Working with Cancer


Meet Randy Chalfant- husband of nearly four decades, father of two, and cancer survivor. Randy is presently battling metastatic colorectal cancer and is passionate about patient’s rights. We invite you to read Randy’s blog and learn more about how you can be your own advocate.

“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” -William Ward

Taking care of yourself when you have cancer is the number one concern. You, your family, friends and colleagues will share that priority. In the beginning of the cancer journey there will be a lot of intellectual and emotional capital paid to understanding all that is going on and what you must do. If you are working, dealing with medical issues alone is a major distraction from work priorities. When treatment begins, there can be any number of additional distractions; which can include actual debility.

Treatment and work do not consume all of your time however. There is plenty of time to let your imagination wander off into fearful places you really shouldn’t allow. There are many things to get a positive set of things moving when battling cancer, but unchecked fear is not one of them. It seems that a large part to feeling normal has to do with doing things that are normal. You may not have ever really considered work to be part of the food that keeps your psyche nourished; yet it is a place that you spend a large share of your life. Hopefully you have managed to find a role that you actually enjoy. Especially in those cases, working while moving down the cancer journey can really help.

I found working actually distracted me from how I was feeling. I would get more or less mentally lost from cancer in the normal execution of my job. I really appreciated how that helped me to not focus on the way I was feeling from cancer and chemo. It was also reassuring to my family, friends and colleagues, who all suffer from fear for your well-being.

All that sounds brave, but there are some practical realities to consider as well. Cancer and treatment will produce fatigue like nothing you have previously experienced. In addition to that, the fog of treatment known as chemo-brain is a real and performance debilitating effect.

However, you can figure that out, and learn to work around it. For instance, I would never schedule conference calls while I was being infused. I worked the schedule so that infusion would start on Wednesday, with the pump coming off on Friday. The roller-coaster slide would start as soon as the pump came off, I was down and out Saturday and Sunday, but could steel-up to work again by Monday. My chemo treatments were every two weeks, so from that Monday until chemo Wednesday was seven working days.

I communicated what I needed to work and deal with treatment, and found that everyone I worked with knocked themselves out to accommodate what I needed to hang in there. People are so amazingly good and generous. If you are open and communicate what’s going on, they will just bend over backwards to help you.
You may have cancer. If you do, remember you don’t have a Superman suit. You will be sick, and you will be tired. You just absolutely have to take care of yourself and getting plenty of rest is an essential component to your health in a very challenging set of circumstances. If you need rest, knock off. Take a nap. Go to bed early, eat well, take you medicine, and stay positive!

There is probably no greater single influence in you health than staying positive. Doing things that bring you joy can help to feed that strong positive mental strength you need. Working can be a part of that. Look for the joy you get out of work. It will amaze people around you that you are able to do so much and get your job done so well.

Remember, there is no credit for suffering through cancer, but there is for working through it with your head held high.

If you or a loved one need help with cancer related issues, please contact LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Services. We are here to help.

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