Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Sally P. on August 7, 2011
I was Diagnosed with:
Non-Hogkins Lymphoma
Date of Diagnosis:
September 5, 2005
Employment Status:
Type and Description of Treatments:
Ratuxin and Chemo every three weeks times 6 followed by maintenance Ratunxin once every two monther
How do you feel today?

Today is a down day. I am feeling sorry for myself and my situation despite a caring wonderful husband and two wonderful teenage boys. Unemployment running out, which will mean health insurance issues. I am looking for employment but it's difficult to imagine getting hired when receiving chemo.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

I was in the midst of getting my BA in English and was going to quit school, but there was a girl ahead of me in the admissions line and she was bald, wearing a pink hat and it was then that I decided to keep going to school and received my degree in 2007. I taught high school english for 2 years, but that proved too much when my health began to fail. I felt I had failed when I finally realized I did not have the stamina to teach. I am still working out these feelings.

What is going well for you right now?

My cancer seems to be responding to the treatments. My husband continues to be caring and loving and my children remain indifferent, as teenage boys will be, which is a good thing. They and thoughtful and caring but go on with life with all the distractions that entails. We just enjoyed a lovely vacation at our favorite cottage on a lake and that a marvelous time.

What is not going well for you right now?

I feel that I need to find something that will suit me at this time in my treatment. I am frustrated that every 3 weeks my life gets put on hold and the following days are filled with feeling tired.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Knowing there is a ticking time bomb in me. My cancer is such that it can only be kept in control but never cured. I try to think of it as a chronic disease, like the diabetes I have or the high blood pressure.

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

I have a lovely therapist I see who helps me with ways to control the anxiety and stress. It helps to talk to someone who can be objective about emotional issues but sympathetic and caring at the same time.

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

Well, teaching is out. Too stressful. But I have been looking at changing my teaching aspirations to something else relating to education but perhaps on a smaller scale such as tutoring.

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

I am not working now which is frustrating. I may start working part-time at my husbands office as his secretary is looking into retiring soon. A short-term arrangement on a voluntary basis just to get out of the house and be productive.

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

I have given up teaching because it was affecting my health. This has been the most difficult aspect of the cancer diagnosis. Mentally I feel I have failed that my hard work was for naught. But I have my degree and I have to regain my self-esteem in order to to find another line of work that I can feel as compassionate about as I did with teaching.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

As I am not working now, this is a moot point, but it is anticipating finding meaningful work helps. Knowing that the anxiety associated with money issues and health concerns will some day in the near future be resolved. Knowing there are places to go to find help is extremely reassuring.

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

Find a balance in your life. Enjoy life and as hard as it is in this economy, find something that brings you joy.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

Taking the meds to help relieve the side effects. Meditation helps and finding joy in the small things in life.

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

Don't freak out. Don't be so demanding with the doctors. But that is easy to say when you are hit broad-side with a cancer diagnosis.