Monday, November 5, 2012

Cancer/family/work - finding a balance

So doesn't the saying go that when one door closes, another one will open?  I sure hope that is true....

I have to admit that the last month has been a rough one.  I was looking back at my last post and find it very ironic that I was talking about how grateful I am to be able to work and how important it is to me and here I find myself back on sick leave.  I'm not really sure where to begin or how much I should really be discussing on my blog.  Will anything I say come back and negatively impact me.  Is honesty ever a bad thing? 

I will say that I have had to step back from work now finding this a very unsupportive and insensitive environment for me to work in and to be in.  My employer was trying to force me to come back full time without the previous work from home accomodations which were working out very well from both sides according to my supervisor.  Apparently, the work from home accomodation was only for a 3 month period and they will only accomodate for very short periods so that was the end of that whether my doctor agreed or not.  (which he didn't)  My doctor had written several notes to my work in the last few months and now I find out that none of these were acceptable according to my work.  They were fine at the time but all of a sudden not anymore.  Maybe this has something to do with the new HR manager which was recently hired at my work...  The stress of having to deal with this on top of my medical situation is simply too much for me at this point.  This is the worst that I have felt since the day that I was diagnosed - anger, sadness, frustration....  along with unworthiness, fear of dying (do they not want me because they think that I'm just going to go and die anyway?) Is my best not good enough?  Should I just be sucking it up and pushing myself as far as possible for them?  Pretending that having cancer doesn't affect me both physically and emotionally.  Fortunately, I had just had a performance appraisal done recently which was great so I try to remind myself that it is not me....  They just don't understand. 

This has all made me take a hard look at the reality of my life.  Why is working so important to me?  Well, it's because it makes me feel normal.  It convinces me that although I have a shitty diagnosis I am OK right now.  I feel that I can still be productive and that I still have a lot to offer the world.  Just because I have cancer does not mean that I can't do my job and I think that I've proven that at work over the last year.  They want to know way more than what I can possibly tell them.  It's hard for me to say that I don't know what will happen.  I live day to day hoping for the best trying to live every moment in the moment.  I can't look too far into the future because it scares me.  I know that I will miss out on so much of my life.  Will I be here to see my boys grow up?  Birthdays?  Graduate?  Decide on their careers?  Get married?  Have children?  Chances are I won't be here for some of these events.  I feel that in ways my work is throwing this in my face and forcing me to jump ahead and think about some of these really tough things which I wasn't ready to do.

So, lately I'm finding life very hard to cope with.  There are days when I don't even want to open my eyes, let alone go out into this scary, harsh world.  I feel beaten down.  Like no matter what I do I can't get ahead.  I have had to pick myself up and put the pieces back together so many times over the past few years that I'm feeling exhausted from it.  Yet I have no choice.  I'm going for my brain MRI in two weeks to find out if the newly treated tumour has shrunk and if the previously treated tumour has shrunk more.  Can I handle hearing any more bad news?  Will another tumour show up on this scan?  There's so much uncertainty that I feel completely overwhelmed sometimes.  When I was at work I could focus on other things and push ahead feeling successful with whatever I was doing. 

Financially, things are better and easier with me working.  We have to be realistic about this and prepare for the time when I am no longer here and my income is lost.  I don't want the family at that time to have major financial worries.  They will have enough worries....  I can't imagine the kids losing their mom, then having to pick up and move somewhere else because Jeff can't pay the mortgage on his own.  Change schools and move from their home in the middle of everything else.  That is one of my worst fears.  I've heard that there has been a lot of talk in the media lately about the financial issues that families going through cancer have to face.  The government is looking at this from a provincial and a federal level and planning on making some changes in regards to this.  I look forward to hearing more about these plans.  I would say that maybe allowing their employees who have cancer and who would still like to work keep their jobs would be a really great start!  (I work for the provincial government - go figure)

I am grateful that I had the chance to go away to Vancouver on a retreat with the Callanish Society.  It was amazing!!  It's difficult for me to put into words this experience.  I learned so much about myself and with everything that I had to deal with when I got home this retreat couldn't have happened at a better time!  It opened me up and let me express some of the feelings that I was trying not to feel or think about.  I felt so well cared for and they taught me how to take better care of myself.  Whether it's taking the time to relax and have a cup of tea or going for a nice walk.  Taking time to listen to what I need and give myself permission to have whatever feelings I am experiencing.  I must admit it was very hard coming back to reality - this crazy, fast paced world that we live in.  Coming from the peace and quiet up in Brew Creek into the Vancouver airport was sure an adjustment!  I loved every minute I had to spend with the other 6 amazing survivors, all of whom I had the opportunity to connect with during these 4 days.  I learned a great deal from all of them and know that we are friends for life.  Our time together was filled with relaxed chats around the fire, hiking through our beautiful surroundings, hot tub time, art time (which I surprisingly really enjoyed!), nourishing & delicious food made with lots of love, yoga and lots of relaxation & meditation....  I came away with a new found connection with myself and compassion for myself.  Opening up in this way leaves you feeling very vulnerable and that can be very scary but I find it all worth it in the end because I feel like a stronger person.  This couldn't have come at a better time.  I even met up with a friend at the airport for a coffee who I met a couple of years ago through YACC.  It was so great catching up with her and being able to debrief with someone who had been through it.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend!

I had the opportunity to go in and speak to a couple of groups of medical students last week.  I shared my story with them and had some discussion about my experiences with cancer.  I think it went really well and I find that the more I share my story the easier it is.  I felt completely comfortable opening up to them and wow - they had some really great questions!  They looked so young!  Hard to believe those are our future doctors!  The assignment they were given after we left was to write a letter to themselves which would be given back to them when they graduate about what kind of doctor they would like to be.  So cool!  They were so eager to learn and understand things from the patient's perspective.

Everything going on with work right now has made me realize how lucky I am to have such amazing and supportive family and friends around me.  I have many more people on my side helping me through this then those that are making things more difficult for us.  I am so fortunate to have all of you in my life reminding me what is really important in life - which is all of you.  Hugs when I feel hopeless, an ear when I need to vent, advice (especially HR related these days) when I have no idea what to do, air miles when I need to escape on a retreat and have no airfare, cab fare and food money slipped into my pocket on the way to the airport, surprise pedicures when I'm feeling really down, scooping me up off the floor when I'm drowning in a pool of my own tears and reassuring me that everything will work out, drinking wine with me when all I want to do is forget everything and not care anymore.....  I am thankful for all of this and most importantly, a husband who can handle looking after things when I am not able to and three great boys who I know will grow up to do and accomplish amazing things in this world even if I am not around to see it.  People are what matter most - period.  This is what makes life memorable and worth living. 

I'm not sure what is going to happen next week or next month but I know that for today I will live a meaningful life and enjoy every minute of it.  Moments where I can say and believe that it is all worth it like last night sitting around a cozy fire with my hubby and my boys playing guitar and singing.  I have that memory forever now and when I'm feeling down I can remember that and feel my heart fill up with joy and love.  Life is made up of these moments if we take the time to notice them....  if we don't they pass us by unnoticed and gone forever....

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?