Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Cindi M. on March 30, 2009
I was Diagnosed with:
Multiple Myeloma
Date of Diagnosis:
December 19, 2005
Employment Status:
full time
Type and Description of Treatments:
Clinical trial with Revlimid and high dose dexamethazone. High dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant.
How do you feel today?

Amazing! Currently in complete remission of 30 months. I am in better shape now than I was before diagnosis. The compression fracture at T-12 has healed and no longer painful. So life is good!

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

I changed careers to a more rewarding, far less stress job. I traveled to Honduras on a mission trip right in the middle of chemo, with a return trip planned June of '09, I wear my hair shorter than I ever imagined, and get more compliments than when it was long! And have started a business "HatsnHair", sewing ponytails into ball caps that say "Hope" and "Live" for other survivors. I spend more time with friends and am actively involved with other cancer survivors offering hope and inspiration.

What is going well for you right now?

The pace of my life seems just right. I have more balance than before, with relationships, work, quality time on the things that count. My health is good!

What is not going well for you right now?

Sometimes my "mental gymnastics" of the "what if" part that all survivors experience.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Balance. I worked insanely full time with lots of travel, during chemo and up until transplant. But I know that was my sense of "normal" as I tried to wrap my brain around an unusual cancer. Now my challenges are eating better, as I've gotten into eating junk, because my weight is stable. And I know better than Pringles and chocolate for breakfast!

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

My internal "board of director" friends that include 3 other couples. We call each other The Great 8. I've started a small group of girls who go to coffee every other Sat. morning and we belong to a Small Group thru church that is wonderful. I also volunteer for the Leukemia Lymphoma society in a variety of ways.

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

I no longer worry about things like retirement or defining myself through my career. I try to make choices today that will impact others around me. It is amazing how freeing it is to realize we are not here to have the "best job" or make the most money. Sometimes life changing events help you realize that the ladder you are climbing is really against the wrong building!

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

Full time with minimal, local travel in marketing and client development rather than operations and administration. Which is a much better fit!

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

I changed careers. Going from high stress, private business with a not-so-good environment, to non-profit and serving others. Which aligns much better with my personal values.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

The feeling that if I was working, I must be near some kind of "normal" It helped me cope and not concentrate just on treatment and drugs.

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

Pay close attention to your body. It will tell you when you are tired. Tired enough to take care of you. That eating the right things like protein and fresh foods really do make you feel better than processed foods, caffeine and sugar. You just have to listen, and make good choices.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

Hair loss was a biggie for me. I now have a very creative and healing outlet, making "HatsnHair" to help others who experience hair loss due to cancer treatments. Yoga and Pilates helped me immensely with a sense of well being, and being able to do even modified stretching on the days I didn't feel so good.

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

Gather information. Information on your disease, diagnosis, treatments, doctors is power. The more you know, the more you are empowered to make informed decisions. And don't search the internet in those early weeks! The information is overwhelming, and in my case, depressing! Make your own support group of friends and family who you can call and whine every now and then, and they let you.