It is important that a cancer survivor feel accepted by family, friends and co-workers after they have completed treatment and want to just be themselves again, not the “cancer patient.”
I propose that we use June to celebrate how far we have advanced in the fight against cancer. To look to the future with hope and never forgetting those whose lives were cut short.
Here’s one cancer survivor’s story:
I will say this is kind of difficult for me to share, because anybody who knows me knows I’m a very private person. I’m now realizing that in order to help others, I need to be okay with my journey and pay it forward.
I’m a systems administrator in the facilities department, working in my organization for 10 years. We have a small department within facilities that serves the IT functions of the work management system for the entire organization.
Last year in March, I found a lump. I got a mammogram and I got a call back. You’re not supposed to get a call back. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was petrified. There was no family history of breast cancer. I remember telling myself, I have to go to work and I have to tell my supervisor. I have a daughter. I’m her primary care giver. So it’s a scary situation to be in.
I was also scared because I work at a hospital. I don’t care where you are, you see the side effects of what cancer can do. I told my supervisor about my diagnosis and he was the one who encouraged me to go to the Managing Cancer at Work program.
I went to the very first Managing Cancer meeting, which was the first of each month. While I was nervous, the meeting put me at ease. The oncology nurse navigator, was so helpful. The disease makes you vulnerable. It exposes you. I remember just tearing up, telling my story, not knowing what to expect. But then the people who were around me were a mix of survivors — those who were going through it, through treatment. People just like me.
I made the choice not to go through the chemo. I didn’t have to do the radiation. I chose a double mastectomy. My biggest fear was not being able to do my job when I came back, at the same capacity that I did before I left. There were side effects from the surgery alone. There are times where I’m in pain. One of the challenges is not being able to physically do some of the things that I was able to do prior to surgery. I need help to lift things now. I used to be fairly independent, and that is a constant reminder that I need help from others.
If you go to work and you don’t have that support, it makes things so much more difficult. I have such a respect my supervisor. I thank him on several occasions. The support was helpful also with the two senior directors. They maintained my privacy, as I wanted. Sometimes they just sat with me. I remember one time I was in the conference room, and I just balled my eyes out. Everybody does not have the benefit of having someone who understands. And I think in the workplace it’s very important because this isn’t something you ask for — to all of a sudden get this life-threatening disease.
My daughter is 13 now. She surprised me because initially I kept everything from her. Now she’s helping with the laundry. She’s helping do things I couldn’t do.
I’m coming up on one year of survivorship. I remember the exact date of my diagnosis. It will be a year. I’m definitely going to do something to mark that day. Not only that day, but the day I actually had surgery.
One of my friends sent me a quote: “Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” I remember I kept looking at it. I get it. You have to live your life.
Reference Rosett, Racelle (2016). How to treat a cancer survivor?
Retrieved from: http://groknation.com/women/how-to-treat-a-cancer-survivor/