Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Jackie M. on November 26, 2008
I was Diagnosed with:
Colon cancer - stage 3
Date of Diagnosis:
January 8, 2007
Employment Status:
On-call - not much work
Type and Description of Treatments:
Had colon resection surgery and 6 months of chemo.
How do you feel today?

Basically, I feel okay - still have aches and strange pains and feeling generally tired on most days. I'm having boughts of depression especially after losing my brother to cancer 8 months ago and then having my male cat pass away a few months ago. Now I'm dealing with menopause! So how do I really feel? I'm not really sure how to feel.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

Everything has changed: my outlook on life and living (some good some not-so-good), my financal situation (worse), my mental health (depression,inability to focus), my relationships with family and friends and my spiritual health. I want to be happy and not worry. I know I need to work on this. Being diagnosed with cancer has forced me to look at my life in a different way- how I can lead a better more meaningful life.

What is going well for you right now?

All my CT scans, colonoscopy and blood work are normal. Still have another oncologist appointment in December but I anticipate good results.

What is not going well for you right now?

My lack of employment and financial situation has worsened. I'm unable to meet my daily living expenses with the little savings I have left. My mental health dealing with my cancer, death of loved ones and dealing with depression has been very difficult for me. I cry almost everyday and then I move on.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

The most challenging thing for me is facing my own mortality. Life is truly a gift. Having cancer changes you in every way- physically and emotionally. I've always been a strong person and now I realize how much inner strength you need to face this illness. I have also renewed my belief in God. There is a God and a Heaven.
Another challenging thing is being strong for your family and friends because they don't understand what you are going through and they choose to "not" wanting to deal with it - avoiding the big elephant in the room.

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

People tell you that you can't worry about what may happen. Somethings we have no control over and some things like worrying we can control. But it's hard not to think of cancer reoccurance. I think about that everyday. So, I've joined a local cancer support group and have gone back to church but I still feel alone in my world. My family and friends don't understand my situation and don't want to hear me talk about it.

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

My long term and short term goals are to pursue my passions. I believe everyone is born with a gift from God and it is up to us to cultivate and use these God given talents. A gift from God is truly a gift for others. Can you imagine if Elvis never pursued his singing career? I love art and have a passion for creativity. In some ways I've been able to use my talent of creativity in my career. I need to and want to do more painting and drawing and find a job in visual merchandising even though my education is in healthcare. Changing careers may be the answer.

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

My work arrangement right now is that I'm still on-call (PRN) for a medical clinical trial company. For the past 4 years I've been able to work an average of 25 hours a week in addition to having a home-based nutrition calendar business. This past year things have slowed down. I have not worked since November 8, 2008 and December is looking bad for work. My work is based on the number of studies that require my nutritional counseling services and there are no future studies at this time and less and less companies are requiring nutritional counseling. My home-based nutrition calendar business has dropped in sales for the past 2 years and my income from this has not been profitable. I'm hoping to have some hours as a seasonally worker at Macy's for the holiday's - doesn't pay much but is something.

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

My co-workers seem to be sympathic to my health situation by asking me how I'm feeling. My boss however doesn't seem to be concerned about the lack of work I've been receiving and seems to be looking for my replacement. My ability to work long hours is difficult for me because I feel tired a lot and sometimes don't sleep well at night. But my mood at work has always been professional and I have a good rapport with co-workers and clients despite my underlying grief, depression and uncertainty about life. I can only work part-time hours which has been pretty much what I've been doing.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

Keeping my mind occupied helps with coping and helping others helps me emotionally.

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

I didn't work through treatment. I stayed home for 5 months sick to my stomach, couldn't eat, lost weight and slept a lot. What I found to be helpful was going for acupunture treatments. It gave me energy and I was able to eat more and gain back strength. I highly recommend acupuncture treatments during chemo.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

I have some nerve damage in my right foot from chemo so I try to stay off my feet for long periods of time. Hopefully this will lessen after time. The biggest thing is dealing with depression. Unfortunately, my insurance which I pay for does not cover mental health. I'm seeking other sources for this. I try to exercise often. I love to swim and try to swim a few times a week. I'm also starting a yoga class soon. You need to build up your body after surgery and after injesting poison chemo for 6 months.

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

You'll get through it! Be strong and know that you are stronger than your disease. Believe in yourself and believe in God. This has happened for a reason. Figure it out and plan on a better life from now on.