Many cancer patients and survivors are laid off (or fired). This post is not about the legality of said employer decision but instead about how to manage being laid off and how to consider getting back to work, if and when you are able to do so. Always check with your doctor regarding whether you are fit for work.
One of the main differences between being fired and laid off is just the wording and in what it means for you to look for a new role. No matter what, though, it results in the loss of your job and for us who have already lost so much during this life changing diagnosis, this is just what can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
You go from being employed and for most of us that means having a purpose and a routine to losing that footing in the world which makes recovery and our sense of selves suffer. It is a challenge to "bounce back" from cancer and now you need to find a job. To deal with a layoff and cancer treatment, it is important to be flexible.
Now when you are told that your position is gone, the first thing you will do is feel angry, lost and maybe even ashamed (I did) but you need to take a deep breathe and consider some strategies to get as much as you can out of your previous employer.
Some things you can negotiate for include*:
If those options do not lead to anything look into short term disability through your state or unemployment benefits. Check with Human Resources or a local lawyer about your options.
No matter that you got "laid off" it is more important to move past it as soon as possible and begin planning on taking your next step. It can be tempting to take the decision made by the company too hard on top of your recent diagnosis and/or treatment. This can lead to you feeling depressed and that is the worst thing for healing. Try to think of this as a chance to start over someplace new or somehow find a better position.
Consider retraining and re-framing your skills by:
If you like this article, check out thetimebetweenis.org for more information and resources for your career after cancer.
Follow me on Twitter @timebetweenis or Instagram @career_after_cancer or by clicking here.
Disclaimer: Writer of this article makes no guarantees about the content and everything should be cleared with you medical team and doctors. The information provided in this article is written by the writer for general information and the information should not be used without consulting with your own medical / legal team. This information is strictly for educational purposes and the author is not responsible for the outcomes if you follow aforementioned advice of the author. This article was also posted to careeraftercancer.blogpost.com.
Lisa Vento Nielsen, MBA, PMP is an author, speaker, cancer survivor and career expert. She lost her job during treatment and founded a nonprofit focused on helping people who have been diagnosed with cancer (and their families) find meaningful work. Cancer takes a toll on your whole life and the lives of those in your family - working is a big part of getting back to "normal" after going through a cancer diagnosis. Survivorship is all that comes after diagnosis and it needed more resources so Lisa and her team created them. Find out more at lisaventonielsen.com.
A big issue with getting back to work after dealing with a cancer diagnosis and all that entails is twofold:
1-and most important is being well enough to work and mentally able to focus on the tasks at hand - the last thing we feel ready to do during cancer is to find a new job but unfortunately, for many of us, it is just what we have to do full stop. Despite needing to take a year or more to get through treatment (hopefully as some of us are in treatment for the rest of our lives) we also need to get ourselves out there to do the things EVERYONE dreads to do regardless of their health status - INTERVIEWING and NETWORKING and all of the things that used to make our hearts go bump in the night but now we know are just means to an end. We need to eat, so we need to work We need to stop thinking about cancer, so we need to work… and herein lies issue number
2 - we now are trying to put cancer behind us (if we are lucky enough to not be stage 4) yet now we have these pesky follow up appointments, daily pills and aches and pains and an understanding of our bodies and mortality than we never had before.
Many of the people that I am helping get back to work have such debilitating joint pains and fatigue that they are in follow ups and trying to figure out what it could be beyond just this “new normal” or what their doctors call, “Something I never heard of -why would you have pains and be tired?” AS IF - these folks mean well but if you have not had to take the meds and measures we have to take to you know stay alive then how can you know there is not pain, fatigue and whatnot?
We need to be career ready and cancer ready at the same time - we have plans and backup plans to our plans and contingencies but the real meat and potatoes of the issue is that we need to figure out what days we need to miss from work to keep things going as they are- how many visits will we need to attend? Is there a clinical trial we want to do and if yes, how many visits will that be and for most of us, our treatment hospitals are not so conveniently located to our places of work so it means more follow ups = “better care” = more times off from work = can’t make the equation work.
No matter the job, no matter the lip service we will receive, there is still the unwavering potential issue that someone thinks that we are a liability - that we need to take time off, that we are not as stellar as we are expected to be despite the poison pumping through our veins, the cells that did not do what they were supposed to in our bodies but instead wrecked havoc on our lives and our livelihoods.
When I mentor people through my program about career after cancer the very big elephant in the room is how you can manage this new priority of taking care of YOU as well as being a decent employee and having a normal job where you do not have to panic about taking an afternoon for a follow up appointment. These types of working arrangements are out there - but the rub is in what to tell and when and how to figure out if this is the right role for YOU. It is all about YOU now - being happy in your role, liking what you do and having decent bosses and colleagues who do not clock your every minute…
Women who have become moms during their working careers understand this a bit - the whole idea of being “mommy tracked” at work which is going from an upward moving career to something that is just going down or stagnant. Well, in that vein, those of us who have had cancer, we have been "YOU TRACKED".
You realize now that your health and wellbeing is important. You realize you do not want to be somewhere where you have to pretend all day long that you care about what you are doing. You know you do not want pity and misunderstanding to plague you every day of your career - you want to be known as YOU the person who rocks out at spreadsheets, or social media or writing not the person who lost their hair and is on certain meds forever.
It might seem impossible if you are considering how to get back to work - you might feel lost or ashamed or unable to pretend you give a crap about deadlines and spreadsheets when you just had a countdown wall about how many chemos or radiations you had left to get back to this “normal” but I promise you with my programs, my one on one help, my expertise you can get back to work…
Our lives took a hard right to the land of doctors and follow ups and fears but we do not have to live there forever. We need to think about how to balance our new sense of selves, our new understanding of mortality to help us figure out how to move forward and live again and as we all know, living means bills to pay, vacations to take, insurance to have, friends and families.
Good luck on the path to “you” and if I can help in anyway, click here.
Recently, I became a magazine model. Did I ever think I would model? NO - not even when I had an undeveloped teenager’s mind did I ever ever think I would or COULD model. When I look back now, I realize I was really beautiful but I always felt NOT beautiful. I compared myself to everyone and anyone - I recall like yesterday being about 12 (so almost my daughter’s age now) and watching Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes…” music video on MTV (you know, when MTV used to play music videos) and feeling just huge and hideous and wishing I could look as trim and fit and as beautiful as she did.
I realize now that she had a team of people to make her look the way she did in that video and that it is insane for girls women to compare ourselves to stars, musicians and now, IG models and reality TV stars.
Most photos you see out in the world for advertising purposes are photoshopped and airbrushed and videos are also treated after the shooting before we see them so we really should NOT compare ourselves but it is what we do.
After cancer, I find myself doing this less and being more “content” with my body, my face, my weird facial expressions and you know, ME. I also am less fearful of like anything (IDGAF) and just doing things way outside my comfort zone (exhibitionist).
When I first shared with some friends that I would be posing topless and showing body positivity to the point of being a 41 year old (so middle aged) one breasted woman, some folks were shocked and wondering why I felt this need to show my body NOW. I mean, do not get me wrong, as a young lady, I wore string bikinis and “sexy” clothes but as I got older, I became more conservative and though I would show cleavage, I would not show too much and never ever posed naked - I mean, I was a professor / teacher and an executive - we never want to be found with naked pics out there because then it becomes the front page of the New York Post…
So when my friends pushed back, I explained how it was so important to me to show that even though my body has been mutilated and I have lost a piece of what is considered “feminine” by chopping off that tit, I am still happy with my body and sexy in my own way. I would share more about sex but I am married and NO ONE wants to know about married people’s sex life - if I were single and swiping right on Tinder, everyone would be down with it but because I am married, it is icky… lol.
I am also too prudish to write about that stuff anyway - but I am naked in this month’s amazing Body Issue for Wildfire Magazine. This magazine is all about breast cancer and a portion of the proceeds are donated to cancer charities. The magazine has been in print since 2015 AD FREE and showcases the true story of breast cancer with images, stories, coloring inserts and more.
My lovely photo taken by the amazing Sophie Mayanne of Behind the Scars was picked to be put in the magazine and check it out - it is a FULL PAGE image and on the next page is a little bit about my body image and my post mastectomy experience as well as a listing of my nonprofit, too!
If you have the time and are interested in an amazingly crafted with love magazine about our experiences and life with breast cancer, sign up to get copies here - you can get digital copies or printed ones! It is a great resource to find your tribe, to learn about things in the community and to give back, all at the same time!
The magazine is AD-FREE and a portion of each new subscription is donated to MBC/Stage IV research. WILDFIRE supports METAvivor and The Cancer Couch Foundation.
Check it out today! This is what I do in the time between.... share life as a "uniboober" and smile, every damn day -- come on over and tell me what you do in the time between in the comments or via insta.
You know, I wish I could tell you that I have cured myself of ever worrying or being stressed since I was told "you have cancer". I will admit that I am MUCH better at trying my damnedest to live in the moment and not worry and to always realize what is "small stuff" but I do not always succeed.
I came up with an "IDGAF" test to help me prioritize and just recently it hit me hard in the remaining boob as I almost could see it going another way. You see, my "IDGAF" test is to envision the worse news possible, as I received it in November 2016, the news that I had cancer. I can remember vividly BEFORE hearing those words and after how much I wished for the problems I had had the day before instead ofthis disease.
So I try to think through every current situation with the grain of salt/wisdom that "it could always be worse" and realize that as long as we are all "healthy" (and again, I put that in quotes because who the heck really knows if they are healthy - our bodies are a mystery but lacking an active diagnosis, I side with "healthy" always) then the rest will just work itself out.
Recently, I felt very woozy and almost unable to stand - I was standing though and walking and able to talk but I felt just OFF and of course I immediately thought, "This is NOT good." But then I realized that I was missing my allergy medicine for a week and that the symptoms I had come on me (gradually for a few days until this bad afternoon) were potentially due to missing my allergy meds during the height of allergy season and maybe not, you know, a brain tumor.
I am still monitoring myself as we who have had cancer all know the drill - any weird symptoms that remain for more than 2 week (or severe symptom that happens like God forbid passing out or still for me fever due to my clinical trial meds) must be brought to the medical team's attention.
It does not make much sense but I still do feel as though my dx was longer ago in the past when it was only 1.5 years ago. I look back on who I am now and what I am doing and how I am (trying) to help others and it seems like more time must have passed. This month is my one year blogging anniversary and it really is my lifeline, my way of getting it out. Sometimes, though, I have to remind myself that I do not blog anonymously and that with over a million pageviews and 57k+ unique visitors, people are reading this stuff - but I still share and I still go there and I am not ashamed to share it and I hope you reading it helps you or someone you know...
Lately, I have been working so hard on my nonprofit and also on my small business, I sometimes feel scattered, accomplished, not good enough, overwhelmed, in charge, ready to help so many people, worried I will not help people enough and just everything in between. I also worry about the regular stuff - my house, bills, husband, kids, mom, dad, etc etc but I have had to shake it off time and again.
No matter what, I cannot get pulled under or back into the fears and worries of before - there is no solution to that and it is no way to live. Recently, I saw pictures of me from last year at this time, still bald, swollen and ashamed and then I saw pictures of me from the year before that (June 2016) before I was diagnosed and I knew in my gut looking at that face of mine that although I was smiling and had not yet been told I had cancer that I was not happy.
So my plan or goal is to keep on swimming- to focus on today's joys and try to get to today's deliverables all the while knowing there is always tomorrow and that so long as I am on this path of NED and can stay that way, nothing else should matter. The bills, the house, the craziness of family, being a mom, trying to stretch myself too thin - those things have to just be let go and the moment lived in.
This is what I do in the time between.
I love to read (and write) - finding books that I can devour is part of what brings me joy. Yes, devour. I find a book a like and I read it voraciously until it is over and then I think about it and wish I could write something a fraction as good. See, for me, reading is a visible thing - I see the story in my mind the way you see it on your movie screen or TV.
As much as I love to read, the mechanics are lost to me - so I cannot take lessons from what I read to write my own books though I am doing fairly well with writing short stories, so that is a consolation…
I read a book about the Radium Girls (link below)- and just thinking about it gives me chills. This book details the work young girls did from the advent of WW1 into WW2 working at factories using duh Radium. Radium found in the early 1900’s was considered for the general public to be a “health” product. It was included in water tonics and medicines and it also was used to paint watches and more during both world wars as it allowed for the dials to glow.
Despite the fad around radium, scientists learned painfully that it could hurt them as they found their bodies burnt from the liquid form kept in vials or other painful growths - despite that, the element was hugely promoted and “researched” by firms that used radium in products sold to the government and the public all agreeing that it was safe for use.
Young girls (as young as 13) found work in factories in the early 1900’s-1940’s painting watches dials for planes and more. The technique shown to the girls was called the “dip, lip, paint” technique in which they put their brush into the radium infused liquid, then put the brush in their mouths to shape it to a point and then to paint. They were encouraged to eat at their workstation and even paint their clothes and faces with the radium - despite the fact that the science men employed at the same companies had to wear lead aprons and hold the radium with tongs to manipulate the radium.
These girls were known as “ghost girls” as the radium made them glow - they considered it a sign of the health benefits to working with the new miracle element.
Within a few years of the first radium girls hire, they began to get sick and most of them died painful, terrible deaths attributed to the first known case of “workforce poisoning”. The radium settled in their bones and ate away at them - causing cancers, bone disintegration (most of them died via mouth disintegration - their jaw bones literally broke off in their hands.
They and their families fought tooth and nail for medical help, recognition and in so doing also provided help to protect future generations of workers from environmental / work related poisoning. Ones who survived worked with the government to do studies on the effects of radioactivity on the human body and donated their bodies to science - radium lasts for 1600 years so ALL of the radium girls are actually STILL RADIOACTIVE even those who died in the early 1920’s.
This book hit me hard because it brought to mind the countless other injustices that happen here and around the world, even now, today 100 years after these radium girls were lied to and told that the lip method they used was safe despite the few powerful folks who knew it was dangerous and enacted precautions for their more “valued” workers.
Of course, it led me to think of my experiences and that of countless others I know and love working in downtown NYC in the days, months and years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite being told it was safe, we now know it was not safe. The air we lived in, the dust we trudged through, the thoughts of those who died in the attacks always in our minds.
And then, 15 years later, I was diagnosed with cancer, the first in my family. My husband was a first responder and was being monitored and checked through the WTC (World Trade Center) medical program and now I am hoping to be, too.
Cancer sucks and the reality is that no one knows why things happen - and my own personal motto after cancer changed from “everything happens for a reason” to “it could be worse”. Here’s to us all staying someplace metaphysically where we can say, “it could be worse”. Here is to us learning as a world to protect others if and when we can, always.
Sometimes I feel like there are that many versions of ME and what I need to do and in all honestly, I think this is just a state of normal for anyone out there who has different "things" in their life - be it family, work, fun, etc - there is stuff to balance and manage.
Something I miss doing is writing and updating my blog more often - it seems I am down to once a week and I need this outlet so I have to take that splintered photo of myself and prioritize what I NEED to do to stay "sane". Writing is up there at the very tippity top of the list - it is my way of practicing self care.
I ran on empty for a LONG time and did not do anything for me like ever. As a mom, it is so easy to get swept away on what everyone ELSE needs and I was like that way before I ever gave birth. I will not run on empty anymore. I need to focus on what I need to do and how I need to do it but lately, it has not been easy and as all the parents in the land know, it is almost time for the most dreaded season of all seasons - SUMMER VACATION.
Now, listen to me, I love my kids so damn much. I treasure my time with them now but before I lived only for them - I planned activities up the arse each and every summer. I kept them rocking and rolling from 7am (when they woke, the little b-words) to 10pm at night for bed. Last summer, I was undergoing radiation so it was the first summer that I did not go balls to the wall in terms of activities and it was kind of brutal.
My kids, like all kids, love to fight, to complain about being bored and oftentimes now, I just have to let it go because I CANNOT do what I used to do. I mean, I could but I do not want to because then I wind up collapsing and not doing the things I need to do FOR ME.
I often have big plans for the summer academically - for summer reading, for homework activities and just to help with skills but it always falls to the wayside of fun, fun, fun. This year, though, my son needs to focus on his handwriting and his essay writing skills and I dread it with every fiber of my being.
But before all of that, in these last few days of school, I am going to work on what is nonnegotiable for me. I know I need to write, I need to promote my small business (check it out and let me know what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong - www.thenextstep1234.com) and I need to work on building out my nonprofit.
Of course I also need to have some fun and enjoy my kids - I see them growing up so quickly now - and I have tons of follow ups with Sloan for my clinical trial, Lupron shot and surgeon. I also have the 9/11 WTC program, which I am working on writing about as well. Oh and maybe a vacation at the end of August.
What are your plans? How do you practice self care? What is important to you? How do you keep your kids (if any) from kicking each other ALL SUMMER LONG? Asking for a friend. :)
Today is my first "Cancer Survivor Day" - last year on this day, I was still hiding out under my covers going to radiation and pretending like I did not have a story to tell and now here I am, a year later, living this day and dreading it and also focusing on the word "survivor" and despite knowing I could make this post ALL ABOUT my nonprofit initiative and what I can do to help people embrace their survivor life with work training and resume help and whatever, I won't.
(Well, in a way I did because I am a marketing person through and through but it was just an intro - here's the meat of the story).
Sometimes, when I am walking around perpetually smiling and thankful that I am still alive because YES I am a super smile-y happy kind of person now inside and out - before just on the outside ... well while doing this, sometimes, it hits me that there are people all around me that:
A- have no clue I was ever so sick that this was in question and
B-have never experienced "cancer" or an illness that could lead to them wondering these things chief among them the kneejerk"why me..." question.
In the beginning, I thought this way entirely TOO OFTEN to sustain life - I trained my brain to not think this way and to just change my life motto from "things happen for a reason" to "it could always be worse". Inside, I do not think I got cancer for a reason - there is no reason for ANYONE to get cancer. Despite that fact, more and more people of all ages are being diagnosed and either embracing this day or hiding under the covers as I did last year.
Cancer is something that once you have it, you ALWAYS have it - either in the front of your mind in fear or way back in a back file cabinet ready to jump out on a moment's notice. So, I have a headache - is it nothing or is it cancer? So I have a back ache - is it nothing or is it cancer? Cancer is one of the most insidious of diseases - you do not have a clue that it is there sometimes until BAM it is too late. For all of my times that I struggled with this diagnosis, I always was HAPPY that I found it before it had become WORSE.
That does not change the fact that despite my focus on wellness and being in the moment, sometimes, it hits me that I went from a spec on my mammogram in April 2016 to Stage 3A high grade, fast moving cancer by November 2016 with no lump, no family history and no capacity to manage being a cancer patient. I am so lucky it did not spread to my brain, bones, or vital organs. I also know that I have to stay lucky for the rest of my life for it not to rear up and do so - 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 3 of those women will become metastatic where the cancer spreads and ultimately die from it or beat the "stats" of 3 years survival rate and live 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years but always in treatment and trying to stay HERE.
I have written in the past how in the blink of an eye you go from worrying about every little thing in your life to realizing just how fucking little those things were and wondering why did you ever spend a moment thinking about them. It happens that fast. And it does not go away - and I embrace THIS as a good thing on this Survivor Sunday. I even have "do I give a f&%k test" that I will write about soon but it focuses on "does this have the capacity to kill me" Y/N if Y worry if N fuck it.
Of course, a really good thing (the best thing even) would be for cancer to be eradicated, cured and that each of us still living in this time between would know that we are GOOD CURED and not worry about the "what ifs".
I mitigate my "what ifs" in a way I never knew before - and a way I could never have done before. My old "what ifs" were the rigid constructs around which I built my life. My rules and living methods were stricter than strict and I could not draw outside of the lines.
My new way of mitigating risks is to just fucking embrace them. Who knows what tomorrow will bring - today I will do what I need to do to "survive". And if that means pouring my soul into my current day and spending it loving my kids (even my husband) and trying to build my nonprofit initiative and working on my small business on the side and NOT thinking about cancer and how fast it enveloped my life, my breast and my lymph nodes well then SO BE IT.
I wish you peace on this day of "cancer survivors" and I hope you feel it in your bones and in your heart. To those of you who have never heard the words, "You have cancer..." you also never learned that the small things are everywhere and worried about and for that I pity you. Ironic, right?
I am sure you pity me - thinking about how I had cancer and maybe you do not understand the disease and you are happy in that and you assume I beat it and why do I continually live it by sharing and talking about it and basing my life on helping others with it... Well, it is what it is. This is me, one boob and all.
I was diagnosed at 39 years old - making me not only the first in my family with cancer but also the dreaded "young" cancer moniker. I do not focus on the negative I spend each day doing
I have been "busy" but also decided to be "unplugged" this Memorial Day Weekend.
Well, as much as I love social media (and I really do) it can be all consuming. It can be the constant itch to check to see who looked at your stuff, who commented on your stuff and whose stuff you can see and love...
And I do love it - it is a lifeline for me to connect with so many women (and men) who have been through cancer or are going through cancer or love someone going through cancer, whatever their story may be...
I love sharing my story but have had issues making time for blogging because I have been go go go on the nonprofit me (see more here- nonprofit-methe-plan-to-help-others.html) but again, I am drawn back to writing my secrets, my worries and letting them go here...
Despite "disconnecting" this weekend (I did pop on and off here and there) I did spend time redesigning my website and sharing a little bit about the newest book I wrote (a workbook to get back to work after cancer - learn more about my books for #careeraftercancer here - Books & Workbooks). Oh and here I am on Sunday posting to my blog - but this is my therapy, my time to be alone with my thoughts.
And my thoughts are jumbled these last few days. I saw a family member who had been estranged and I was not happy with what I saw and it sent me for a loop - to the point that I had to go to bed like immediately after the visit.
That is the real crazy thing about life after cancer - you feel things more or maybe it is just that you admit things more to yourself - I have trouble figuring out which it is for me. I find myself being tired and going to rest - I know I was always tired but I never went to rest. I am learning how to say, "No" and I say it a lot. I am learning to let go and letting things just fall where they will instead of being the control freak, mom of ALL I surveyed that I was...
That is just it, you know - as a mom, you always have people to take care of - but they are usually little people and then as they grow your parenting changes with their needs and their wants or whatever. I know that I was not changing or letting go until I got cancer - but despite that diagnosis and the healing from the treatments and so on and so forth, I still have this "inkling" to parent the big people I was parenting - and there were a lot of them.
I was faced with something yesterday that normally, I would then have taken control and tried to fix and or manage the people around it to do it and how to do it and yes, controlling is something I am ... Instead, I recognized how much it bothered me, I respected that feeling but I unwrapped my grip on trying to fix it to get it better or to take it on myself.
In doing that, I recognized that my priority, my responsibility, is to my own health and the health and well being of those I am only responsible for - my kids and by default my husband, too. I do not like to group him in with the kids in a bad way but he is in ways like a kid - he is trusting and in need of direction lol ...
So is it just me or do you guys too find that things you once did or tackled or took on are now as impossible as flying? I look back at what I used to do like
-how I never went to bed until everyone in my house was asleep
-how I managed the lives of me and my family to precision detail
-how I managed to work part time / full time / as entrepreneur and teacher and more all while just smiling and thinking about inside how much I was going crazy or how much anxiety I had or how much I feared.
Now, I know I can only handle so much and I pick my battles - because I feel things harder now - if my husband and I have an argument, it bothers me so deeply - trust our entire marriage was an argument before and it never stopped me ... now, I have to make things right - or work with him instead of around him to get things together done instead of always being a lone wolf...
If I argue or disagree with someone else, instead of being like "Basta" and cutting them out, I now try to find the middle ground. I have learned I guess how short life is and how I want to live it - on my terms. I do not in any way let people walk all over me - the exact opposite, in fact - in that I do not walk all over myself anymore. I recognize that I am a person who has to be respected and cared for and loved by ME first and foremost.
Anyone else with me? This is what I do (and think about) in the time between...
12/16/2016 After my Mastectomy & Lymph Node Extraction
I am a big believer in education. It is partly why I taught college even with the 6 figure salary at my last full time job. Even while pregnant and swollen, I still commuted from midtown office to downtown classroom larger than life to teach.
It is why when I decided to get back to work, I focused on being an educator - especially in college, wrongfully eventually thinking that teaching is teaching is teaching (spoiler alert: it is not). There are differences, some nuanced, some grand. The difference from undergrad student vs the graduate student - big difference, but not surmountable. Online teaching vs in person - ah pros and cons to both. Then, the K-12 life - oh, the dreaded K-12 classroom <insert shudder> with its "the student is always right" mantra and no room for any error - to be a teacher today in K-12 particularly, you must be always right, always calm, never emotional and able to withstand the attacks of parents, media, etc.
Until, of course, you are in the break-room - oh my goodness, the THINGS I have heard in the break-room from teachers, OMG, you would collectively all home-school your children (well, just from the places I had been in the teachers’ rooms at...).
Anyway, I digress … I was the first in my immediate family to receive a Bachelor’s degree and the first in my family to get a Master’s degree. I even began a doctoral program when my daughter was 1 - I do not know what I was thinking, either. After a year and a half, I withdrew and focused on my growing family.
But I never lost my love of learning, my passion for reading and just being well informed about whatever was going on in the world. My husband complains that I know everything but without irony - he is serious. There is no news he can tell me that I did not already know of in some way, shape or form.
I researched everything. When I got weird ailments (like the time my lip blew up to the point that it appeared I did just one restylane injection and balked at the second) or when I was diagnosed as being allergic to “corn” - do you know how much food has CORN in it - it is unfathomable - well, I researched.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, though, my love or interest in learning STOPPED dead. I no longer wanted to research something - I did not want to know what was going on or what could go on. My information stream was now limited to my guru, my contact between both worlds, the only person I knew in real life who had once had cancer and now did not. She kept me calm when I stumbled upon a Facebook post commemorating the life of someone who had died from breast cancer. She supported me when I disabled my Facebook account to avoid finding that fact hitting me again that death was an option.
At that point, though, I was not sharing my story and thus my education was limited. I did not want an education. It was bad enough I was learning words like, “staging”, “cancer cells”, “lymph nodes”, etc. I had no interest in knowing more. I was good at accepting chemotherapy at face value and just saying, crazily or bravely, however you want to consider it, “I am here, start it now if you can!” as a response to my oncologist who seemed to be imploring me to accept the chemo…
When you google my oncologist’s name, you find a blog kept by the now family of someone who was diagnosed too late - or who had already been Stage 4 from the get go (stage 4 “de novo” it is called). I do not know which it was and at the time, I knew even less - I just knew her posts went from talking about appointments to her family’s service for her as she had died. And then I did not understand how but nor did I ask. I knew with my first visit to my oncologist that I would either be cured or if it spread I would be treated but not cured. I did not ask anything.
Slowly, I started to share my story, to go on Twitter and Instagram, to cobble together my tribe. My first real education in “what this shit means” was with the formidable Jo Taylor of https://www.abcdbreastcancersupport.org/. She created an infographic that talks about where breast cancer might spread and what to look out for regarding symptoms. This was eyeopening, along with the understanding that these symptoms had to last at least 2 weeks in mild annoyance level but if incapacitating should be brought to your doctor's attention immediately (in my words or understanding of the whole what to do if you have pains)...
I also found others, people who shared and I learned from and people I shared and they learned from me but through it all, I continue to learn and I continue to think in my mind that I am cured and that no matter what I will not worry because I cannot control it so why should I torture myself … the old me, that would have never been accepted, I would have tortured myself to death..
All we who have had cancer can do is just focus on the moment - we know the line between health and sick is thinner than the line between love and hate. We know that each day is not a given that the little things are just that, little things. We live scan to scan, mammo to mammo, appointment to appointment trying to make sense of the new world order in which our doctors can make one face, one shake of the head and we can be on the floor and destroyed. Or they can look at us and smile and we can live to die another day…
This is what we do in the time between… we wait, we hope, we pray (if we pray) or we just focus on what we can control (not much) and try to make it through to the 1 year, the 2 year, the 5 year, the 20 year … the natural progression of what we think our lives should go to - maybe 75, 80 for me - that is the goal. To die of anything OTHER than cancer. Because Fuck cancer.
This is what I do in the time between...
At my last "follow up" on April 9, 2018
It hit me that although I have written books before (sometimes with ease) that it seemed to be something in the past for me - something I would not be able to do anymore...
Well, I was wrong!
I wanted to share more about how to manage finding career after cancer. I know that the written word is sometimes not preferred - not everyone loves to read but I did think that with the video seminars and the written words here on my blog and on other sites (see Press) being great but it is in pieces and not a front to end guide book on what to do.
The information included in the book is:
Chapter 1 - Welcome to the "new normal"
Chapter 2- On Confidence
Chapter 3 - On Preparation
Chapter 4-Resumes & Blank Spaces
Chapter 5- Interviewing How-To's
Chapter 6- What Makes You Happy?
Chapter 7- Dealbreakers & Social Media
Chapter 8- Keeping an Open Mind
Chapter 9 -Listening to Your Gut
Chapter 10- On Balance
Epilogue - Next Steps
The book is slim with parts in it to add your own information to help get your mind going to think about what you want to do and how. My plan, however, is to give the book away for free with my training sessions, which I hope to be doing in person as well as online.
If you want a copy of the book, please sign up on my homepage Career After Cancer.
The book is also available on Amazon here.
This book joins the other 4 I have written about business / entrepreneurship and careers and of course my children's book that I also give away for free to other moms who have experienced cancer (sign up here - Children's Book if you want a copy of it - and sign up even if you want a copy in Spanish as a Breastie translated it for me into Spanish - for FREE! (Thanks, Mish!)
Let me know what you think about books vs video training - my goal is to have these things go together in so many new ways! Thanks!
If you want to help me reach more people by donating to my 501(c)(3), please do so below:
The Time Between Is, INC is a 501(c)(3) corporation - help us reach our goals of launching #balanceaftercancer
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