I really love my job, but as soon as I got my cancer diagnosis I realised that I couldn’t work at the level I wanted to, be there for my team and tackle this massive change to my life. A week before my first surgery I had to admit that I should really finish work and focus on my health. My employers have been amazing, I can’t have wished for a more supportive manager and team. They really are the best. They have kept in touch, always sensitive to what I am going through, checking what is right for me, somehow they have found that fine line between not making me feel guilty for leaving them short staffed but still making me feel updated and a valued part of the team.
As my diagnosis got more serious, I began to reassess what I wanted and what was realistic in terms of work. I’m not sure what my future holds, how long I’ve got, how well I’ll respond to treatment or how the cancer will progress, maybe work at the level I did before doesn’t fit. All of this I have looked at with a calm head, I’ve realised that I have moved on to a new sort of reality and life, I’ll never go back to the life I had before, but I’ve reconciled my self to accepting a new sort of the life. And then I joined the team for a social event and something happened that I wasn’t expecting -I fell apart.
One by one my colleagues came in, they were happy, smiling, joking, many of them greeted me with huge hugs. I was back to being the old me, part of the team. Having cancer wasn’t part of the equation, it wasn’t discussed and I was back in my old life, my old self. I realised how much I enjoyed their company as I embraced it once again. This emotion lasted all night, I went to bed feeling tired but happy. But then the next day I woke again to a life confined by my cancer diagnosis. I felt drained, tired and tearful.
It was as if someone had lifted a dark heavy curtain to allow me to go back to the life I had before cancer. A life full of light, laughter and company, no worries about cancer but the usual day to day ones, and now the curtain had been pulled back down and I was back on the other side, back to the reality of side effects, solitude and not being me. I cried, grieving for a life I had lost. My colleagues were still the same but I had changed and I couldn’t go back no matter what I wanted, I had moved to another place another reality and although I have lots of good things and times here and now, I will never get back what I had before.
Lifting the curtain and allowing me to look through just made it more difficult to be in the hear and now – and that is a hard thing to accept.