It is amazing. From the moment I was diagnosed with my cancer, I could feel the resentment from my co-workers. Think about it. When we hear of someone having cancer we think, “aw, poor guy” or “why her” and most likely some other stereotypical responses. But for some reason, from co-workers, unless there has been some sort of life-time bond, will most likely feel resentment. My co-workers in 1988 were not different. I did my best to minimize my time lost from work for diagnostics and treatments. In fact, in nine months of chemo, I missed a total of eighteen hours of work. That’s right. I missed the last hour of work, two days a month. And my co-workers were jealous of me for it.
If I need to be fair, because I really did not talk about what I was going through. I did not want anyone to know what it felt like that I was going through. When I had good days, no one would know any different, and if it was a bad day, I did all I could to hide it. I did not want to be any more of a burden to them, than what I was. But that was not good enough. The jealous attacks were relentless and would eventually cost me any shot of promotability, because I “could not get along with my co-workers.”
As I underwent all of my treatments, I risked exposing myself to everything that these people brought into work with my immune system being run down from the chemotherapy. Simple colds would carry extra danger to me the least of which delaying my treatments if I got sick. The stress from the fractured relationships also were difficult to tolerate. Given the choice, I do not think I would work while undergoing treatments again. It was not worth it to me, and it made no difference to them if I was there or not.
Over the next many years, I had been fortunate not to have any other major events to require any kind of lengthy absence.
But nearly twenty years later, that same ugly behavior would show up. After the initial shock that I had emergency heart surgery, a little over a week later, co-workers had been babbling about me at work. It seems that I was spotted walking in public. Imagine the gaul that I had, walking around my block, getting the exercise that I was ordered to do. Forget the fact that I had to stop at the end of each street as I went around the block. Word got back to work that I looked totally okay and healthy. I was spotted in the drive-thru of a Dunkin Donuts by a supervisor after dropping my wife off at work and kids off at school. It did not matter that we only had one car at the time, and I had follow-up doctor appointments and cardiac rehab to get to, but I was reported to be out joyriding.
When I returned back to work following the heart surgery, which I had been threatened by my employer with termination, because even though the doctor wanted me out six months, my employer decided I could go back in three, I convinced my doctor to release me. And she did so, with some stipulations. With the ADA (Americans With Disability Act) to support me, there would be some restrictions on what I would be able to do, which because of the size of my employer, they would have to accomodate. Also, because we do not park on plant site, my doctor had given me a temporary handicap placard for parking. I was still getting short of breath, and with the warmer more humid weather coming, this was going to be an issue. The first day back at work, someone complained to management that I had been parking in the handicap stall, and if I was not better, then what was I doing back at work. Now realize, this is the same person complaining about me being out of work.
Four years later, I am still dodging these horrible jabs from my co-workers. I have had a couple more issues pop up, and then of course there are the many doctor appointments that I have. But hey, I am not on social security or unemployment right? That should be an admirable thing right? HELL NO! Each day I go into work, risking my health being exposed to who knows what just because someone will not call in sick. And really, I have had no real absentee issues except for a couple of bouts with pneumonia and sepsis, other than my appointments. I still am a fairly reliable employee to show up for work.
But my co-workers know something is wrong with me. I do not discuss anything at work anymore. But they sense it. And for that reason, I appear to be a threat to them. I have wathced them chase several people from my department and into retirement. One co-worker who had MS was forced out because he could no longer handle the harrassment and sabotage from my co-workers. I am a little more thick-headed, but I definitely allow my stress and blood pressure go to heights that no one should endure, especiallyl when they are on medication for blood pressure and have cardiac issues.
Would I work through treatments or rush back to work, just to make my co-workers happy (which I know would not)? Or would I be better off staying at home? Taking the time to heal and recover? I would have to sacrifice everything I have worked for, but my job is coming at the risk of my daughters losing their dad, and my wife her husband. My last bout with pneumonia, was double pneumonia. And more than a month later, I am still dealing with its effects. But tomorrow will be my eighth straight day working, with another five to go before the possibility of a day off. And for what? To shut my co-workers up?