Anne G. on February 17, 2022
I was Diagnosed with:
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Full-time but on leave
Type and Description of Treatments:
I was first diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2016, had a stage 2 local recurrence in 2019 and was recently diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic breast cancer in Dec 2021, about 2 months ago. I completed radiation about a month ago, had a full hysterectomy/oophorectomy this week and am starting on my first line of treatment as a metastatic breast cancer patient next week.
How do you feel today?
Nervous about starting back to work and how I will make needed changes to both take care of myself physically and still be a leader at work.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?
Before Dec 2021, I was 38 years old and thought cancer was behind me. Now I feel as if my life span has shortened significantly, even if I survive over 5 years. I have an 8-year-old daughter and am married. My new hope in life is to see her turn 18. That's hard to stomach. I still want to thrive and lead at work when I return (so much anxiety around that) but realistically I won't have a long career.
What is going well for you right now?
My job is being very supportive of the time off I've taken for radiation & surgery but I need to be forming a solid plan for returning.
What is not going well for you right now?
My lack of forming a solid plan for returning to work and how to go about it. I work for a start-up without an HR department.
What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?
Taking care of myself psychically & emotionally while balancing the rest of life: parenting, working, marriage, etc.
When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?
The psychologist at the cancer center
How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?
Yes. My life expectancy has shortened significantly given that I was just diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic breast cancer at age 38. Along with that career, hobby, parenting, marriage goals... they've all changed thought I don't know yet to what. It's overwhelming to think about.
What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?
I'm on leave from work right now but need to go back asap after recovering from surgery I had this week.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?
Pre-metastatic diagnosis (Dec 2021), I worked long hours, often hopping on calls into the night after putting my daughter to bed. My drive & new leadership roles seemed like a welcome new stage in my life given that I thought I was just past all of my (early stage/stage 2) cancer treatments. I was learning so much and quickly rising in my company. I want to keep learning, keep leading, keep doing great work but now I'm a metastatic breast cancer patient who needs to learn what work/life balance means to me.
What has helped you continue to work the most?
I haven't as a metastatic patient.
What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?
I worked pretty well through treatment in earlier cancer stages: through chemo & radiation. Having a good routine at work and great co-workers helped. I need advice for working as a late-stage cancer patient as I'm not in a place to give advice regarding this.
How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?
I did get on ADHD medication to help me deal with the mental side effects of chemo and being put into pre-mature menopause at age 36. It helped so much.
If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?
Keep searching for resources like Cancer + Careers! Finding resources like this one is helping me stay hopeful that I may successfully ease back into work.