Be the Boss Over Cancer

I'm 29 years old and I have a very aggressive case of Multiple Myeloma. I've been out of work ever since I was diagnosed back in July of last year. In January I had a bone marrow transplant but unfortunately it did very little to stop or slow down the progression of my cancer.  Doctors have been pretty clear that there is little hope for me to go into remission and told me that unfortunately, with the way my disease is progressing I will run out of options.

Despite this, I'm still fairly healthy. I'm young, my organs are all clear at the moment and while I am undergoing radiation and chemo I don't feel all that sick. I mostly have fatigue but I've lived with fatigue for years. I want to start working again but the only real work background I have is in retail, I can't exactly work retail anymore as I still have a lot of bone pain and that kind of job can be pretty physically demanding. I was attending school and about ready to transfer else where before my diagnosis but those plans are lost. I can not do what I planned to do originally because again it would be too demanding on my body and I'm not sure going back to school is the right plan for me. Not to be bleak but I don't know how much time I have left and I don't know if I want to waste all that time in school.

I'd like to spend the rest of the time I have left in some kind of cancer advocacy job. I'm not sure what, fundraising or organizing or some kind of support for newly diagnosed patients. I know these kinds of jobs exist, I met a woman who helped me out when I was first diagnosed and I'm still in contact with her so I am probably going to ask her on advice on this is well. My question is though, is there any way a job out there exists for some one who does not have a college education? Or am I just going to have to end up going back to school and hoping for the best there? Also what kind of courses would one take for a job like that? I'm assuming social working courses but I'm not entirely sure.

Anyway this was probably far more long and rambling than it should have been so I'm sorry but thank you so much for you help.

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  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on May 14, 2013

    Career Coach Comment:

    Amber -

    Wow!  You are very impressive.  I admire your practical, realistic
    approach.  As a fellow cancer patient and
    career coach, I send you a “cyberspace” hug.  You have had a tough road over the past 10
    months and yet, you still have perspective and a positive attitude. Kudos.

    to respond to your query, my first thought is for you to consider how you could
    use your retail knowledge for work through the internet retail market.  Many of us do most of our buying online.

    is your top priority in seeking out a job right now?  Is it financial? Keeping stimulated and
    engaged? Or wanting to make a difference? 
    That would impact what I might suggest as your next steps.

    understand your wanting to spend your time right now on what would be most
    meaningful to you.

    agree that getting a college degree is not the best use of your time right
    now.  I believe you could find a
    meaningful job for yourself without the college degree.  What you might want to do is to tweak a few of
    your skills and add to your marketability. 
    For instance, if you do not have strong computer skills, take a few Continuing
    Ed classes at your local college or high school.  Or get some one-on-one coaching from a

    area of knowledge that you might consider, particularly if you already have
    good computer skills, is learning Medical Coding using ICD 9,
    CPT and HCPCS codes.  I believe there are
    online courses or courses at Community Colleges and it could lead to full and
    part time positions and even opportunities to work from home.

     Working for a cancer organization or cancer center
    is also a good idea.   You might be able
    to get a part time or per diem position, working perhaps as a patient relations
    representative, a scheduler or in billing office.  Look at posted positions at your local cancer
    center to get an idea of the types of job that might appeal to you.  Focus on positions that might provide you
    with flexibility in your work schedule.

     Until you land a position, consider volunteering at
    your local cancer center, for instance at their Resource Center, Reception area
    or at one of their Fundraising events. 
    This would provide you new contacts, experience and perspective.  Think of it as exploring potential

     You can also check online for cancer support
    organizations that might have part time positions.  Check the non-profit association job sites. 

     I would also suggest you make a list of what you can
    do and want in your next job and what you would be best to avoid.

     I hope these ideas are helpful to you.  Good Luck.


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