Difficult Choices: Bladder Cancer & Career Goals
Since my diagnosis, I’ve had to make so many difficult choices. Thankfully, these choices have been limited to just what is best for my health. What type of surgery to have, what kind of treatment to pursue, where to be treated, the type of ostomy supplies to use. The scope has been narrowed to this one place and the choices, although difficult, have really only impacted this singular part of my life.
Going back to work
That has changed recently as I’ve found myself almost a year back to work full time. I returned to work in early January 2020. Having worked from home during the initial shutdowns of the pandemic and then returning full-time to the office when our agency reopened, I had enough going on to distract me from the inevitable difficult choice I knew was coming.
My career was on the rise before my diagnosis
But let’s rewind to February 2019, pre-diagnosis. At 28, I was the youngest person in our office and I was making big waves in our agency. I had just finished heading the fundraising efforts of a multimillion-dollar event that benefitted wildlife conservation. I was working on launching an agency-wide training initiative, planning a statewide conference, and generally rising as a leader within my office. I was on top of my game and getting some pretty wonderful recognition for it. Ultimately, I had hopes of going for a major promotion or job shift by my birthday later in the year. This all came to a screeching halt when my health failed rapidly. I received my devastating diagnosis and needed to take 6 months of leave to recover from surgery and figure out how to get my cancer under control.
I knew when I came back that things would be slow to return to “normal,” if they ever would. The pandemic certainly made that return to normal even slower. What I didn’t anticipate was finding myself stuck. In 2 months, I will turn 30 and I feel as if I am in my retirement job. It's that job that is easy and you stay in for the benefits. Because of my years here and prior performance, I’ve earned a certain status that allows me flexibility in my schedule so I can go to treatments and appointments when necessary. The insurance is affordable and covers pretty much everything. The pay is ok (don’t we all wish we earned more?). But I am bored and stuck.
The need for flexibility and quality health insurance
Because there is no succession track for my current job, I would need to shift to something different within our agency to promote, or go somewhere else. Pre-cancer me would do that in a heartbeat. I’ve never been one to be afraid to try something new, and proving myself worthy has always been a point of excitement for me. But now I have a preexisting condition. I have a treatment and scan schedule to follow. I have medical needs that come with a cost. I am afraid to leave the career that feels so unsatisfying because I have benefits and flexibility here.
The risks of taking a new job with bladder cancer
I would need to heavily research the health insurance at any prospective new job to make sure my doctor accepts it and that the deductible wouldn’t cripple me. I would have to divulge to complete strangers a degree of my health and personal life that I don’t tend to blurt out. I would need to tell a brand new boss “hey, every third Friday I need to be off for cancer treatment and there will be doctor’s appointments scattered here and there”. How do I make demands like that where I’m the new kid on the block?
Bladder cancer is chipping away at my professional dreams
I find myself so frustrated that at thirty I feel like I’m giving up my professional dreams and aspirations because of this disease. It is truly a testament to how invasive cancer is into your life. Cancer has taken my body, my physical health, my mental health, my finances, and is eroding dreams I had before all of this happened. This is the part of being a young adult with cancer that people don’t talk about. There are so many young women and men who were just getting started on their dreams that have now needed to give them up because of cancer.
Professional satisfaction or security?
It is time to make yet another difficult choice: do I give up professional satisfaction to keep my flexibility and insurance or do I pursue my career goals and take on the risk of starting somewhere new with all my baggage.