Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

To Work Or Not Work (During Diagnosis/Treatments)

As if a cancer patient does not have enough on their minds, fighting for their lives, another reality must be faced for many, making a decision to work during the rest of their diagnostic process and treatment phases, and how soon to return to work once treatment is done.

There is no easy answer to this situation. It really depends on the individual and the working conditions that exist. For me, I knew of only one way to get myself through my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and that was to work. It is all I knew, how I was raised. If I was able to stand, I was at work.

From beginning to end, I only missed one month of work, and that was to recover from one of the diagnostic procedures that had been done, the staging laparotomy (be glad you have PET scans today). But through all of my treatments, both radiation and chemotherapy, I missed only the appointment times.

I needed to be at work, rather than sitting at home, with my mind unoccupied. But as firm as I was with that, by the end of my treatments, I had felt completely different. My work environment was extremely stressful, and to be honest, I blame my work environment for triggering my Hodgkin’s. Stress drives down your immune system. I firmly believe that. But as my treatments went on, so did the insensitivity and personal attacks by my co-workers who felt slighted, that perhaps I was being given special favors, “just because I had cancer.”

In my life, this was just the first of more than a handful of times, when I let the way I was raised, determine whether or not I would work. And though I say every time, I would have not worked during that illness, I know full well, I will be right there at the next day. My history speaks for itself.

Hodgkin’s Disease = diagnosis to end of treatments, 30 days of work missed for recovery from surgery for staging laparotomy

Heart Bypass = courtesy of late side effects from my treatments, missed 3 months of work, returned 3 months ahead of schedule to the full work load plus overtime

Septic Pneumonia = 3 days, wanted to return to work, doctor ordered me out another two weeks (not my fault I missed that time). Returned to full work schedule and overtime.

Double Pneumonia = same as above

And there are another handful of incidents, that I literally crawled into work, in extreme pain, only to be dragged out of work, to the emergency room.

Truth be told… I am a fool for subjecting myself to these kinds of efforts. But I feel a responsibility for bringing in a paycheck. But these days, my past stubbornness has brought forth its own side effects, rather aggravated the late developing side effects from my treatments. I can no longer go full tilt anymore, my body over recent years has finally rejected my “work at all costs” performance.

It is bad enough working 50-60 hours a week, and years ago operating a very successful disc jockey service. But with various looming cardiac and pulmonary issues, muscular and spinal degeneration issues, all courtesy of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and treatment side effects, I can only work at about 75% of what once used to be 125%.

There are other risk factors to have been considered with working during treatments. And this is a big one. Many treatments drive down an immune system, which of course leaves a patient susceptible to the co-workers who show up to work sneezing and coughing their germs all over.

So, I say, as always, had I to do it all over again, I would not have worked during my Hodgkin’s, or rushed to get back from my other issues. But then again, I am sure I would be right back at work.

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