Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Sheila G. on November 9, 2008
I was Diagnosed with:
Breast Cancer
Date of Diagnosis:
March 5, 2008
Employment Status:
Full time
Type and Description of Treatments:
I had 6 rounds of chemo and am now completing 28 radiation treatments. I had a bi-lateral mastectomy in September.
How do you feel today?

I feel awesome today. Meeting survivors and going through treatment with a sister that was diagnosed on the same day has made the process much easier than I had expected.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

My hair is much shorter! My bra size is much much smaller!!!

I value my time with family and friends more. Work has become a pleasant environment. My teenage daughter and I are closer.

What is going well for you right now?

I have been promoted at work. I have re-connected with friends I haven't seen in 15-20 years. My 25th class reunion was last month and at least one other woman had gone through breast cancer. I felt more connected with my class mates.

What is not going well for you right now?

My home needs cleaning. I have neglected it throughout the entire treatment process. However, as my energy increases, this will be resolved.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Feeling like there is no end to the treatment tunnel. It seems that each time I return to the oncologist there is one more round of treatment to go through. I wasn't prepared for the on-going, lengthy process of cancer treatment.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

My sister that was diagnosed the same day I was. And the owner of Absolute Dignity, Kathy Dibbons, a 12-year survivor. Her store and her mission is to help women going through cancer.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

During the course of treatment, I have been working on my Master's in Psychology with the intent of completing my PhD. I have been seriously considering changing from community therapy to serving those facing chronic and terminal illnesses.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

I work from 10:30 to 6:30. My normal hours are 8-5. However, I leave for radiation at 6 am and cannot get back to work until 10:30.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

During chemo, I had difficulty being empathetic with some of my mentally ill clients. Thus, I changed positions to clerical for the 4 months of chemo. Upon returning to my previous position of caseworker, I was promoted to supervisor.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

The consideration of my employer to work with me. The attitudes of my fellow employees kept me focused and laughing.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

Do not hesitate to discuss obstacles with your superiors and suggest alternative solutions. You may be surprised at their willingness to help. Know your legal rights under family medical leave laws.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

I had chemo brain. Sometimes it was difficult to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I was tired a lot. I had repeated ear infections and the antibiotics resulted in yeast infections.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

Keep a journal!!