When I was on the job hunt, I struggled at every interview whether I should speak up and say that I may or may not be in the hospital a lot – or that during flu season I could get really sick – or if I should give the real answer to the “What have you been doing the past year?” question… was I really ready to blurt out “cancer”?
Even though I’ve landed a job, I still constantly struggle with who to tell in the office. It’s been such a huge part of my life – it is my life – that it creeps in everywhere, whether I want it to or not.
At support group last week, this exact topic came up: who to disclose to and when. The problem with sharing that you’ve had cancer, or are in treatment, or currently in the fight is that most people start treating you differently. Not all people, but between the ten of us that were there, it seemed to be the average response that most people didn’t know what to say – and things usually got awkward.
It was also a fear that while people might not knowingly treat you different, in the back of your mind you wonder if they are questioning whether you should really be in the position you’re in. While they may not come out and ask if you’re up to the task, they might automatically assume you’re not. Which usually wouldn’t be the case – unless it was asking if I was up to the task of donating a few pints of blood – and while they might be trying to help a gal out, they aren’t. Though certain tasks might be harder for me now, I focus on the fact that I can finish them, and where I was before. It allows me to get that much more pleasure out of completing them than the average person.
Telling someone at work I’m on chemo isn’t me asking for sympathy – it’s sharing a chunk of my life right now. Or it’s explaining why I am missing half of a day, or why I’m on edge (thank you steroids). It’s not because I want you to look at me with sad eyes (I hate sad eyes) and tell me I’m too young to have cancer or that you feel so sorry for me.
Disclosing any medical illness is a very personal thing. Some people may never say anything and others might tell the world. There is no right or proper thing to do – you just need to do what feels right for you. Even if what feels right for you is taking it one conversation at a time.