Friday, December 21, 2012

Struggling to find my "What's Next?"

As many of you know, several months ago, I parted ways with my previous employer in Stamford. Things were just spiraling on a number of levels, and a change was necessary. I'd begun freelancing with the hopes of finding the "right fit" for a permanent position, and that journey is still continuing as I'm still working on contract. Needless to say, that takes a lot of time. And, as many of you also know, my previous employer's "situation" allowed me quite a bit of freedom during treatment and the standard work day, so my apologies that my blog hasn't been more consistently updated.

The whole cancer thing, as previously discussed by me and others, forces one to reflect upon their life. You ponder what could have been. You examine what you're currently doing. You explore the possibility of the future, if and when, you come through the cancer experience.

This is often riddled with the insecurity of the unknown, particularly as you learn that friends and peers that joined you in your Class of 2011-2012 Cancer University have had to fight again, or worse, have died. These were your lab partners, your study buddies, your lunch mates. Some were the girls down the hall you run into once in a while brushing teeth, while others are that girl you buy your coffee from every morning. But to think, when you go back to your reunion, that they never graduated, had to go back, or are just never going to be there again, forces you to wonder about yourself.

In the past couple of months, I learned that my Chemo Buddy is fighting again. Today, I learned that an amazing fighter, Tiffany Costa, whom I tried to help find access to an elusive drug thanks to the stupid pharmaceutical shortage driving her to the international Doxil black market, died last week.

These women are, were, my age. We were fighting breast cancer together, in very different ways. No amount of money, resources or effort seemed to dictate success. Tiffany raised over $50,000 to help her with her medical situation when I first met her. And she had a long fight ahead, including figuring out how to transport the drugs she managed to secure overseas before the seller raised the fees again.

My other friend has a supporting family, but has chosen to continue her fight quietly.

And here I am. Alive. No signs of metastases. Declared NED.

But I'm uneasy. I'm uneasy about my status. I'm uneasy about bills. My job.  My career.

So, I've been exploring. I joined First Descents this summer and rediscovered physical strength. I'm going to go to Hawaii in the Spring with Athletes For Cancer to surf - fulfilling two dreams - to go to Hawaii and to learn how to surf. I pulled out the sewing machine for the first time in years to make clothing - to finally put all those sketches, ideas, fashion wish-lists to the test and throw my anxiety about crappy sewing skills to the wind. So, almost every day for the past 2 weeks, I've created a new garment. Nearly every day I've worn at least one of my creations. (After all, it's only fabric. If I screw up, who cares? I make it a few sizes smaller and give it to my daughter, or I rip the threads and go again.)

I'm finally taking out the sketchbook and I'm building and making the things I'd put off for a rainy day.

Here's the rub, however... Unless I get onto Project Runway and win, I doubt I can make a living making clothing. And, unless Martha Stewart dubs me her successor as Queen of the Crafts, all the candles and plaster work in the world isn't going to pay the bills.

And, as long as I am trapped in a COBRA plan that costs significantly more than my mortgage, that offers sub prime coverage, and I receive no benefits from work, I'm just malingering in my career.

I proverbially drop to my knees and beg someone to just bring me on full-time already. Enough with the freelancing. Enough with the contracting. It ain't for me. I have enough instability to deal with. I can't stand not knowing at the end of the month whether or not I'm being "renewed," if I have to choose between COBRA and mortgage again. I refuse to withstand further interviews where I rock them, but one moment in haste as frivolous as sneezing in the wrong direction can cause the employer to opt not to make the offer they were going to a second ago.

I ask you, what's next for me? Because I'm still lost. And the more I'm lost, the more scared.

And, as irrational as it may seem, I often wonder if I don't get hired full-time soon, with a permanent job, will the cancer come back first?

Monday, December 3, 2012


Perhaps it was inheriting who was the world's sweetest cat in the world, Samson, from my grandmother once she died, or maybe it was the notion of a woman being able to captivate someone to the point that they could be entranced without magic and fall victim to her, but the story of Samson & Delilah always intrigued me. I still remember reading the story over and over again in the children's bible my parents' got me when I was young.

A little over a year ago, it took all my strength to shave my head after watching my own personal Delilah, breast cancer, start to rip the hair from my head. I'd grown my hair to be the longest it had been for several years. I'd had the intent to never cut it again, let along shave it ever. But I had to. It was too heartbreaking to see it fall out like withered, fallen soldiers going into a suicide mission.

Unlike when one usually cuts one's hair, the expectations of having significant length more than a full-year from when you shaved your head, my hair is struggling along. I have "cute curls." I can flat iron my hair to make it flat and spiky, but I still can't pull it back into a proper pony tail. I can't feel it on the back of my neck.

And there seems to be an uncanny correlation between the day I cut my hair, at the LIVESTRONG Challenge 2011, and the last time I felt strong and fit. Now, I feel weak. I'm too easily winded. My energy is shot, and hasn't been anywhere close to where it was, no matter what drugs and supplements I take.

Is the growth of my hair directly related to my strength and energy? Perhaps. With short hair, on the bike, outside, I just feel cold. I can't stand cold air hitting my head. But I look forward to feeling the wind rustling my full head of hair.

My hair is just below my ears now. I only have 2-3 feet to go, now. I'll see you in 5 years.