These past two weeks I’ve had a severe cold. Even though I was sick, I decided to go to back to work. But once there, I became irritated and angry. I know I shouldn’t have but there I was, having driven two hours in traffic to get to a meeting on time, and then the meeting turned out to be a waste of time. My colleagues thought so as well and decided to change the approach. But unlike them, I got a bit irritated.
Since I’m working for a government agency, much time is spent in meetings. But I have always tried to focus on results, even more so now that I am doing much better. I keep telling myself that I am not a bureaucrat and that I can really make a difference by making the projects that I work on run smoothly. And when that doesn’t happen, I sometimes get a little upset. Perhaps a bit foolish, but also due to my current health situation. I take medication which causes mood swings – something I have not told my co-workers because I find that very personal and I try to control it as much as possible. In addition to that, I’m also in menopause due to the cancer. Which besides the hot flashes also causes mood swings. And to top that all off, I had a bad cold and headache. Perhaps it would have been better to call in sick like normal people do….
This past week EenVandaag (a tv and news show) presented results of the study about employees with cancer. This study was done together with the NFK – the cancer organization for which I will do volunteer work on this topic.
The results showed that more than 25% of the people who responded lost their job within 2 years of getting cancer. What was interesting is that of the group with cancer, more than 85% were eager to go back to work despite being sick or still suffering the consequences. The study concluded that there is not enough support for (ex-)patients once they go back to work. It is a real shame that despite the intentions, apparently the gap between what is possible and desirable is too big to make it work. Also, cancer patients have a much higher unemployment rate (40% higher) than the rest of the population. It is really hard to find a job once you’ve had cancer.
The real challenge I think, is how to make your ‘work’ work for you. Speaking for myself, a lot has changed for me that makes it difficult or perhaps impossible to work the way I used to. And probably the way I used to work (lots of hours, lots of stress) isn’t good for me or anyone else. The most important difference for me is that I cannot deal with stress anymore. And I have to learn to slow down and not try to prove myself every day. I know I am not the only cancer patient with these issues. I am fortunate though that one of my colleagues understands exactly what I am going through.
At the end of May, the NFK has organized a training for the ambassador volunteers (like myself) to learn how to coach others in this proces. We will be trained to give workshops to employers, HR managers and doctors on how to communicate and work with employees with cancer.
Anyone interested in this topic (who speaks Dutch) is invited to attend the conference Grip op de werkvloer: werken met een chronische ziekte kan! Tuesday June 3 from 15.30-21:00 at Nyenrode, organized by KNMG and NFK.
My next post will be about my trip to the US. On Wednesday, I leave for the US to see my friends in DC and then go to the conference in Philadelpia. I will keep you posted.