Despite it being seven years since I have been unable to work regularly, I still find it strange to be able to take trips away at short notice. This was the third one I have done recently and am beginning to enjoy life again. I don’t feel quite up to the long foreign trips just yet, but I am certainly enjoying that ‘freedom’ feeling. There are still many restrictions on my life but it seems that psychologically some of my old confidence is returning, I imagine, prompted by my slowly improving health.
We have spent a few days away with our grandchildren on the English south coast, and although it was both physically and emotionally draining, it was fabulously refreshing. My cancer work was taking a back seat despite some very important personal developments, but this time I didn’t feel guilty! I somehow felt empowered by telling people I couldn’t deal with anything for a few days. Of course people will wait if they want something, and it’s what my wife has been telling me for ages!
My recent trips away have enabled me to re evaluate my own worth in the work I currently do. I have narrowed my focus dramatically in terms of how I spend my time and I am feeling much better for it. I now have many high value projects to be involved with, and I have cut away much of the time wasting work that sapped my emotional energy too. It is starting to seem that after all this time I can see clearly the direction that I want my new life to take. Helping people affected by cancer is still my crusade but I can finally see a way of fulfilling my own requirements too, without a constant feeling of frustration.
So my subject this week is the importance of work in our lives. Personally I was consumed by mine. Being self employed and paid by results, I was forever chasing new business. I thrived in that harsh environment, and I felt a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I was successful. Possibly I let work dictate too much, but that is me really. My wife understands how motivated I am, and supported me throughout. When I was told that it would be at least a year before I could think about work again, I started to consider the positives. Time at home, reading the paper, listening to music and generally taking it easy. But whoever said “be careful what you wish for,” hit the nail on the head!
After a few weeks the novelty had worn off, and I was getting under my wife’s feet. As my treatment increased I became less able to do things and as time moved rapidly, my emotional well being started to change. My feeling of self worth disappeared, and I felt I was treading water in my own life. I had been given a second shot at life, but what was I going to do with it, being in such poor shape?
I was very quickly missing the routine of work. The interaction with others and achievements gained, seemed vital ingredients to my life. The earning potential and salary I felt was a true indicator of my worth, so as there was no money coming in, you can draw your own conclusions as to how I was feeling. When I finally understood that I would never be able to work regularly again,it felt almost as bad as when I received my original prognosis, absolutely life changing.
The financial issue is a massive one for all of us, but in this piece I want to concentrate on the psychological and emotional importance of work. Of course if you are physically unable to continue with your work that is one matter. But many people recover, and cannot reach the levels that they previously had. Physically or emotionally they are unable to continue in their old role, I see this case much more frequently now. Of course there are many understanding employers, who do their best, but I rarely see people returning to their original roles and working longer term after a cancer diagnosis.
My journey into the cancer world felt a natural path to take, and I took to it like a duck to water, and now it is as full time as I want it to be. It has become almost a career but without pay, so I’m not sure how clever that is though? But I have a purpose and value once again, so I feel a little better about things. I get enormous satisfaction from what I do and am also achieving things too, so apart from lack of salary my working life is finally improving.
There are times when I think of walking away from all my work, as I am always wondering if it maybe better for me personally to come away from the emotional involvement of cancer, for the benefit of my own health. But then I wonder what I would do to fill that void of work, and I’m not sure I have energy to start afresh. Having goals and achievements has been a massive part in my survival I feel, and much as I have given a lot to the cancer world, I also continue to receive positive things back too! I have asked my Consultant, and he says physically I should slow down but psychologically work is so important to me he couldn’t tell me to stop.
I have been lucky in several ways, and there are many people out there who are trying desperately to find a role that can suit their new situation, after treatment. We must try harder to find ways of helping people back to work after cancer, as survivorship is becoming such an important issue. How have you been affected regarding your work? Please feel free to share your experience.