Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Christine G. on June 19, 2013
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage IIIc Infiltrating Lobular Cancer, Left; ER/PR+, HER2 Negative.
Date of Diagnosis:
February 26, 2013
Employment Status:
Just about to be laid off :-(
Type and Description of Treatments:
Bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, 4/22/13. Chemo plan: 6 cycles of Cytoxan/Taxotere, 3 weeks each (first dose on 6/11/13). Will be followed by radiation and long-term hormone therapy. Have had bi-weekly acupuncture treatments to support healing and minimize side effects since early May.
How do you feel today?

Amazingly good, considering the journey so far!

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

Definitely, my perspective of:
1) What is really important and what isn't
2) What true friendship means, and how to get rid of toxic relationships

What is going well for you right now?

I am healing very well, according to both my surgeon and my oncologist. I have a great support system, and a super medical team that I both like and trust.

What is not going well for you right now?

After just having returned to work from my first chemo treatment, I was told that I am going to be laid off from my job in less than 2 weeks. As I have been paying for my treatment out of pocket, this loss of income will cause significant stress.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Trying to create and accept my "new normal", while still keeping myself in some kind of emotional balance. Too, since I have no health insurance, it's been a huge challenge to deal with the financial burdens of treatment.

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

I have been taking advantage of the free counseling services provided by the hospital where I'm receiving treatment - the social worker and breast care coordinators there have been a world of help! I'm also participating in a breast cancer support group, and have a wonderful spouse and circle of friends who keep me on target emotionally.

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

I'm beginning to think that I may need to pursue a different line of work - something that will give me more satisfaction over the long term. I'm definitely making plans for the future, because I intend to be here!

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

I have been on a temp-to-perm arrangement since February (I started the day before I had my biopsy!). I have normal, M-F, 8-5 working hours, but they have been great about flexibility as I've needed it during my pursuit of treatment so far, including working from home when I've needed to.

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

I have missed a fair amount of time from work, what with medical appointments, surgery/recovery, and now chemotherapy. There has been no issue from the employer - after all, when I'm not working, they don't have to pay me! I have been frustrated that I'm underutilized, despite repeated requests for more assignments.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

Sheer necessity! I need to continue to have some kind of wages to help support my household, as my husband is retired and on a fixed income.

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

Be upfront and honest with your employer as to your needs, and know that those needs will likely change as you move through the phases of your treatment, so being flexible is key. If you have short/long-term disability available, take advantage of it. Do remain connected with your work family, though, so you don't feel as isolated.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

So far, I have not had too much trouble. Being able to work from home when I've needed to has allowed me to compensate for the fatigue - when I need to take a break to rest, I do. I've also tried to plan my activities for the early part of the day, when I tend to have more energy.

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

Don't make assumptions as to how the path is going to unwind...realize that your journey will truly be your own, unlike anyone else's. Be open to change, and embrace opportunities as they arise...despite how it looks now, you WILL walk through this firestorm and reach the other side.