Cancer can strike any of us, at any time. Colleague Tracy (pic) gives these 10 tips for handling issues related to discovering cancer, and managing an association. A guest post.
1. When do you tell? I knew I had [breast] cancer after my first surgery, but did not know how bad it was and if it had spread. As a Board of Directors meeting already scheduled, decided to let the Board know at that time – prior to final diagnosis. I needed to let them know that I wouldn't be attending the Leadership Seminar since I would be having more surgery. It wasn’t easy. I’m a very private person and didn’t want to tell anyone, but it might affect my job. I swore them to secrecy.
Then e-mailed close AE friends. I laughed for the first time since getting my diagnosis when association executives Keith [limited hair] offered me hairstyling tips once I lost my hair and Ron [lives distance away] offered to do my grocery shopping. Humor was so important!
After the second surgery, I knew it was isolated - but still had to face chemotherapy and radiation treatments. My Board was amazing. Whatever I needed to do, they told me to do it. Take as much time off as I needed – just get better. They were so understanding and supportive.
2. How to keep working? My oncologist determined right away that I was one of those “type A” personalities. I wanted treatment as soon as possible. As long as my body held up, she would schedule chemo every 2 weeks. I made it through, but did have some of those nasty side effects. I was exhausted, distracted and going bald quickly. In fact, I lost most of my hair in Orlando at the National Convention! I was prepared with a wig. The vast majority of my members had no idea. I never knew what to say when they complimented me on my new hairstyle.
3. Getting things done. I did not take much time off. I thought I could either stay home and feel bad or be distracted by work. Learned to delegate and my staff rose to the occasion. My AE friends were there for me, helping me out whenever I needed something. Yelling at me to take it easy didn’t work, but I knew they cared. I realized our jobs are not life or death. The newsletter went out a couple of days late and not one person complained or even noticed. Committee meetings can be changed. There was no reason to panic or stress about it. Get the important stuff taken care of, delegate and put some things off. It will all work out.
4. When (or if) to tell the membership. Once I was done with treatment and my hair grew back, we had our annual meeting. I asked for time on the agenda. At that time, I told those attending about my battle. I wanted to personally thank my staff and took that opportunity in front of the members. The simple fact that most members never even saw a decrease in services was a tribute to them. They kept me going, made me laugh and took over when needed.
5. You have more support in your life then you would ever imagine. So, was there anything good about this experience? Believe it or not, there was. You never know how many friends you have made until something like this happens. The AE Community, my friends, my family all rallied around me. I still miss my mother coming and cleaning my house every week, but says she's retired from that now that I'm fine!
6. You need to face it. If there is one thing I am very adamant about now is annual breast exams and mammograms. I managed to miss going for a couple of years before I found the lump. I’ll never know if it could have been caught sooner. Sometimes we avoid problems or issues due to the fear of the unknown. One of my best friends just completed her treatment. You will be amazed at how many people have faced cancer and are doing great.
7. You know yourself best. Do what you need to do to get through it. I may have tried to act like superwoman, but I wasn’t. If you need to take time off, take it. Ask for help. If you are concerned about something – get to a doctor.
8. Find humor and laugh every day. When I was chair of the [NAR] AE Institute Committee, my one goal was to have some classes with humor. We take ourselves too seriously. Laughter is the best medicine. Just let go once in awhile.
9. Set goals! Just before going through my surgeries, I had just started going for my RCE designation. I thought I would have to put that on hold. Well, sitting and getting chemo was a great time to study. So in Orlando – while losing my hair and trying to stay awake – I took the exam. I did get my RCE! Take advantage of the opportunities as they arise.
10. Be thankful every day. I find myself slipping back into working too much and putting too much on my plate. My wonderful husband of 25 years (who still makes me laugh) puts the reins on when necessary. Make sure your priorities are straight and sit back every once in awhile to review them. Take time for your family and friends.