Updated: Sep 6, 2021
When people find out I'm not working and ask me what I do instead I never know how to answer that but now that I think about it, cancer is my job. I often forget how much is work it takes to make sure every piece of my health is managed, that nothing slips through the cracks. Physical and occupational therapy, managing medications, attending appointments (usually a once a week), weekly lab work, typically on Thursdays, doing my best to eat and stay healthy all while trying to maintain a good quality of life AKA anything that doesn't involve focusing on my illness. This may not seem like a lot to an outsider but I get exhausted quicker than before (my hemiplegia gets worse at night when i'm tired) and have a shitty memory. Organization and lists are key. One thing I know my friends& family can agree on is I'm not the best at returning calls or sometimes even texts. If I don't text or call back right away or at all, chances are I forgot. It's likely I saw the call/text but if I don't respond right that second then I will likely forget even if I make a mental note to respond/return the call. This is not intentional or personal. Please hunt me down and bother me! I won't be offended! The same applies to appointments and other events. If it's not in my planner then good luck remembering.
I'm not gonna lie, I would love to be working but at this moment the cost would outweigh any form of reward. For one, My time wouldn't be as flexible to accommodate the countless obligations that cancer brings, I would blow through any PTO to meet said obligations. Another thing, You must be at the company for a year to qualify for FMLA which means no job protection for time off when you have no PTO left, regardless of the reason. Managing all of this plus allowing time for a breather and some self care sounds like an extremely overwhelming life. I couldn't imagine working through treatment. A women i used to work with worked ALL through her cancer treatment. She refused to let cancer interrupt her life and take her down. Rockstar status right there⭐️ If I worked during treatment I would more than likely hold my own daily pity parties(would block my calendar off for a daily standing meeting, invitees-me, attendees-me).where I would complain about nausea and headaches and cry over literally everything (shout out to the meds causing increased emotions & mood swings). After all the complaining and crying, it would be time for a nap. I can't tell you how many of my days have consisted exactly of that. It sure gets old and exhausting after a while so thank you therapy & Lexapro for helping a sister not lose her entire mind. Mental health is important! Be kind to your mind :)
Speaking of Lexapro, if you've ever wondered what goes on in a cancer survivor's head, this "blurb" can provide the tiniest bit of insight. I don't remember where I got this and have zero clue who wrote it so if by chance you know, please tell me so I can give them credit. Otherwise, give it a read:
Imagine you're going about your day, minding your own business, when someone sneaks up behind you...
You feel something press up against the back of your head, as someone whispers in your ear.
"Sssshhhhh.... don't turn around. Just listen. I am holding a gun against the back of your head. I'm going to keep it there. I'm going to follow you around like this every day, for the rest of your life."
"I'm going to press a bit harder, every so often, just to remind you I'm here, but you need to try your best to ignore me, to move on with your life. Act like I'm not here, but don't you ever forget... one day I may just pull the trigger... or maybe I won't. Isn't this going to be a fun game?"
This is what it is like to be diagnosed with cancer. Any STAGE of cancer. Any KIND of cancer. Remission does not change the constant fear. It never truly goes away. It's always in the back of your mind.
Please, if you have a loved one who has ever been diagnosed with cancer, remember this. They may never talk about it or they may talk about it often. Listen to them.
They aren't asking you to make it better. They want you to sit with them in their fear... their sadness... their anger... just for the moment. That's it.
Don't try to talk them out of how they are feeling. That doesn't help. It will only make them feel like what they are going through is being minimized. Don't remind them of all the good things they still have in their life. They know. They are grateful.
But some days they are more aware of that gun pressing into the back of their head and they need to talk about it. Offer them an ear.