I’m Baaackkkk!

I’ve been quiet here for a few months. I’m more than a little aware of how long it’s been since I last wrote anything. See, I just could not bring myself to write. I was afraid of how I would be perceived, I was afraid of how it would affect my job prospects, I was just plain afraid.

But, seeing as how I have spent gobs of money on resume rewrites, on AI tools, and on coaching yet I still have yet to get even a screening call (I’ve been out of work since August 8, 2023) from any of my applications, I figure I have nothing to lose from sharing my 2023 Q4 adventure. (Is that anger and frustration you hear? Yes, yes it is). So this is my catch-you-up post. Not gonna have anything very insightful or mind-bending today, I’ll save that for other posts.

I won’t go into all the sordid details of my last few months because they’re elsewhere on the intarwebs (I have a Caring Bridge site if you’re interested in details – please donate to them, they do good work), but I’ll give you the high level update. Also, I’m sharing this because others have shared their journeys, and they helped me. I can only hope that my posting this might save someone else.

On September 13, 2023 I went for my yearly mammogram (if you don’t have yearly checkups on all your important parts, you really should). I have had to go for a second ultrasound screening every year for the past – at least – 15 years. It’s just how my body is designed. This time I went in and the doctor saw something suspicious. Not my usual cyst, but something else that came and went depending on how she held the tool. She recommended a biopsy for the next week.

Still assuming it was all going to be just another exercise in poking and prodding, I went for the biopsy. I wasn’t worried. What could possibly go wrong? She sounded unsure of what she saw so that had to work out in my favor, right?

On October 5 I got the call that I had been diagnosed with Estrogen Positive Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. That is a LOT of big scary words that mean a cancerous tumor broke through the wall of a lobe in my breast and that the tumor is fed by estrogen. Still scary sounding, right? The explanation I got after the definition was this: I had a very very small (.5cm) tumor in my left breast at 12:00 that was extremely slow growing and fed by estrogen. The summary statement was “if you have to have a breast cancer, this is the kind to get – it is easily curable.”

While I should have been put at east by that (and I guess I was a little) I still hung up the phone feeling numb…a feeling that lasted for weeks, btw.

Treatment protocol was designed like this: lumpectomy (and a single sentinel lymph node test) on November 3, 19 radiation treatments beginning December 14, and a daily estrogen-blocker beginning January 25 and lasting 5 years. I would be cancer-free after surgery (assuming the margins were clear and the lymph node came back clean – which they both did). The radiation is a preventative to recurrence, as is the estrogen blocker.

Today (January 11, 2024) I rang the gong to mark the completion of my radiation treatment. Side effects will last another couple of weeks (they’re on a 2-3 week delayed accumulation cycle) but I am effectively done.

While all this was going on, I was still applying to jobs. I was still the caregiver for my mother outside of her M-F 9-5 caregiver. I still have a dog who needs me. I hosted my visiting children and grandchildren (such great medicine!). I hosted 17 for Thanksgiving (ok, I catered a bunch of it but still cooked and baked a bunch). I read LinkedIn daily and commented for reach where possible. I signed up for and took classes in: PMP, SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager, Six Sigma Green Belt, Tableau Desktop, and ITIL. I’m studying for the certification exams (finding this a little difficult…the brain is a bit overcharged). I applied and was accepted into the Integrated Cancer Care Program and a local health club (which means I have a workout and self-care structure to follow now). I’ve reworked my budget because unemployment isn’t enough to cover my basic expenses and I’ve run through my severance.

Life is hard right now. I’ve had a lot of privilege and I took it for granted. I forgot how bad things could be. I forgot what life was like that summer I lived on, basically, a loaf of bread and a jar of jelly. I forgot the fear that gripped me when I left my marriage with no job and no money and three kids…I was sure I’d be living in a box. I never thought I’d be facing this kind of fear again. But here we are.

But, for today, I am in a good mental place. I am cancer free and that is no small thing. And that’s where I’ll leave it for now. I’ll be back to writing…I suspect I’ll have some major feels over the next few weeks.

Hug your people, tell them you love them. Reach out to your seemingly strong friends, they won’t tell you when they’re not ok. Ask for what you need. Be kind, you don’t know what the other person is going through.

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Pam is an experienced MSP-owner and IT consultant. Most recently she was a content writer, writing about IT admin life and tech. When not working, Pam spends her time with her dog, visiting her kids across the country, and being creative with yarn (though she's learning other crafts as well).

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