Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Alli W. on August 13, 2009
I was Diagnosed with:
Metestatic Ovarian Cancer
Date of Diagnosis:
June 23, 2007
Employment Status:
Type and Description of Treatments:
I have had countless rounds of infusion and IP chemotherapy, oral chemo and radiation along with two surgeries.
How do you feel today?

I am endstage. The cancer has spread to my lungs and brain. I endure difficulty in breathing, headaches, seizures among other symptoms.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

It has given me a new appreciation for life and living to the fullest. I was working in the business world and went back to my social work roots and worked at a cancer non-profit for young adults. It gave me a way to help others with my experiences and to use my cancer in a positive way.

What is going well for you right now?

I am not working and taking the opportunity to be with my family and friends. I am blessed with a great group of friends and family, much of which I have become closer with after my diagnosis.

What is not going well for you right now?

I am struggling with the fact that I am dying and my health is deteriorating.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Balancing the health issues with the emotional issues. I am a single young adult and I have had to learn to give up my independence and depend on others.

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

I attend a young adult support group monthly as well as interact with others affected by cancer on Planet Cancer. I also have a great group of friends in and out of the cancer community which are very supportive.

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

Instead of putting things off to the future I took advantage of the enjoying life. I have concentrated on doing the things that I have always wanted to do and spend as much quality time with the people I love.

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

I am currently on unemployment. I worked full-time throughout my treatment. I switched jobs with a large cut in pay to work at a non-profit. Unfortunately I was placed on part-time and subsequently laid off due to financial cut backs.

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

At the beginning I worked harder. I did not want to be known as the cancer girl or perceived as I was using my illness to get out of work. I was relieved of some of my duties because my manager thought it would be better for me. I changed my career, realizing I wanted to use my experience to help others.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

The need to get up and do something. Not giving myself the excuse of staying in bed or feeling sorry for myself. Working was a distraction of what was going on with my health.

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

Don't push yourself too hard. Be honest with your managers and team members about your situation, but stress your capabilities. Feel free to let them know what support you need. Talk to your Human Resource department about benefits, disability, etc before you need to use them.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

I had a lot of nausea, fatigue, neuropathy, hair loss, headaches, and pain.

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

Take a deep breath. Focus on today and do not stress about the future. Weigh your treatment options and look closely at what is important to you.