Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be. ~ Charlie Jones
Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it… This will miraclulously transform your whole life. ~ Eckhart Tolle
Recently I was asked to write about my experience in continuing to work while going through treatment for breast cancer, and my thoughts on ways supervisors may be able to best support employees with short-term or chronic illness.
As I wrote in a previous post, although my direct, administrative manager and co-workers were very supportive throughout my treatment, my direct principal created a harsh work environment for me. This brought undue stress. However, I played my part in allowing it to continue.
Many people have to work through their treatment, and there are laws in place to protect employees from discrimination during short-term or chronic illness. Here are several links that may be helpful when faced with employment issues during a serious illness:
I think the biggest factor is that there is fear on both sides. Fear from the employee over potentially losing their job or losing various aspects of their job, and fear from the employer of diminished job performance from an employee while they are going through treatment (and possibly after treatment).
While it is a personal decision on the part of the employee about how much information, if any, they decide to share with their employer, supervisors and co-workers, I do believe communication is key here. Employees and their direct supervisors should be willing to develop a positive, ongoing rapport about the employee’s work environment, treatment regiment, potential side effects, needed time-off, alternative work accommodations and possible work goals throughout and after treatment.
It may be beneficial for direct supervisors to better inform themselves, in general terms, about the type of illness an employee faces, the types of treatment, side effects and possible complications associated with that illness. Being more informed may help them to better support an employee who is going through treatment. Keep an open mind and heart. All businesses have a human element and this is a time to focus on that.
Trust is needed from both sides to bring positive results. If an employee feels supported, they are more likely to return 110% or more in job performance and productivity during and/or after treatment. Employees, in turn, need to be forthcoming as to their capabilities and limitations throughout treatment.
I will state, however, that there is a fine line. I can attest to having divulged too much information at times. Unfortunately, I don’t believe anything would have helped my particular work situation. On a number of occasions I spoke with my direct principal to better inform her of my status and efforts to maintain good job performance and a positive work relationship between us only to have her dismiss all of that later.
It can be difficult to continue working through treatment. Chemotherapy and surgeries, side effects and complications, constant doctor appointments, being poked with needles on a daily basis and all the serious medical decisions can be emotionally, physically and psychologically draining. It was for me, and working in a harsh environment did not help. Unfortunately, financially I didn’t have an alternative. My MedOnc wanted me to take three to five months off for chemo, but this single girl had to pay the bills. I will say, however, that going to that job every day (aside from treatment and sick days) gave me a sense of purpose and did help me combat some of the side effects of treatment, such as fatigue and depression.
I hope the above information helps someone out there. Every situation is different and should be handled with care.
A blessing in disguise. The job change in February was not a good fit (turned out to be more hours, more stress, etc. etc. – the complete opposite of what I was looking for). It was a sign. Even though I would be giving up good pay and benefits, I decided I could no longer live in misery working in the legal field. I had been so unhappy for so long. Honestly, looking back, I had been sabatoging myself at every turn for several years. Eventually, inevitably, it all finally fell apart.
I knew I didn’t want to go back to the legal field, but I was also having a hard time moving forward. I had no clue and felt seriously exhausted after six years battling health issues, making life-altering decisions, caring for my ailing, elderly father and his eventual passing this past December; and then the grief of it all. So much loss. Add what seemed like the demise of my career and well, it felt like I had hit a very big wall going 100 miles an hour.
Honestly, all I wanted to do is crawl into a glass box somewhere far inside a wilderness and fall into a deep, deep sleep for about a hundred years–like Snow White after eating the poisoned apple. This is actually how tired I felt. Completely exhausted.
So for the past six months, I’ve been in a place of limbo–lots of sleep, depression and a state of just feeling utterly lost. To ensure I could pay my bills, I’ve been driving for Lyft. I decided I would work for myself and become a virtual assistant and notary signing agent. I even created a website and started to develop clients. This is something I could still eventually pursue. However, at present my heart just isn’t in it. I need meaning in my life. Work that compels me to get out of bed every morning.
Recently, an opportunity has come available working with other young, breast cancer survivors. Yes-meaningful work! I am trying not to get my hopes up too much as I had also fallen back into very unhealthy habits. However, I do still have a shot at this. I have a second interview in a couple of weeks. More on this later as I don’t want to jinx myself.
I know this phase of limbo is meant to catapult me in a new direction, but it has been slow going and I have seemingly been working against the tide instead of flowing with it.
I ask for prayers that I’ll find my way.
I think I recently wrote about the upcoming ultrasound on my left breast. I’ve had that, and they also did a mammogram on what little remaining tissue existed to squeeze into the mammo machine. The radiologist’s findings were that one of the lumps felt appeared to be an oily cyst, similar to a pimple. The more prominent lump appears to be necrotic fatty tissue. The nurse who gave me the results stated these lumps should eventually be reabsorbed by the body. They’ve scheduled for me to have a follow up ultrasound in six months.
Also, I’ve never posted here, but the past two years I worked for a ‘horror of a human being’ type boss. One that threw me under the bus during chemo because “I was out too much for cancer treatment.” This is something she told me directly. I endured her crass, shallow and uncaring behavior time and time again. I finally had, had enough after my father died, and sought out a new job. I started my new job yesterday and am so, so excited about it! More pay, my own office, better hours and less stress!
To top it all off, I had an article/blog post published on tinybuddha.com today. Here’s the link: http://tinybuddha.com/
Rex is my brother’s dog; an 8 year old Rhodesian ridgeback, and a beautiful specimen of the breed. He is as big as, if not bigger than, any Great Dane, but pure muscle. Always the alpha male, particularly when it came to his sister, Mia; but, Rex is a lover, not a fighter. He definitely let his size be known if another dog tried to claim alpha-male status, but anything more I think was out of character for him, maybe simply because his muscular stature was enough. It has been said that another dog challenged him at doggy day care long ago. Rex took up a proud stance and let out a giant woof, which was enough to silence the other dog for good.
My brother used to take him to rattlesnake training. Rex just stood behind my brother the whole time. He didn’t want anything to do with the snakes. Unlike my dogs, which would probably be all over them, wondering what they were. How could they play with or kill these snakes? I’m sure Rex would still hunt lions though!
Every single time I came to visit, without fail, Rex would be at my driver’s side door waiting for me to get out of the car, always with uncontrollable excitement. My brother trained Rex diligently, and for the most part, had him well-controlled. He was very careful to make sure Rex stayed in line with guests. Rex had a special love for me though, and I for him. I think because after my nephew was born, I never faltered in giving Rex the attention he still needed and deserved. My brother was especially careful where Rex was concerned when I was going through treatment and with my surgeries. But I loved Rex’s limitless love for me. Nothing can compare to the love a dog gives.
After my nephew and sister-in-law, Rex is my brother’s pride and joy. My sister-in-law would say, “You know that’s his boy.” Rex would sit with my brother on his deck while he drank his coffee in the morning. He and Mia were my brother’s running partners and the dogs often spent time with the family on their wake-boarding boat.
About six months ago, Rex was diagnosed with cancer; a form of melanoma that was found in his dewclaw. The dewclaw and cancer were removed and my brother and sister-in-law decided they would do everything they could for him, aside from chemo and further surgeries, which they felt would diminish his quality of life.
My brother does not show his emotions, but when Rex was first diagnosed, he told me about it over the phone. He couldn’t say much and began to choke up. That was truly testament to his love for Rex.
This past Christmas, only a month ago, I gifted faux snowballs to my nephew and we all had a nice snowball fight, which Rex loved being a part of. Within a week a two after, the cancer had spread to his mouth. I went to visit him this past Friday night, knowing it would be the last time I’d spend with him.
Again, even though he hadn’t eaten in a week, true to form, one last time he came and met me at my driver’s side door. He wouldn’t walk on the grass though, only the driveway. I know he was glad to see me, but the excited Rex I knew was gone. However, he still managed to wag his tail from time to time throughout our visit.
The now huge, cancerous tumor bulged from inside his mouth and gave a very distinct and pungent smell of dead tissue. It stayed with me for days after our visit. It’s something you never forget.
I laid with Rex in my brother’s living room with his head gently resting on my lap. I remembered eight years earlier sitting in the same spot and laying his sleeping body over my lap when he was just a small puppy, about the size his head is now.
I stayed and had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew. When it came time to leave, I kissed and hugged Rex several times, knowing it was for the last time. He walked outside to the drive with my brother, as he always did to see me off. I intentionally backed out of my brother’s long, winding driveway so I could see Rex in my headlights as I left. He walked halfway up the drive as if not wanting me to leave. I cried the entire way home.
I love you, Rex! Thanks for loving me too!
- Eliminate use of the microwave entirely (this has become virtually the only way I cook/reheat now).
- Adopt macrobiotic diet.
- Practice daily juicing, meditation and yoga.
- Daily bounce sessions on mini-tramp (good for lymphatic system).
- Decrease use of plastics in daily life and overall waste by 50-75% (a good friend offered up taking mason jars with you to the grocery store for your bulk items).
- Solely eat organic, non-processed foods–mostly local/homegrown.
- Use solely organic, natural/eco-friendly cleaning, personal, pet care, etc. products.
With daily action toward these goals, I can do it!
“Know this: You have choices
Acknowledge that in many situations your only choice is how you react. During challenging times, remind yourself: “I have a choice here,” and choose not to waste your time wallowing in negative emotions.” – from Mindful.org
Wow, if only I really knew this advice and took it to heart ages ago. What does Maya Angelou say, “when you know better, you do better.” I’ve found in my life and in others, this is not always the case. It’s certainly something to strive for! I’ve also learned “PRACTICE” is truly the key to everything. Thoughts and actions must be trained daily, just like building muscle through working out. It is really as simple as that, and yet painfully hard to pull off. Retraining our brains and bodies out of decades-old habits and thoughts. Why is it that some of us, me in particular, are so stubbornly challenged in this way?
It’s a cold and rainy day but I’m feeling optimistic about 2015. I had a meeting today that I’m feeling really good about. More on this later.
Last night I focused on setting goals and writing down things that I need to work on in my new 2015 Inner Guide. I think writing in this journal daily and continuing my thoughts on this blog will definitely help keep me on track.
Several states I want to maintain in 2015:
Authenticity, compassion, creativity, good health and clean living.
Day 1 – January 1, 2015
To really start this new year off right, I need to take a look back at this past year–no, the past, several years. They have been filled with difficult, hard, stressful times, literally one stacked on top of another.
This past year my focus was primarily on my father. It’s very stressful having an elderly parent to care for. His mental and physical deterioration, injuries, illnesses, hospitalizations, and eventual move to a nursing home over the past few years has definitely taken its toll.
In 2013, not only did he suffer from major, congestive heart failure, I too was saddled with my own breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. To say the past five to six years have been tough is an understatement.
I really thought 2014 would bring significant change for me physically, mentally and spiritually. While there has been some change–I’ve kept living and trying to move forward–it has still been more of the same. No, I can say without a doubt, I fully regressed into the same, old, bad habits.
I am now the heaviest I have ever been. I haven’t really changed or even placed focus on bettering the various aspects of my life. I feel this whole time I’ve only been in survival mode. Maybe that had to be enough with everything I’d been going through. However, this is a brand new day of a brand new year.
Now is my time to focus and do the hard work. Reinvention is in order.
I recently ordered an Inner Guide day planner for 2015 to help me keep my focus. I started back on my custom, food plan designed by the trainer I started working with in early 2014. I’m going to get back to working out and meditating every day. I’ll be creating a new vision board with sections for each aspect of my life I need to work on–physical, mental, spiritual, finances, home life, work life, relationships, etc. This is where I start.
Keep living and moving forward, ever changing and expanding. No more excuses–Just do it!