After closure comes the new start. For me this was going back to work.
In Luxembourg, they have a progressive return to work program. It means that while you’re still on sick leave, you go back to work part time and build up at your own pace until you’re ready for full time work.
I knew it was coming and I had been panicking. I’ve been freaking out about if chemotherapy had had a lasting impact on my mental ability, my stamina and also my interest in going back to the work that I do.
I’m a Senior Finance Analyst at Amazon, it’s high powered, dynamic, stressful and fun. They hire people who thrive in this kind of environment, but that means we can also let it become all-consuming. One of the things that illness showed me, is that I need more balance in my life and one of the things that therapy showed me is that work is a huge part of who I am. Work challenges me, gives me stimulation, status and identity, and of course the salary and visa to live where and how I want to. But how to balance these two needs and how to set boundaries has been on my mind a lot.
In the fifteen months that I’ve been away, things have changed radically at work. We have a new office, every single member of my team is new and I have a new manager. As though going back wasn’t going to be hard enough, I was going back to my “old job” but everything was going to be different.
Fortunately my new manager is someone I’ve worked with before, but I didn’t sleep the night before going in to meet him. I spent an hour with him and half an hour with IT getting my laptop working again, and I felt battered. My brain was pounding and my stress levels were off the charts. All I could think was: I’m so not ready for this.
The meeting was a delicate dance of wanting to be enthusiastic about going back to work, but also making it clear that I was still in recovery. My manager was awesome. It was such a relief when he understood my concerns and supported me to manage it as best suited me.
My first week back, I worked two half days and it was excruciating. It was physically challenging to sit at a desk. It was frustrating trying to remember things that I used to know. It was exhausting trying to act confident when I was so unsure of myself. It was emotionally draining having people ask me how I was doing. It was nerve-wracking to be in a large space with so many people, worrying about how my immune system would handle the germs. But it was also a joy to get up, get dressed and go into a professional environment and start using my brain again.
I stressed about how I would present myself post-mastectomy. I don’t wear a prosthesis and I don’t want to, but I worried about people looking and judging. No fear. Amazonians are more oblivious than the rest of the world about things like physical appearance. Even though others may not notice, I have found that my posture deteriorates if I wear something that makes me too aware of it.
Each week has been slightly better than the previous. Slowly, instead of focusing on what I can’t remember or do, I’m remembering what my strengths are and to ask for help when I need it, it takes maturity for sure to be able to do that. My stamina and interest is increasing.
My job is hugely important to me, giving me a sense of self, purpose and accomplishment, and I’m so happy to be back there, even though it can be overwhelming.
I have two weeks until I’m back full time and I’m quite stressed about that, but I’m also putting processes in place to manage it. It will be good.
…And just before I posted this, coronavirus shut down the office. Not the best return to work plan ever…
Distance swum since last post: 3.6km
Distance swum to date: 50.2km
Distance to go: 149.8km