Monday, July 23, 2012

Forgive my absence...

It's been a crazy couple of months. Emotional, strange, and somewhat deflating.

It all started when I left my former employer. It had been 3 years of some great ups, and difficult downs, and it was finally time to leave. Within 2 days, I was at what was a dream job. It was such an ideal situation that I was willing to put some of my LIVESTRONG advocacy to the side while I acclimated to this new position - hence why I've been relatively under the radar. But I had to work hard to ensure benefits, as a cancer survivor, COBRA and private insurance was astronomical. I had to make sure I had financial security - my medical bills have been coming in with a frenzy, I was just struggling my way out of foreclosure. The salary promised, the position, the place - it was all finally what I had been working towards for so long.

When I interviewed, and started, I wore my wig. I figured I had to put my best foot forward. I didn't want to flaunt my cancer survivorship - I wanted my work to stand on its own. I didn't want to make anyone question my ability. I didn't want any sympathy or favoritism. Yes, some isolated individuals, including my friend who referred me and the Director of HR knew, but otherwise, I was under the radar (so I thought).

Right around my birthday, June 20, we'd been hit by heat waves. I was getting more and more paranoid about my wig sliding off as my hair grew in. I felt that I was secure enough in the position to finally go wigless, so I did. I got a lot of compliments on my new "haircut," to which I stammered, "Uh, right, yes, thanks." I didn't want to lie - after all, for some reason, I was still freelancing vs. having the permanent offer as I'd been told would happen within a week or two. So it was an awkward transition from full head of long, straight hair to short, Little Orphan Annie curly hair.

During my time there, and especially once I'd gone without the wig, I noticed this young woman, with long hair and a pleasant smile, would extend an especially friendly smile and nod when we passed in the hallway. I responded in kind, of course - I had no reason not to.

One morning, while I was getting coffee, she approached me, introduced herself. I gave her my name and, after a moment of small talk and once everyone else had left the kitchen, she leaned forward, told me that she admired my hair, smiled, and lifted the front of her hair - she was wearing a wig, too, and was a survivor.

While I hadn't been advocating as strongly as before, I guess I just had that vibe.

Last week was especially bittersweet. While I worked terribly hard to make the impressions I needed to in order to go permanent, I realized that my first cancerversary was quickly approaching. I was, admittedly, getting more and more depressed as I worked more and more without a permanent offer. Additionally, I had very much seen this position as the light at the end of my very long cancer & financial tunnel. It was the hope that I was unsure existed while I struggled through treatment with a most unstable previous employment.

Just a couple of days before my cancerversary, I was told "my assignment" was ending next Friday, and I was being replaced by a former co-worker of some of the folks in my department. I realized that there really wasn't much that I could have done. I had done my best, but the sense that nothing I could do would yield a permanent offer seemed to be accurate.

So, as if my first cancerversary was going to be a cocktail of emotions already, it was compounded with even greater fear and anxiety. A while back, I had been questioning why I had gone through all of what I had just to return to a job that was so frustrating, where I felt like I had to fight to get my job done and help make things better at work. But I couldn't really leave it - I had to have the security of benefits. I had felt trapped. So when I was out of that situation and in this one, I felt liberated.

But now, I just feel abandoned. I really liked it where I will be until Friday. Granted, it was awkward for me to meet people, introduce myself and feel part of a team where I wasn't really sure how I stood, but I did my best. The people, as a whole, are fantastic. And there is so much potential that I really know I could have impacted.

Now? I don't know how I'm going to afford COBRA. I'm just, now, in a position to be able to regain physical strength. I am struggling so hard to see this as one door closing and seeing another door opening. But this door just felt slammed in my face, at one of the most difficult times.

I apologize if this doesn't seem very inspiring. But this is my cancer experience, to date.

I guess my cancer surviving peers that didn't experience are terribly lucky.

My best advice is do your best to secure employment, so when you come out the other side, you can still work, earn a living, and not have to worry.


  1. Hey Rica,

    I'm sorry to hear you've been dealing with work issues on top of everything else. Mind me asking what your work background is?

    1. Sure - Interactive Media production/project management/strategy.

  2. Rica...It's hard to find something to say that doesn't sound like an inane platitude - and I'm guessing you have already told yourself all the applicable "pick me up" self talk phrases. So. Know that no mater what your LiveStrong colleagues are here for you, even if just to say we are sorry life is so hard right now, hold your hand (albeit long distance) and provide both a shoulder and a boost up. Treat yourself with kindness. Marcia

    1. The biggest thing right now is that I desperately need to find full-time employment with enough salary to cover my expenses, that has medical benefits, and doesn't require a really bad commute - the two kids need me home in a decent time. I do have a full set-up to work from home, so if anyone knows of anything remote, that works for me!

  3. Rica, You have so much passion for sharing your cancer journey, AND you seem like a dedicated fundraiser. I wonder if you should/could look at development (fundraising) positions for non-profits? If you like it, it is an excellent and fairly well-paying career. Writing skills and technical (computer) skills are definitely helpful too. Possible positions might be in a health-related nonprofit or university, or it might just be at a social service agency. Just a thought--Ruth Kraut


I'm all about free speech, etc, but I have to ask that comments are respectful of other readers, the fact that I, and many of us who follow this blog, support LIVESTRONG, and that you reserve Lance or LIVESTRONG bashing for another forum. As of right now, I'm still allowing Anonymous postings, however, that may not be the case in the future. Thanks!