Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Pamela C. on January 26, 2010
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage IV Follicular Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (grade 2)
Date of Diagnosis:
July 8, 2009
Employment Status:
Employed Full Time
Type and Description of Treatments:
8 Rounds of R-CVP Chemotherapy - every three to four weeks depending on blood count recovery
How do you feel today?

I feel good overall, yet anxious about the next couple of months. My last treatment is scheduled for tomorrow 1/27! Originally, it was for last week but my counts were too low so we postponed it.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

Everything. I have three children - my twins started Kindergarten the week after my first chemo treatment. This was probably the most difficult thing for me since I wanted to be there every moment I could. The day we found out who their teacher was the day I had my treatment, I was sick and white as a ghost but it was important for me to be there.

My husband has been a rock - I don't think I could change places with him, because I haven't been easy to deal with. Plus, I would never want to. My youngest child just goes with the flow and understands that some days Mommy just wants to come home and rest.

I have a much more positive outlook on a lot of things that I used to worry about. I try to soak in the precious moments with my kids and husband.

I also chat with friends more and people who I had previously lost touch with.

What is going well for you right now?

Luckily the R-CVP therapy has been tolerable. I only lost about half of my hair (and I have a lot) so I cut it short and wear a lot of headbands - seems silly but it was important for me. My overall attitude is pretty positive, I have some really down days but in the grand scheme of things it could be worse. I still can have fun, laugh, play with my children so I count that as a positive.

What is not going well for you right now?

I get overwhelmed with anxiety about the future. I worry about getting diagnosed with different types of cancers. I worry about everyone in my life being touched by cancer - most importantly my family.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

I would say working full time and being a full time mom. Now that my treatment is almost over I wish I would have cut my hours to part time or at least drawn the line and left at 3 every day. It's hard to come home after working all day, sitting in traffic and not just crash. There is still dinner, catching up and everything else to do after the work day.

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

I lean on my husband on my friends and family. I pray.
I also read a lot online. I try not to compare myself with others, no one is the same as you and everyone has a different set of circumstances.

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

I would say yes. I want to spend as much time as I can with my children and I want my husband and I to enjoy a long life together experiencing new things and traveling more. We want to live in the present and enjoy the now.

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

I took six weeks of FMLA beginning the day I started treatment.

I work from 8:30/9 to 5 or sometimes 6 and some nights - but with a blackberry you are always "on" of course.

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

I work at an advertising agency and I was in a pretty high stress role at the time of my diagnosis. During my leave a lot of my team members had left - I had the opportunity to move to a different role. I am now in a Director role but with less day to day stress.

I really try to leave work at home and not get caught up in the drama. I lead a team of about 18 people and that sometimes takes a lot out of me. They are all very supportive, but sometimes you want to throw your hands in the air and hide at home.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

The support that I have received from counterparts and HR. While I was on leave they set me up in a new office with a frosted door and a recliner so I could rest. My work hours are flexible so on days when I'm not feeling great I work remotely. I have worked here for almost 8 years so it's really like a family with people who have been here as long as me.

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

Remember to rest, don't try to do too much. The work will be here tomorrow (I know that deadlines are deadlines). Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Keep snacks at your desk.

Write everything down, keep post-it notes in your purse or pockets. I even write team member names down if I'm going to a meeting. Chemo brain will get you sooner or later - I got lost taking my kids to school.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

My treatments fall (soon to be fell) on Wednesdays so I come in and get the work settled for the week on Monday and Tuesday. I always take Wednesday and Thursday completely off for rest. Then on Fridays I work remotely so I can nap if I need to.

I always have green ginger tea and cracker/nuts at my desk. I also drink mineral water by the case.

I eat lunch at my desk - so I don't have to get out or think about food. It's more of an energy saver. I spend that time reading blogs, twitter or catching up on personal needs.

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

It will be hard.
It will be challenging.
You will get through this.
You are loved.