Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cancer Will Not Take This From Me

Having special health needs like cancer complicates decisions like deciding whether or not to change jobs. Will the new job understand that you'll need extra time for medical appointments? Will they be able to accommodate dips in health and stamina? Will health coverage transfer seamlessly?

Recently, a great career opportunity dropped into my lap out of nowhere. The timing could have been better. I was unsure of whether or how quickly the sleeping remedies would work. I was having trouble lasting a full work day let alone a full work week and even when I was working I was certainly not at my full "operating capacity".

I could play it safe and stay where I was, with a good deal of history, support and understanding for my current condition but with no real opportunity for advancement or growth, or I could change jobs where much more would be expected of me but the opportunities for growth and advancement are very good.

It took a good deal of contemplation but I resolved that cancer will not take this away from me. I will not let this disease rob me of such an opportunity. So I decided to take a risk and accepted a new position as a lead developer at a small online auction company.

It's been almost 3 weeks since I started my new job and I'm loving it. In addition to being a good career move I've discovered a few positive aspects that I hadn't anticipated:
  • No one but my immediate boss knows I have cancer. I worried that people would not understand my condition and I wouldn't be cut any slack. However, it's turned out that not being cut any slack has caused me to expect more from myself. I think I was letting myself get a little lax by allowing those around me to set my expectations for me. Not having that excuse has improved my drive, my stamina and my motivation.
  • Since no one knows I have cancer, work is now a place where I can escape from awkward questions and interactions. People don't worry about what they say around me and vice versa. This is one time where not having any outward signs of leukemia definitely works to my advantage.
  • I feel more normal because people expect me to be normal. This is slightly contrary to my first point since I'm essentially still letting others set my expectations for me, this is just a positive spin on the same theme.
Some of this is due to the fact that my improved sleeping habits mean I'm no longer slightly drunk with fatigue, and some of the improvement is simply due to the change in scenery. All put together though, it's one more step away from being "the guy with cancer" and one step closer to just being "the guy" again.

And it's one thing that I did not let cancer take away from me.


Daria said...

I'm so glad you have a new job ... because I totally understand where you are coming from. When people know you have cancer ... they treat you different.

All the best to you ...

Mountain Mama said...

Small online auction company, eh? Well I used to work at 'small software' company at Redmond ;-P

Glad to hear you are putting your foot down with cancer. I can totally relate to that. I went up hiking 3 days post chemo, and darn it - i wasn't about to let my fatigued stop me. It took me twice as long, stop every 10 mins, but by golly, I made it to the top.

The sense of accomplishment that I feel is beyond words and I think, not a lot of people can relate to that. It's kinda like my bagel story. It's a small victory.

Looking forward to see you here in a few weeks!


hockeychic said...

Congratulations on the new job! Bravo for you for jumping in with both legs and going for it!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't surprise me you decided to go for it. I've always been proud of your confidence and tackling challenges with solutions rather than lamenting circumstances. I've told you before what a great role model you are for your brothers and everyone else.
Love M & D.

Annie - Steven's mom said...

Yes, yes yes! This is great news all round. Congrats on the new job, Matt and everything else too.
Claiming back the time, expectations and mental energy this disease takes, is an amazing step forward.
May it get easier and easier as the years go by.
love and light

Kairol said...

Congratulations! It's such a tricky thing, isn't it, negotiating cancer and the ongoing business of life--especially in business. I'm happy to have discovered your blog. You're so articulate in the chronicling of your own thoughts as well as the science and stats. Thank you for sharing all of this. I write a lot about these kinds of decisions. Stop by my blog sometime and share your thoughts!

Kairol Rosenthal,
author of Everything Changes: The Insiders Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

Chris "Spidey" Walker said...

Rock and Roll Matt... Great to see how well your doing. I'm coming back to TNT for a third season so I can continue to raise money and to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Congratulations! I noticed that your blog was listed in Top 50 Cancer Sites & Resources by a site Asbestos News, as was my blog Being Cancer and others I am sure you are familiar with. I noticed the site as a referrer on my statistics page so I checked it out. It’s a tribute to our cancer community - keep up the good work.
Take care, Dennis

Jaime said...

I started a new job 7 months ago and felt the same way. My boss was the only one that "Knew" and then I started walking on my breaks with a pregnant co-worker and wanted to mention to her that she could save lives with her cord blood,which led me to tell her my story and I asked her not to tell anyone.Then I told another co-worker when she told me that her mom had lumps in her breasts (I wanted to let her know that I understood), she too thinks that she is the only one that knows. I guess I just don't want to be the "Girl with Cancer"... There are times though when I wish that everyone knew, like when you start to hear people converse and say things like "Well at least it isn't cancer" or "I was so skinny I looked like a leukemia patient". That last one just happened a few days ago and I just couldn't stop thinking about it, then I realized this was the same guy who asked some random girl he didn't even know how far along she was and she relplied, "I'm not pregnant, I'm just fat".

Annie - Steven's mom said...

Hi Matt and Wendy
I hope you are both too busy doing all normal stuff and all cml things are on the back burner.
Just to let you know you guys have been on my mind.
love and light

Elizabeth said...

I found your blog from the article in Newsweek!

My little sister passed away from AML in October 2008. When I started a new job in December, it was almost a relief that no one at this job knew about her. Work became an escape, which I appreciated in many ways.