Archive for April 17th, 2010


Working it out

If someone asked me about myself, I would say that I’m a reader, a writer, a crafter; a gamer, a giver, a geek; a happily married wife, a dog-mom, a cat-mom; shy but outgoing, cynical but optimistic, intellectual but silly; and probably much more.

What people usually want to know is “What do you do?”, which would garner much the same response.

What people usually *mean* is: “What sort of job do you hold?”.

I’ve never been one who defines myself by the specific job I hold – I have at various times been a receptionist in a dental office, a dog trainer, a purchasing agent, and most recently, a jack-of-all-trades. Or if you want to make it sound better, feel free to say “Renaissance Woman;” my latest job description for the company I’ve worked at for nearly 10 years includes event planning, purchasing, database creation, data collection and management, reading/writing/editing/proofing, shipping, inventory control, website content management (and defining design elements), and lots of other varied tasks.

It’s much better to say that I define myself by *how* I do my job – that I take pride in being organized, efficient, accurate, dedicated, and flexible. In many ways, these are the elements of how I live my life, and apply to all the other ways in which I do define myself.

Over the past three years, as I’ve gone through treatment for two bouts of cancer, I have seen some of these qualities suffer. And just when I felt as if my work mojo was returning, I get slammed with liver mets.

Seriously? The treatment is worse than the disease at this point, and it’s not the disease that has prevented me from working, but the treatment itself. After planning to work part-time for a couple months while I evaluated how difficult the treatment was going to be, it was a real blow to discover that after just two treatments I was completely unable to concentrate, retain details, coordinate multiple projects, or even keep track of accomplished versus outstanding tasks. Rather than put the company at risk because I was either too prideful or too desperate to feel needed, I determined that it was best if I take my FMLA time now, rather than later; that way they could get someone in to cover for me right away.

Emotionally, this was like a stab in the heart – not only because it meant that I had yet again lost hold of the qualities that are most important to me, both in my work life and my home life; but because, since I’m going to be in some sort of treatment for the rest of my life, it’s possible that I may never be fit to take my job back.

And even though I’ve been looking forward to retiring (we’ve been working towards the possibility of early retirement, maybe as early as 55 for me), all that free time was intended to be spent doing fun things. Currently, I have fewer good days than bad days on this treatment regimen (although the pain management may help with that), and I don’t have the focus or stamina to do so many of the things I love, such as knitting, beading, reading, training with the dog, etc.

Between the pain and the emotional devastation of feeling as if I’m no longer the me I choose to define myself as, I had a really bad week last week.

The last two days, with the pain under control, has seen a rebound of my more optimistic spirit, so even though relinquishing my job is still a bitter pill to swallow, I do hope that either this treatment will stabilize and I will be able to get back to work; or possibly if this treatment is not being effective, a different treatment will not be so incapacitating.

And I have to say that hearing from so many people who understand or are simply being there for me has done a lot to help that emotional rebound. Thank you all so much!

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April 2010

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