Tag Archives: Cancer and Work

Trying and Crying, an Igloo made of Tears: Employment after Cancer

I pounded my fists into the snow, packing down the bucket, an obsessive attempt at completing the igloo Julian had started. Being only 6, he gave up about two bricks into the process before returning to his sled.

Sliding the icy cylinder into place, soaking in the silence of winter, I let the first fiery tears eek out the corners of my eyes. Then, I couldn’t hold back, I found myself suddenly full on sobbing into the snow remembering what a stupid ass I had made of myself in that job interview. The sting of embarrassment was so deep that I silently prayed they would forget all about it and just do me the favor of never calling me back.

It was my first real interview for a full time job since the breast cancer diagnosis in 2014. As fate would have it, I had a stomach bug just 2 days before the interview, so when I arrived, there were tinges of fuzziness that certainly didn’t allow me to put my best self forward. The interviewees sat around me in a semi-circle reading from a list of questions, and all I could hear were pens scratching paper, my consciousness lifting about 3 feet above my head, right there in the corner, trying to find a way out. A hot flash came on, I wanted to tear at my clothing, crack the door, open a window. Does this flush look like embarrassment? Someone asked another question and that name I was searching for evaded me, the chemo brain had just punched that piece of memory out of reach.

Was all of this, even the opportunity, just a sympathetic gesture for the cancer survivor? Am I still viable as a contributing member of society? My heart and hands yearn to be busy, to contribute, to share my passion and my ideas. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t all that bad, but really truly that wasn’t my best self in the room that day.

Is it not enough that I sloughed through 5 months of treatment, that my breasts and ovaries were cut away from me, that there will be no more babies? I told my husband that I am tired of fighting, this fighting for my life and fighting for survival. He said then just stop fighting and start loving, start allowing. There is so much at stake though, so much risk. When we are talking about the nuts and bolts of survival, like the big small stuff of paying bills on time, keeping the vehicles in operating condition, making sure we have health insurance, that our kid is happy and well, it mounts to a pile of responsibility. That is on the table right now, not to even get into the looking over my shoulder at the ever uncertain future.

I remember the saying, “All is well, all is well, all manner of things shall be well,” and I’m really not so sure. I don’t see a lot of OK-ness reflected in the 24 hour news cycle, nothing seems OK at home or abroad. I look for it online on my social media feed but it’s too unsettling there. Where does this elusive feeling of OKness reside and how can I cloak myself in it?

Here is the best that I can muster, sitting here in the sun, the clickety clack of my fingers on the keys. I will not go hungry tonight. My adorable son will come home from school and snuggle up to me and touch my face. My husband will come home from work tired and hungry and we will enjoy each other’s company. This time was not guaranteed to me when that cancer diagnosis came to topple me down. My rock solid sister-girlfriends are a phone call away. Spring is coming soon. All is well, all is well, all manner of things…

Thinking of that interview, I choose to free myself from the shame of my stumble and fall. I had the strength and courage just to even put myself out there and try. Nothing is owed to me, not even my survival.

Underneath this melting snow, there is life, an endless cycle of renewal. It is easy to forget what is possible when all you see is dirty snow and mashed up yellow grass and mud, how from dirty, mucky places such beautiful, enriching and vibrant things grow.

All is well, all is well, all manner of things shall be well.

 

igloo

 

 

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