what is it people don’t understand about breast cancer changing a person?

Greetings faithful readers.  As you all know a couple of months ago I decided my health was more important than a job in an industry that is incredibly stressful.   I have never spoken about my job much, because face it,  if you were not a compliance officer or worked in a compliance department it would probably bore the tears out of you.  It’s not glamorous.  There are no Hollywood-esque “Working Girl” moments with a Harrison Ford across the hall.   In the end when compared to your life, it’s just a job, and as is the case with most women who have had breast cancer if they are honest with themselves, having breast cancer changes you. And those changes often include significant life changes.

After my diagnosis, surgery, and those seven delightful weeks of radiation I really began to think about what was important.  And I also found I could no longer process the stress related to the job the way I used to.  So I made a conscious decision to further change my life to ensure my life is long.  I resigned my job.  Not an easy decision.  But  I did it.  And here I am almost two months later, and I know I made the right decision for me.

Once you have had breast cancer, or any kind of cancer, you find yourself looking at your own mortality.  I was speaking to someone today who is a survivor and she said it made her realize when she was diagnosed that her life would have an eventual end point.  Maybe to some of your ears that sounds awful or morbid, but it just is what it is.

So here I am trying to mind my own business and get on with my life, yet my old (work) life, doesn’t want to seem to leave me.   I didn’t write about it before, but a couple of weeks after I resigned my job some of the regulators that were assigned to overseeing my branch of the financial services industry called me on my cell phone after I left  my old company – when compliance officers leave, companies have to file about that – it is a material change to a company in the financial services industry.  Therefore, in a sense, my decision to leave because of breast cancer became a public one of sorts.   Good thing I decided from jump to be open about my breast cancer, right?

Anyway, I can’t say I didn’t expect the call, nor is it completely out of the realm of normal.  It still irritated the crap out of me – one because my cell phone isn’t just out there with directory assistance, and secondly because government has this big brother aspect at times that I find incredibly intrusive and in a sense at times runs contrary to the freedoms our founding fathers bled for two hundred some odd years ago.

I told them yes, I really did have breast cancer, really was treated for breast cancer,  and yes having breast cancer really did motivate me to look at my life and make changes.  I thought that was the end of it.

Until today when a reporter called me on my cell phone. (Yes, my increasingly popular cell phone number.)

Now I know a lot of members of the media (mostly local and regional), but this is not someone with whom any of my contacts interact, nor is it someone I know or ever reached out to. It’s someone who I have read in the past, but that is about it.

This was  a very pleasant voiced person, working on a story about my part of the financial services industry. They were calling to inquire into  what it was like doing my job, why I left.   And oh yes, I had kind of been backgrounded I think before the call was placed because they knew I was a blogger, etc.  And remarked how I had never really talked about my job as a compliance officer, or my now former industry.   Well  wouldn’t that be like lawyers and doctors blogging about their patients/clients by name or something?  Why would you do that?

So I went through the breast cancer of it all again.

Maybe leaving my job because of breast cancer took chutzpah, but you know what?  I don’t want unmanageable stress levels.  Stress kills.  I want to live my life, my way.  And I am not the first woman to do this.

At the end of the day, maybe it takes another survivor to understand the desire to change aspects of your life after a life altering disease that also disfigures your breasts, but I really wish more did understand.   And respect it.

So I hope it’s all cleared up now, because I am tired of this.  I want to live my life and enjoy it.  I want to do something cool.  If you are calling me to offer me a dream job like a gallery showing of my photographs or my own column in a magazine or newspaper, that’s wonderful.    Otherwise, the reason I decided to change my life a couple of months ago isn’t going to change.  I am a breast cancer survivor.  I have had breast cancer.   Once you utter either one of those sentences you are already different.  It just is.

As an aside,  April 28th is the 1st anniversary of my diagnosis.

Final note?  According to snopes.com citrus fruits may potentially harbor anti-cancer properties.  So maybe there is more truth than not to if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Over and out.

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About carla

Writer, blogger, photographer, breast cancer survivor. I write about whatever strikes my fancy as I meander through life.
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7 Responses to what is it people don’t understand about breast cancer changing a person?

  1. Yes, it does change us. To the core and in ways that only those who’ve been through it can fully understand. Good for you for recognizing that your job was too stressful and for chucking it. That takes courage. Good for you for living life and looking after yourself.

  2. I have always preferred to open a bottle of vodka and drink until the lemons are gone, but in light of my (forced) new healthy lifestyle I’m going to give that lemonade thing a try 😉

  3. pazlo says:

    Hi:

    Normally one might use the word “congratulations” on a milestone. I have no idea what the right word is, but the one-year mark is a milestone. Maybe “yay” or “continued good fortune”. Maybe “yippee ki yay” or simply God bless you.
    A quick blurb on the other point (this is an area of relative expertise at work for me). Sure, there may be notifications required due to the vacating of your position at work, but between employment law, FMLA and our dear friend HIPPA, you have a lot of protection for your privacy.
    Perhaps if there are any more calls (or maybe just to shake them up), your fourth word should be “attorney”, and the fifth “goodbye”. A call to your former employer’s HR department regarding these contacts is appropriate, and should light some fires. If it doesn’t, I recommend reporting it to an authority if it’s a real concern to you.

    Facing mortality 101:

    Richard Bach, in his book “Illusions” (sorry, can’t get underscore to work) gives us what I call a zen lesson.
    “You are never given a problem that doesn’t have a gift for you in its hands.” (the rest of the quote is “You may have to work for it, however.”)
    There may be a lot of other adjectives one could use, but truly understanding, facing and accepting our own mortality is a powerful thing. It is true clarity in so many ways, and it’s unfortunate that so many people must discern this at a time in their lives when this revelation, this understanding, is surrounded by or overwhelmed by other circumstances.
    It is a simple truth, yet elusive to so many. It is a fine and liberating thing when fully realized, which can help us to live our lives here on earth stretching for the great potential that we each have within us. All these days, past, present and future, however they are numbered, are each precious and fleeting. From my armchair zen: Our galaxy is hurtling through space on a collison course with another galaxy at the rate of 600 kilometers a second. From a cosmic perspective, every moment is good fortune.

    Peace be with you.

    Scott

  4. pazlo says:

    Hi:

    Normally one would use the word “congratulations” at a milestone. I don’t know what the right word is, but the one-year mark is a milestone. Maybe “Yay”, or “here’s to you” or maybe “Yippee KiYay!”, or maybe simply God bless you.

    A quick blurb on the former employer note (this is an area of semi-expertise in compliance at work for me). Sure, the vacating of the position may require some reporting, but you have a lot of protection for your privacy. Employment law, the FMLA and our dear friend HIPPA have a lot to say about this subject. Perhaps if you receive more calls (or maybe just to shake ’em up!), your fourth word should be “attorney” and your fifth “goodbye”. A call to your former employer’s HR department (better yet- a letter, maybe certified mail) should light some fires. If not, you might want to contact someone like the DOL if it continues to be a concern.

    Facing mortality 101:

    In his book “Illusions” (sorry, can’t get underscore to work), Richard Bach writes:
    “You are never given a problem that doesn’t have a gift for you in its hands.” (the rest of the quote is “You may have to work for it however.”)
    Somehow, people live, sometimes their entire lives, in a certain kind of denial that we each must have an end date. It’s unfortunate that many people discern this realization, this revelation, at a time in their lives compounded by other overwhelming factors and situations. To truly know and comprehend that our days are finite can be liberating in its way. To consciously and continually embrace the fact that each of these days is precious is a valuable and powerful piece of knowledge. One that can help us experience and appreciate our time here on earth, one that can inspire us to try to live up to the potential of all that life, the world, humanity and we ourselves are capable of. From my armchair zen: We live in a galaxy that is on a collision course with another galaxy, hurtling through space at 600 kilometers per second. To me, every moment is good fortune.

    Peace be with you.

    Scott

    • Hi Scott. The company I worked for was too small for FMLA, but it is not they who sent these folks to me. They came on their own. I would say how did the Securities and Exchange Commission get my cell phone number, but they are the government. I can’t help but wonder if that is where the reporter got it? And did the SEC overstep by calling me on my cell phone after I left even if I wasn’t surprised to get the call? And when they called it was a conference call – they had about 4 or 5 people on the line. And all over me resigning for health reasons? Sheesh I am but one small woman in a really LARGE industry so I can’t help but wonder if this is what they do for all the girls? But well, then I think, these are the same people who under Dodd-Frank added an employee look back requirement which is fine except for one thing—unless your former employees put it out there where they have gone or you can find them via public searches like Google or LinkedIn, how do you find former employees short of violating their privacy? How many people do you know that would sign an extended release allowing themselves to be background checked at will for five years post employment? Again, I chose to be open about my breast cancer and it was a major deciding factor in the end with my resigning. I just find it amusing that I leave something to reduce my stress and to keeping myself cancer-free along with wanting to enjoy being a step-mother in training and it is like some just can’t accept that. Good lord, I am so much happier- and my BP is down! (And so are my doctors, who truthfully BEFORE I had breast cancer told me that my industry was becoming toxic to my health – when I told them I was resigning they were REALLY happy) I don’t know what the future holds for me job-wise, but the industry I was in was no longer for me. It is just the way of the world – think – what was exciting and fun 20 years ago, post breast cancer in middle age is not the same. A lot of women can’t do what I have done post-breast cancer. I am just lucky I can.

  5. Pingback: 15 minutes | ihavebreastcancerblog

  6. debby3768 says:

    Post cancer, I have begun college, and will graduate next month. I’ve been in my dream home for 6 months now. We are planning a trip to Australia. All those things we meant to do? Well. We’re doing ’em. Now.

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