Receiving cancer care at the same healthcare institution where you work is both a challenge and a blessing. Cancer treatment causes physical and emotional side effects that are difficult to endure in the midst of a not-so-normal schedule. I was very diligent about not letting my short-term treatment affect my attitude about my place of employment. Many days I was successful. On other days, my stomach would flip over when I arrived for work. I would become nauseated just looking at the clinic building.
Continuing to work as much as possible during my chemotherapy and radiation therapy was extremely important to me. Because I am somewhat of a maverick and very determined, my family, friends and co-workers were concerned that I would not care for myself as I should during treatment. Through subtle coaxing and minor interventions, they successfully coached me along a healing path. Family and friends were wonderful, but my co-workers and colleagues were miracle workers. I was chauffeured to work almost every day of my treatment, from my front door right to the hospital entrance.
I was given and loaned beautiful scarves and sassy hats. I was continually complimented on my hat/scarf ensembles. Many said they waited anxiously to see what I was wearing that day. At times, naps and quiet rest were needed to get through the workday; a blanket and sheets were purchased by a co-worker for my use on a fold-out bed in a peaceful waiting area. Flowers, cards, casseroles, an MP3 player and restaurant gift cards were bestowed upon me and my family. And, my house was even cleaned! Most important to my healing were the hugs, pats on the back and daily words of encouragement and support I received in hallways, in the treatment room, in the cafeteria, in meetings—everywhere I went.
I pay tribute to my Gundersen colleagues and co-workers for their tireless contributions to my healing and well-being. Whether they provided my direct patient care or simply said, “I love the hat,” my fellow employees make Gundersen a fantastic place to work and to receive breast cancer care. Thanks to each of you, my hat is now off!