Life is not the same as it was before cancer. It is much less certain than it was, but I enjoy my life so much more because I have felt in every cell in my body that life is fragile and fleeting. I watch leaves budding on the barren trees of winter, and I marvel at the persistence of life. When my daughter is having a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, I say, “Thank you, God, for letting me be here to see this.”
Before cancer, I was a workaholic. It’s an inherited trait from my father. I cared too much about trying to make things perfect and maintaining a certain standard that my last job nearly killed me. I was up at 5:00am, at work by 6:30am, and I’d work through breaks and lunch and at home. For days at a time, I wouldn’t drink anything during my workday but coffee, and because I wasn’t eating proper meals, I was eating way too many desk chocolates. Because of the caffeine, even when it was time to rest, I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep, and pretty soon thereafter came cancer.
Flash forward to my life where I am currently showing no evidence of disease and my daughter is getting ready to turn five and start kindergarten. Once she starts “big school” there will be no real reason for me to remain a stay-at-home mom, so I decided to dip my toe back into the employment pool.
I knew with great certainty that I didn’t want to go back to the same type of work that I was doing before–at least not right away. When I think back at my time at my last job, I feel pretty shell-shocked. Also, due to my newly reorganized priorities, I don’t want a job that comes with homework. I just want to hang my work hat up at the end of the day and enjoy my time with my family in the evenings.
Filling in job applications felt weird. Why did you leave your last job? Well…I…got…cancer… I wondered how many employers might stop reading right there, but I figured it was better to be honest. It usually is.
It was a huge relief when I started getting called in to do interviews, and strangely enough the cancer never came up in a single one. It made me wonder if they didn’t read my application all the way, or if it just didn’t matter…
In any case, I’m happy to report that I’m just a little broken, but still good. I’m employable. I can still make a difference in the lives of the people I work with, and I can still do great work without killing myself in the process.
Have you tried working after cancer? Tell us about your own experience!