This is a guest blog post by Cancer and Careers.
How we got started:
In 2001, the Board of Directors of Cosmetic Executive Women came to a startling realization: five Board Members had been diagnosed with cancer. All continued to work during or following their treatment, and all encountered similar dilemmas.
How do I tell my boss? What will my co-workers think? How do I balance work and treatment? What can I expect from my employer? What are my legal rights? What do other people do?
Work doesn’t stop once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. More than 80 percent of cancer survivors return to work after treatment. In fact, once they’ve been diagnosed, work becomes even more important. CEW created Cancer and Careers to address these challenges and change the face of cancer in the workplace.
What we do:
At Cancer and Careers, our mission is to empower and educate people with cancer to thrive in their workplace, by providing expert advice, interactive tools and educational events. In addition to patients and survivors, Cancer and Careers also educates coworkers, HR staff, healthcare professionals, and fellow cancer organizations—all potential advocates in today’s workplace.
Patients and survivors of all ages face challenges beyond the day-to-day stresses normally associated with work. Cancer and Careers strives to inform and remind the cancer community that with a little help, they can work, and we are here to provide them with the information they need to succeed at their current job, or to find a new one. We work to eliminate the fear and uncertainty about making a living following a cancer diagnosis. Our help is designed for people with all types of cancer, who do all types of work, and are at all stages of work and recovery. We offer tips and suggestions on a range of topics which include how to handle your cancer diagnosis if asked by a coworker, protecting online privacy, and concerns about legal rights and discrimination.
How we help:
- National Conference on Work & Cancer – Our 6th annual National Conference on Work & Cancer will be held Friday,June 23, 2017, at The Graduate Center at CUNY, in New York City. The free, daylong event explores the issues faced by working people who are trying to balance their cancer treatment & recovery with employment.
- Midwest Conference on Work & Cancer – We will be hosting Midwest Conference on Work & Cancer on Friday, March 31st, 2017in Chicago IL. The event is free and open to those who are concerned about balancing work and cancer.
- West Coast Conference on Work & Cancer –Our West Coast Conference will be taking place in the fall of 2017, date to be determined. The event is also free and discusses the issues faced by those balancing work and cancer.
- Balancing Work & Cancer webinars series – Presented with a patient-focused lens and covering topics ranging from Managing Finances to the Job Search to Working Through Treatment.
- Ask a Career Coach – The opportunity to submit a question answered by a career coach.
- Resume Review Service – Have your resume reviewed by one of our talented and knowledgeable volunteer career coaches, for free!
- Suggestions for interviewing – tips and tool kits for how to best answer the tough questions in an interview, and helpful information regarding protecting your privacy.
This is a blog post by MyLifeLine’s CEO, Pete Sheehan.
When someone hears “you have cancer,” their world is instantly turned upside down and the words are nothing short of terrifying. This is when MyLifeLine’s job begins.
MyLifeLine’s goal is to ease the burden of a cancer diagnosis for patients, caregivers and their family and friends. Our mission to help patients build their support community, reduce stress and anxiety, and provide the social and emotional support that is vital in the face of a cancer diagnosis.
With your support, MyLifeLine has served more than 150,000 people affected by cancer. We’ve helped them organize rides to treatment, schedule home cooked meal delivery, stay updated on friends and family member’s journeys, raise vital funds for their medical costs, find important resources and educational tools and overall, lighten the load of a cancer diagnosis. Our services are provided free of charge to all cancer patients and their families.
Your gift today allows us to not only continue the work we do every day, but also to
innovate and identify new ways to support cancer patients and all those who love them. In 2017, we plan to create a robust support toolkit for caregivers, personalize the MyLifeLine experience for many of the cancer types we serve, increase our reach to more patients and
families and enhance the functionality and features of our popular volunteer calendar.
We are thankful for your generous support of our work. Together, we are improving the lives of tens of thousands of people impacted by cancer.
Chief Executive Officer, MyLifeLine Cancer Foundation
This is a guest blog post by MyLifeLine founder, Marcia Donziger.
In 1997 I was 27, happy, free, and traveling the world as a flight attendant. Newly married and ready to have a baby, I felt strong and invincible. My future was unfolding just as I expected it to. Until the symptoms appeared ever so subtly. Squeezing cramps around my waist. It hurt to pee. After a few weeks, I marched my invincible self into my doctor’s office, told her I diagnosed my own bladder infection, and may I please have antibiotics.
She decided to investigate a little further. After an ultrasound, she discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor growing on my left ovary. “Could it be cancer?” I asked. “No,” my doctor assured me, “you’re too young to have cancer.”
Surgery was scheduled to remove my “benign tumor.” I was excited to get it over with, so I could go on with my life and have babies. After 5 hours of surgery, I woke up in the recovery room, my body uncontrollably thrashing in pain. My doctor hovered over me and broke the news, “I’m sorry. You have ovarian cancer. You’ve had a complete hysterectomy. We took everything out.”
What I heard loud and clear was “Cancer. You can’t have children.”
The diagnosis came as a shock. Stage IIIC ovarian cancer had taken over my abdomen, resulting in an emergency hysterectomy that I was not prepared for. The intense grief hit immediately. The loss of my fertility was most crushing. I had always wanted to be a mom.
Halfway through chemo treatments, I celebrated my 28th birthday, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. My marriage was dying. Cancer puts tremendous stress on a couple. Some couples can handle it together like champs. We didn’t. We divorced 1 year from the date of my diagnosis.
After treatment ended, I looked in the mirror to see what was left. I was 28 years old, ravaged physically and emotionally, divorced, and scared to date as a woman unable to have children.
Who would love me now?
Now, almost 20 years later, I feel strong again (although not invincible).
With the benefit of time and perspective, I’ve distilled that traumatic cancer experience into 5 life lessons:
- Trust grandma’s reassurance, “This too shall pass.” As an ovarian cancer survivor herself, my grandma is living proof of this timeless wisdom. Stressful events don’t have to be permanent. We don’t have to be victims. Although cancer is extremely painful and unwelcome, the bright spot is we are forced to build character traits such as resiliency, emotional courage, and grit.
- Create your own joy in the midst of crisis. There are ways to uplift yourself during the chaos of cancer treatment. For example, I took a pottery class throughout my chemo months to find solace in distraction and art, which helped soothe my soul and ease the journey. What would make you happy? Do something just for you.
- Stop doing what you don’t want to do. If you were doing too much out of obligation beforehand, try to change that. You are only obligated to make yourself happy. No one else can do that for you. The key is to use this wisdom to prioritize your time and honor yourself, so you can be healthy for others. Drop what doesn’t serve you. Drop the guilt. Life will go on.
- Connect with others. The emotional trauma is hard to measure in a medical test, but it’s real. Anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand after cancer–it did for me. In response to the emotional challenges I experienced, years later I founded MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation to ease the burden for others facing cancer. MyLifeLine.org is a cancer-specific social platform designed to connect you with your own family and friends to ease the stress, anxiety, and isolation. Gather your tribe on MyLifeLine. You are not alone.
- You are lovable after cancer. No matter what body parts you are missing, you deserve love just as you are. Cancer tore down my self-esteem, and it took significant effort to build it back up. I am dedicated to personal and professional growth now. Look into your heart, your mind, your spirit. Try fine-tuning your best character traits, like generosity or compassion. Never stop growing and learning. We are not defined by the body.
To wrap up my story–I learned that when one door closes, another opens. Today I am the proud, grateful mother of 11-year-old twin boys. Born with the help of a surrogate mom and an egg donor, my dream finally came true of becoming a parent. Where there is a will, there is a way. Never give up on your dreams!