I walk through my place of work on any given day and no one is the wiser that I am living my life with stage IV breast cancer...
Prior to being diagnosed with stage IV ER/PR+HER2- breast cancer in October 2014, I was a full-time working wife and mother. And after being diagnosed I decided to remain a full-time working wife and mother.
Throughout the process of the diagnosis, mammogram, multiple biopsies, consultations, bone scans, CT scans, and MRIs I decided to continue to function has I always had: getting up every day and getting my kids off to school and heading to work. One of the first things people asked me was “Are you still going to work?” and I found that to be a silly question. Of course I would still work! No one had told me I couldn’t, so why would I stop?
It was incredibly empowering to me that I could keep my normal routine and work with my doctors to attend all my appointments and scans and only miss a few hours a day. I find peace in the structure that my life has provided me: go to work, come home to take care of home and family, go to bed, and do it all over again.
And from that day on I made sure to live my life that way.
I currently work at a job that I happen to love and have worked for quite some time to get where I am, working in the mental health community and providing individual and group therapy every day to people who need ongoing care. I was incredibly grateful that my treatment has allowed me the opportunity to keep my life as it was prior to my diagnosis.
The most important part of keeping my life as normal as possible was to help my children to see that while the news of mom having cancer wasn’t good, things were going to be ok for a while. While it sounds like I have placed a great emphasis on my career, I have also opened my schedule up to a great deal of adventures.
I see my choice as a one of emotional and physical benefit and have had great success for going on two years now.
While making the decision to work, I also made the choice to only tell a few of my coworkers what I was going through and mostly due to my need to have time off once a month for appointments and a couple of days for the surgeries that I went through in 2015. Continuing to work was not a difficult decision. I have worked since the age of 18 and find that it keeps me motivated and stimulated and the thought of not being able to continue to work caused me some distress.
During every initial visit with my oncologists I talked with them at length about the importance to me to be able to continue to work and I was encouraged monthly to continue to do whatever I felt I was able to for as long as I felt I was able to. This was encouraging and made me feel like I was continuing to live my life with only minor setbacks following each of my surgeries. Going to work every day gives me a goal to push towards and motivated me to get on my feet following back-to-back leg surgeries to reinforce my femurs. I looked at my career and family as the key to keeping my head focused in a positive direction, which allowed me to stay active and busy. This helped eliminate a period of depression that followed my diagnosis.
Work was another place that I was able to wear my cancer “camo;” this is how I describe my outward appearance. I call it my cancer “camo” because unless I have told you my story, I bare no outward appearance of a stage IV cancer patient going through treatment.
I walk through my place of work on any given day and no one is the wiser that I am living my life with stage IV breast cancer. I find it empowering that I am able to do everything within my power currently to fight this battle and yet I show no signs or symptoms. I am not naïve. At some point I will have a treatment that may make it more difficult for me to maintain my current schedule, but for now I am going to continue to help people fight their battles while I fight mine and live my life to the fullest.
WORKING INVISIBLY WITH METASTATIC BREAST CANCER first appeared in Issue 5: MBC: Young & Stage IV.
Mental health therapist, wife, mother, and sister. Diagnosed at 40. IDC, Stage IV. ER+, PR+ (HER2-). (Initial diagnosis at Stage IV, bone mets only.)