only options.
“They see losing control as a weakness and an endpoint, but the irony is that embracing vulnerability can make your life better. You can become better aligned with who you are as opposed to who you think you should be,” says Kim. “This includes at work and outside of work. And it takes less than half your energy to align when you’re courageous enough to do it.”
As for Danielle’s health? It’s yearly check-ups for the cancer, and the lungs are clear. And Danielle spends more time with her family, including her five children (including two sets of twins!) than ever before.
The Network of Possibility, featuring ‘Danielle’s journey’, is happening on Wednesday 28 November from 6 – 7.30 pm, at the Commonwealth Club. Buy your ticket here.