I’ve joked that I need to make cancer cards — literally business cards that list my type of breast cancer.
I can’t remember all the specifics without looking at my notes. I memorized my type of cancer — invasive lobular, left breast — immediately, but after some tests that further identified my condition, I lost the urge to know more.
The one other thing I remember hearing, in a room after a random doctor who was tasked with delivering the diagnosis, was the nurse navigator telling me, “good news. It’s low grade.”
I took her word for it.
So, for months, when asked about my cancer, I would say, “invasive lobular, left breast, low grade.” Little did I know that what I didn’t memorize would set the course for my treatment and my future.
I’m still thinking about those business cards. I’m post-chemo, past a lumpectomy and double mastectomy, facing a year of medication and a lifetime of medical surveillance. I might be able to say I had breast cancer, but right now, breast cancer has me around for a while, whether I like it or not.
Shortly after my diagnosis i decided I needed to handle this like a project. Manage my job responsibility between chemo sessions. Secure the supply chain that would help me keep my hair after four months of treatments. Keep track of appointments, test results and paperwork. Weigh the ROI of support groups, surgical options and, most importantly, revealing myself as a patient of breast cancer.
This required research, leadership, creativity, a team and support systems. As an editor, I’ve enlisted all these qualities while tackling editorial projects for the newspaper, and later, the business news website that lured me away in 2015.
There’s plenty written to help women facing other workplace disruptions — pregnancy, motherhood and caregiving.
But what about working with cancer? I wasn’t finding much in terms of practical advice, stories from other women in similar situations, and tips to deal with it.
I decided on a plan that would allow me to work as much as I could. I would try to keep my hair through chemo. I would find ways to keep up my fitness level through my treatment.
And I would listen to others going through similar journeys (the last time I’ll use this word) to help others decide how they would proceed.
I was going to play the cancer card my way.