How Bladder Cancer Changed My Work Life
If you had told me 5 years ago that my life would look like it does at this moment - I would have thought you were out of your mind. Five years ago was just before I was diagnosed. I was working in an office with a team I adored and volunteering with my high school alma mater frequently. Little did I know that bladder cancer was about to change my entire work life.
I had already been having urinary issues but was repeatedly led to believe that it was just part of aging. I was diagnosed with UTIs, or possibly, bladder infections. Infections when I had never had urinary infections before. I was having some nocturnal accidents and frequently going to the bathroom. I have always been a big water drinker. I was led to believe that it was all just part of getting older. I was told I was probably just headed into menopause.
The pain had been increasing, and I was extremely sleep-deprived. Finally, after going to the emergency room, doubled over in pain, I hit a breaking point.
A Physician's Assistant (PA) was sent in to discharge me once again with a plethora of medications. No referral. Just meds. I burst into tears.
She realized that I was distressed and asked why I was having such an over-the-top reaction. Unfortunately, that is the point from which everything seemed to implode.
Cancer + life = change
A few weeks later, I received my diagnosis. I ended up being off work for treatment for about 8 months.
When I returned to work, nothing seemed to fit right. Unfortunately, I was only off work long enough to get treatment— no time actually physically to recover from all that I endured. In fact, I was released from a rehab facility on a Friday, and I returned to work that Monday for fear of losing my position. I could not even fathom trying to pay bills and look for a job while still recovering.
Back to work exhaustion and no rest
I was constantly exhausted with no energy or endurance. Very little strength was to be had. Staffing changed. Despite communicating that I was not back to my previous speed, I was given more responsibilities.
I could not keep up with everything. Many evenings and weekends were spent working, often without pay, just to keep my head above water. It left me with zero time and energy to do anything else but work and sleep. I was increasingly becoming dissatisfied. However, I needed the insurance. I mean, I just had cancer, for crying out loud!
Eventually, I started looking around for jobs. Nothing I found fit anything I wanted to do with the amount of energy I had and the physical limitations I had while still healing physically. The search continued.
Bladder cancer work life shifts
During the time I was going through treatment, BladderCancer.net launched. A few short months later, I found it while looking for more information and support, especially survivorship issues. Eventually, one of the leads reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in sharing my story. (Shout out to former Community Lead, Sarah!)
YES! I immediately agreed!
That opportunity eventually led to other opportunities, which led to me making a complete transition to being a writer and patient advocate/leader full time. I am gradually building my life around this.
Transitioning to a new work life
Opportunities to write, moderate, speak at virtual conferences, participate in patient boards, and more have presented themselves to me. Growing up, I always loved writing and was involved in various advocacy efforts, so it was not a far stretch for me to make the transition. I am not quite where I want to be financially quite yet. Still, I am paying bills and have a little extra for entertainment.
I am less stressed and much happier. My days are scheduled around what I need to do, not according to someone else's schedule. If I'm in pain or too tired, I rest. If I'm feeling blocked or anxious, I can go for a walk, exercise, or clean for a bit. I do not have to worry about not being cleared to take off for any medical appointments.
Gratitude for this new chapter
I never thought that I would enjoy working for myself from home, but it has been completely fulfilling. I can take care of my personal needs, collaborate with multiple organizations, and get paid to do things that I love to do. For this, I am grateful.
Bladder cancer has changed my life in a multitude of ways. Many you would suspect. This is one unexpected area, though. Yet, it also proves that change can be good. Really good! Would you like to talk to others in the bladder cancer community about work-life post-bladder cancer? Reach out in our forums
Have you talked to your doctor about navigating sex with bladder cancer?