When Your New Job Description is “Active Treatment”

Active Treatment

At The Pink Fund, we are fully aware that being in active treatment for breast cancer often causes side effects making it literally impossible to work—-that is work the job for which you are paid.  The job which allows you to pay your basic costs of living.  You know, the drill: every 30 days, writing the check to keep a roof over your head, a car in the driveway, the lights turned on,  the place warm in the winter and cool in the summer, insurance premiums paid, food on the table, not to mention those pesky treatment co-pays that stack up and are impossible to ignore.
For many patients the effects cause cognitive impairment, known as chemo brain (the inability to put together a cohesive thought), neuropathy (numbing of fingers and feet) and others as described by Pink Fund blogger Amy Rauch Neilson.
Here Amy describes the demand of her new full time job.
My friend Tabitha took me out to breakfast Friday morning, before my second chemo date of the week. As she was dropping me back off at home, she said, “You know, watching you go through this — it just hit me how much time it takes.”
How true.
My job right now? It’s called Getting Better. And it is indeed a full-time position.
When you’re going through treatments like I am, there’s little time for anything else. One “round” of chemo is three weeks: Two weeks on and one week off. During the two weeks I’m “on,” I am at the hospital three days a week.
Mondays are for blood draws and appointments with my oncologist. Tuesdays, the infusion of three chemotherapy drugs means I will be at the hospital from about 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. Fridays, I have just a single infusion, so if I’m lucky, I’m outta there by 3:30 — just in time to beat rush hour traffic.
There’s travel time, which is about an hour each way from my house to the hospital. God bless all the people who have stepped up to drive me to and fro, and sit with me in the infusion center.
There’s recovery time. I’m really sick after the Tuesday infusions. It’s straight to bed after I get home as I’ll be battling flu-like symptoms, from body aches to chills and cold sweats. I sleep in our guest room on Tuesday nights because I’m so miserable I don’t want to be near anyone.
By Wednesday morning, I’m usually able to function pretty well and can work about a half day. Same for Thursdays — although sometimes, I can squeeze in a six-hour work day.
Fridays I usually feel quite good, but I need to leave for chemo by Noon, so that leaves just a half-day to work. Though Friday’s infusion is not as brutal as Tuesday’s, I’m still not able to do much besides sit on the couch for a little while when I get home, then head off for an early bedtime.
During my week off of chemo, my schedule is a lot more “normal.” I am able to put in more hours of work, but I also have lots of catching up to do from the previous two weeks. And, to be blunt, I really want to spend the time I’m feeling well with my family — not working.
So, being in active treatment for cancer means it’s hard to work for a living not just because I don’t feel well a lot of the time, but also because there simply isn’t much time leftover for working.
And this is why going through cancer treatment is a double-whammy of a financial hardship.
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