Sunday, April 22, 2012

Employment, boredom and you

I'm waiting to hear back from a job, and it's making me antsy, so I thought I'd write about jobhunting and cancer.

One of the hardest parts of being a young cancer patient is that your employment status can be much less secure. I'm speaking broadly, of course; unemployment can hit people of all ages, and up until my diagnosis I was very lucky. But it's definitely a common and frustrating road block in the whole cancer-before-forty marathon.

I was diagnosed right after I finished a short-term internship which followed my MS degree. My MS was a huge life decision, and it was a big change in my overall plan. I was so excited to be heading toward what I hoped would be a lifetime (or at least a whole bunch) of fun and meaningful work.

My breast cancer diagnosis put the plan on hold. I didn't want to apply for jobs when I didn't know how I'd be able to handle treatment, which is notoriously changeable and hard to schedule around - surprise! You need extra surgery! Surprise blood clot! etc. So, for a year and a half I did nothing but survive. Now I'm healthy enough to start job hunting. And I'm hitting a few obstacles:
  • I don't know if or when my cancer might recur. There's the big one. It makes me feel guilty, queasy and sometimes paralyzed.
  • I'm still recovering, physically. My level of fatigue is unpredictable. Some days I'm racing; some days I'm exhausted. My brain is slowly returning to normal, but I'm not 100%.
  • I'm still in treatment. I'm still getting lupron buttshots, taking tamoxifen, and getting zometa. I still get regular checkups and I still get mammograms.
  • There's a 1.5 year gap in my resume. So far this hasn't been a big problem, but I worry somebody'll notice.
I know I'm so lucky to have made it this far; I'm grateful that I feel good and I can think about the future. Also, holy cats am I grateful that my husband can support us right now. But do I ever wish a nice part-time job hugging adorable animals would just fall into my frail post-treatment arms.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tiptoeing along

I've been trying to think of what to write for a while now, and I think the only solution is to just start typing.

It's now been a year since chemo ended. A year ago this week, I was between surgeries. Between surgeries #3 and #4 out of about 7, that is - but I was getting ready for the most devastating surgery. This year I'm planning on getting a tattoo on my mastectomy scar that says "brave", once the danger of skin metastasis has faded.

I'm feeling physically good. I've been busting my butt on the elliptical, and hiking long distances. I look healthy; I'm more than ten pounds up from chemo. I'm no longer sleeping all day.

Everything is so deceptively normal, in fact, that I've started beating myself up for not getting more work done, for not having more strength - and then I remember why. It's goofy, but nice. Luckily I have parents, a husband and a support group telling me to be gentle with myself. They say it takes two years to recover, and I'm only halfway there.

Every day that passes ups my survival odds. It's still so, so scary. This morning my husband got sad, all of a sudden, in a coffee shop - that's how it happens. I told him he was tough. He is.

Being married to this man is the coolest thing.

I've been thinking about the changes I've made since cancer; I've been patiently working on fixing up little parts of how I live. I clean the house all the time (I used to be insanely messy). I dress more comfortably and attractively, which sounds so shallow but it goes a long way toward feeling more at home in my new body. I feel so much more grounded when these little things are organized.

Anyway, I'm doing the best I can with the body I have, as it slowly heals and simultaneously dives into menopause at 31. Last weekend I tromped through the woods with some nature nuts looking for tiny butterflies, and I was totally in my element. Cancer was the farthest thing on my mind (trying to remember a million tiny field cues for eentsy butterflies was probably my main thought), and it felt good.