Thursday, February 6, 2014

On returning to work...

I will apologize for not having written in a while, but I've been either enjoying myself when I get energy, or just really tired - which makes it tough to then decide to sit down and write versus just laying in bed and crashing!  After 3 months post chemo, and almost 6 months out of work, insurance and my doctors thought it might be a good idea for me to go back to work.  My disability coordinator at Aetna came up with a return-to-work plan where I basically would work 4 hours a day for 2 weeks, 6 hours a day for 2 weeks and then go back to full time, my doctor signed it and after more paperwork, phone calls with HR, medical and insurance people - I started working again!

Goofy smile before first day back at work
When I had first considered going back to work after end of treatment, for some reason I thought my oncologist was going to have me return within the first month after chemo and that made me very anxious.  I was worried about my energy levels, the body aches, about my brain fuzziness, and in general how well I would handle spending 8 hours a day at work with all the issues I was still dealing with.  By the time the 3 month mark came around, I was feeling ready to try it.  I was still very concerned about my memoy issues - although I'm happy to report that there's only been a few people whose names I couldn't remember.  I was happily surprised to realize that I hadn't forgotten as much as I had, and also, that it is coming back little by little.  It has been a plus to have so many coworkers stop by to say hi, let me know I was missed and just to check in.  It seems they didn't forget me after all.

I am extremely grateful that I have been able to come back part time, because I am super tired  When I was working 4 hours, I ended up coming home and either napping or at least resting on the couch or my bed until my husband and my little ball of energy got home.  Working 6 hours a day has been EXHAUSTING, partly because I have this cold that I can't seem to kick and the never endless allergies, but mostly because I don't get to rest much during the day.  Even with the temporary access to a closer parking spot, I end up walking a lot at work.  I have to force myself to walk slowly, because if I walk at my usual fast pace I get winded.  However, it is getting better everyday, and I hope that in a month or two this too will seem like a distant memory.  I am looking forward to working out, maybe going back to the gym, or at least being able to go on walks around the neighborhood without feeling like my body is giving up on me.

The other thing that had really concerned about going back to work is that up until now, I've mostly been interested in working the latest problem.  My aunt once described this as liking to be "the hero" or "the firefighter" that is constantly putting out the emergency of the day.  I am thankful that management understood and have given me assignments that are closer to being the big problem that we need fixed by next weeks, or 2 weeks from now - that has given me time to remember how to do and find things without having the pressure I would usually put on myself.

I am also having to keep reminding myself that not every ache means that the cancer is back.  This is such a hard thing to deal with, and I know it is very very common amongst cancer survivors (and I'm sure with their caregivers too!).  The second I complain about pain in my chest, shoulder, or arm, my husband is asking questions like: "Does it feel like nerve pain, like before?", "Where is the chest pain, where the mass was?"  The truth is that it is very difficult to answer those questions.  Some other patients of PMLBCL mention that when they are anxious they feel a chest tightness and the area where the mass used to be hurts.  I think sometimes that area hurts because it is still tender, I did have a nice little surgery that cut all the way almost to my heart so it makes sense it will get sore when I carry my 25-pound daughter a little too long.  Anyway, this too, happens but is something we're learning to live with.  I think I feel the pain/numbness of my fingers getting better - almost like it is traveling down the hand and it is the fingers (especially the tip) that are the most numb right now.  My fingernails and toenails are still very brittle and all are cut as short as possible for now.

Becca after running her first half marathon!!!!!  And look at that sign! (Yes, i got teary-eyed)

And of course, I can't finish the post without talking about my friend Becca's half marathon run!  She represented the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Miami on Superbowl Sunday, after raising over $3,500 for the cause!  I was and am extremely humbled for her initiative, and for all those that donated or supported us along the way.  I might write a separate entry on that, or maybe I'll let her guest write the next blog post.

Since I know you all love seeing the updates, here is another picture of my hair growth - taken on sunday (approximately 15 weeks since end of chemo!)  One of my daughter's good friends at daycare asked me this morning "Why is your hair gray now?"  She's right, while it's not grey in the way aging hair turns - it seems to be a really dark shade of gray right now (definitely not brown or black).  I'm going to let it grow a little more before I visit my stylist for some color. :)

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31 year old navigating life with husband and almost-2-years-old daughter :)