Working through Chemo – A Survival Guide

Working Through Chemo | Sedruola Maruska

I still think it’s funny that I get strange looks when I tell people I’m working through chemo. Thing is, working through chemo is not unusual, crazy or impossible. It’s just not easy.

When my diagnosis came, stopping work was not the first thing that came to mind. After getting through the initial shock of having cancer, my first thoughts turned to my children, my family and keeping the status quo as much as possible.

Working Through Chemo | Sedruola Maruska

Reasons Why I Work

Nothing turns your world around as much as a major health diagnosis. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, because there are major life events that really rock your existence. What I’m saying is a major health crisis is right there among the top choices. Finding out you’re sick, when you not only thought you were fine, but you feel fine is blindsiding. You’re not ready. We weren’t ready.

I knew I wasn’t going in to work on the day I was diagnosed. Then the day after I had a bunch of scans so I had to take that day off too. However, it never occurred to me to just call in my short term disability and stop working. I was fine. Looking back, here are a few reasons why I chose to working through chemo over other options:

  • Structure – I have an eleven year old son and a six year old daughter. I want them to have normal days with normal worries and a structured schedule. To me, stopping work would make is seem that things were off kilter. Don’t misunderstand, my kids are well aware of what’s happening. I’ve talked to each of them separately and they both do worry that “mommy’s going to get sicker”. Even in the midst of keeping a stable structure they see my struggle and they worry. But how much more traumatic would it be if I didn’t do any of the things they’re used to me doing?
  • Financial Stability – When you wake up one day and have 40% of your income stripped without any prior notice you’re going to feel the burn. That’s what would’ve happened if I’d gone straight to STD. Working as much as I can gives us the opportunity to plan ahead emotionally and financially for the time when I will definitely need to be home to recover from surgery. Financially, we need time to strip the excess, tighten our spending and prep for some lean times.
  • Emotional Stability – If I stopped working as soon as I began chemo, I would be an emotional wreck. Working gives me structure and stability. Working gives me more to think about than my side-effects or the next chemo treatment. If I didn’t work I think I’d find a way to fill my days, but it might drive my family and me crazy in the end. Yes, I’m exhausted when I get home from work, but I’m thankful that I was able to feel and be useful for the day.
  • Distraction – Working distracts me from the fact that I am actively fighting and surviving cancer. It also distracts me from worrying about all that “may” happen after treatment and surgery. Staying at work keeps me grounded in the present so I’m not off making up multiple scenarios to induce fear into my current situation. When I’m working and taking care of the normal day-to-day activities and needs, I don’t have time to imagine the worst. Thankfully.

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Survival Guide

We’re all different and diagnosis along with decisions you make afterward will depend on your particular situation. I know there are protocols that do not allow you to work while on chemo because of the timing and aggressive nature of the treatment. Please make sure that all decisions are what’s best for you and your family.

However, if like me, you’re able and you’ve opted to keep working through chemo here are a few tips to help you survive the daily grind:

  1. Take life one day at a time. Assess each day individually and work accordingly. Do not take in a larger picture than that day.
  2. Notify all pertinent parties at work what’s going on with your health. It may not be comfortable and you may want to keep it completely to yourself, however, if there’s any chance that your company is willing to accommodate your needs, you owe it to yourself to find out. Don’t suffer in silence.
  3. If you have a “work from home” option, use it! Always assess your day (see #1) but I know there are days when I can’t get to the office, but I can pull up my laptop onto my bed and work. Always keep it as an option if it’s available to you.
  4. On the days when it’s just too much and you don’t feel you can work, take the day off. I know it’s a financial thing, but it’s also a “get healthy” thing. Your body is working hard when you’re going through treatments so any support you give is important. When your body says rest, please take time to rest, your body knows.
  5. Pack your snacks and lunches so you can support yourself nutritionally. I’m not going to give you any nutritional advice right now (I’m sure you’ve gotten your fair share already). If you’re working on improving your diet to help support your immune system, the easiest way is to pack your own food every day. I’m aware of the fatigue that comes with chemo and you may lack the energy to be fancy, but you don’t have to be fancy. My husband makes a huge salad each week that goes in the refrigerator so I usually just grab some pieces of fruit and maybe a bit of the salad for lunch. Believe me, I’m the last person to pile anything extra on your plate, but stocking your fridge with easy to grab foods is the best thing you can do.
  6. Protect your health while you’re in the workplace by making sure you have masks (if needed), tissue, lotion & sanitizer easily accessible. Like it or not people go to work sick all the time. While going through chemo your immune system isn’t ready to do major battle with even the most minor germs. If you’ve got sick co-workers don’t worry about wearing your mask at work. They shouldn’t be at work if they’re sick and you need to protect yourself. Wash your hands often and use both the sanitizer and lotion regularly (lotion, cause chemo dries out your hands something awful). Finally, avoid touching communal hard surfaces with your bare hands (handles, doors, tables, etc)Being a germ-phob at this time in your life is not only smart, but totally encouraged.
  7.  Gauge your energy level. Not everything needs to be done right away or even today. Make sure not to wear yourself out too much. Making sure you can get enough rest overnight to make it back in the morning is important. If you over exert yourself after a few days you’ll pay the price and it won’t be helpful to your or your job (see #1). Pace yourself and you should be able to keep working throughout chemo.
  8. Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated and your energy level up. Staying hydrated helps your body do the work it needs to do during the day. Plus, those ventilation systems are extra drying. Chemo dries out your skin so drink as much water as you can muster everyday (even when you’re not working).
  9. When in doubt . . . see #1

If you’ve got cancer Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips is a good book to have, hold and reference!

Your Turn

It’s your turn. What are some tips you’d like to share with your fellow sister warriors about working through chemo? This is my first experience with cancer and I know I may have missed a few tips. Share your best tip in the comments below. It’s about helping each other thrive and survive through our experiences with cancer.

6 Lessons learned during my Year of Me

6 Lessons learned during my "Year Of Me" | Sedruola Maruska

Last year, 2017, was the “Year of Me”. . . This year, 2018, is the “Year of Kindness”. Throughout 2017 there were lessons learned that directly contributed to the kindness theme for this new year. I’d like to share a few with you.

I’ve never been good at resolutions. I’m not sure why, but they never appealed to me. But at the end of 2016  I wanted and needed to do something to counter the sadness, pain and disappointment I felt. So, after reading Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person I decided to focus on “me”. After all, we are the creators of our reality right? We determine what happens in our lives by the actions, reactions or non-actions we take. So I focused on me. Which forced me to focus on my family, friends and immediate circle of influence.

When you decide to do something like that, there are going to be lessons along the way. My mom always told me “you don’t have to make your own mistakes, you can learn from someone else’s.” So I’ve decided to share some of the lessons I learned last year (and some I learned right before).

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

Lesson 1 – You are not alone

You are not a singular entity. I know it sounds weird, but it’s true. No matter how much you’d like to think that some things you do will only affect you, it’s not true. You are connected to those you love and those you come into contact with regularly or randomly. The decisions you make for yourself always affect someone else so decide wisely.

Lesson 2 – Taking time for yourself is wise

I love going to the spa. I love the solitude of the space and the ability to fully be taken care of so I started getting a quarterly massage. Why? Because when I’m not connected to myself or taking time for myself, I’m not very good for others. I’m more irritable, withdrawn and resentful of the people around me. So whether it’s taking half a day at the spa, thirty minutes to read a book or 5 minutes to close my eyes and breathe I count it all “me” time. I enjoy it and then allow myself to continue in all my responsibilities.

(please pin this image)

6 Lessons learned during my "Year Of Me" | Sedruola Maruska

Lesson 3 – Be fully yourself

Do you ever feel strangled by your own need to say, be or do something? Then, instead of getting out of the situation you put on a mask, robe or aire? Yeah, stop that. Authenticity is when you tap into yourself fully and allow that person to express themselves. It’s a journey I began in 2017 and will continue along my journey. The more honest I was about myself, what I wanted, didn’t want, liked or disliked, the freer I felt. “Authenticity” seems to be a buzzword, but there are so many truths in simply being yourself and embracing who that is. It’s something that will grow, but to begin try siting with yourself for five minutes without distraction. Focus on the moment and see who and what develops.

Lesson 4 – Forgive, yourself and others

There’s a quote from the Buddha that says “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.” It’s incredibly true. The more I decided to release my anger toward any situation, circumstance person etc. the better I felt, the clearer my purpose was and the more authentic I could be in any given situation. The more I released my critical self talk, the better I could express myself. Forgiving is one of the hardest things to do, but it’s so necessary to moving forward in life. Sometimes it’s as easy as just whispering “I forgive you” and walking away knowing you’ve let it go.

Now’s a great time to follow me on Instagram 🙂

Lesson 5 – Stay open

Stay open to love, kindness, understanding, counsel, critiques, people, places, foods and everything the Universe has to offer you. Stay open to being fully yourself and present in your life. In every situation you have the opportunity to decide how to react. Take the time to think, consider then act according to the authentic person you are and stay open to the lessons. There’s opportunity for growth and learning everywhere but to see it, you have to be open to seeing.

Lesson 6 – Allow your greatness to flow

Lastly, one of the biggest lessons I learned was to allow my greatness to flow. To not only offer and give my best self in all situations, but to allow others to give and offer themselves in return. Receiving is one of the hardest things we do. We feel, at times, that it shows we’re in “need” or “weak” or “incapable”. Funny thing is, all those things may be true. We may actually be in need, weak or incapable of doing for ourselves in a given situation, but it doesn’t make us less. Once we begin to realize we’re all connected and to help one is to help many, allowing the flow is easy. Today may be my turn to give to you, tomorrow may be your turn to give to another. Keeping the flow going, making sure that when we’re in a position to give we give, and when were in a position to receive we receive graciously.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Conclusion

It’s this final lesson (there are others, but we’ll stop here) that inspired my 2018 theme of “Kindness”. 2017 ended with my breast cancer diagnosis, an amazing trip to Turks & Caicos and deciding, moving forward, how I was going to keep my theme. . . I’ll talk about that next time.

For now, I hope these observations have helped kick start some of your own. What lessons were triggered for you while reading this list? I’d love to hear your ideas on how focusing on self can actually heal and mean embracing others.

What is Authenticity and Are you Authentic?

What is Authenticity and Are You Authentic? | Sedruola Maruska

I was stalking browsing my Instagram feed the other day when something I read stopped me dead in my tracks.

The reason I stopped wasn’t because I was so in awe of the information, but that it slapped me directly between the eyes. The whole tableau was wrong which is why it knocked the air out of me for a few moments.

Here was an influencer (judging my the number of followers they had as well as likes & comments) saying something to disparage other influencers. It was a simple sentence “these people out here trying to say they’re authentic with their curated feeds, makeup and clothes.”

What? In looking through her feed it was clearly ‘curated’ because it was lovely. But why question someone else’s authenticity, hold yourself up as ‘better’ when you’re doing the same thing?

The Question

So, I since I’m on a journey of self-discovery this year, I began to ask the question. What is authenticity? How do I know if I’m being authentic or not? We’re all out here doing our thing. You may be all about makeup while the next person is all about curing disease, is one more authentic than the other?

If my area of expertise asks that I dress a certain way most of the time and you happen to catch me “out of character” does that make me inauthentic?

What is Authenticity and Are You Authentic? | Sedruola Maruska

I grew up in a religion with many rules one being no jewelry. Mind you people could wear expensive watches, brooches and other adornments, but shame on you if your ears were pierced. What’s the difference? It always perplexed me, but I digress. When I was 26 I started my downward spiral personal walk and decided, against all inner-programming to pierce my ears.

When I’d go to church (because I was not yet the heathen person I am today) I’d wear my earrings. There were two reasons for that: 1) I didn’t feel in my heart that wearing earrings were “bad”; 2) I wasn’t trying to be something I wasn’t. There were times I thought of not wearing earrings to church because I hadn’t worn them all week, but I’d always wear them. I knew that had one of the good church folk seen me wearing earrings, and I took them off for church (out of respect) I would be labeled a “hypocrite” the ultimate in inauthenticity. That was not me, so I wore them (maybe to their offense) to church every week.

To me, being true to myself was more important than what the ‘good’ church folk would think. But to them, was I being inauthentic? Did they look at me and think I was not being true to myself because I was not being true to the church teachings?

The Definition

As I pondered the question I realized I needed to consult the oracles at Merriam-Webster. Although I felt I knew the definition of the word, having someone so strongly berate others made me feel I knew nothing.

Authenticity – Noun – Form of Authentic – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character is sincere and authentic with no pretensions

Hold up! Did you read that? “True to one’s OWN personality, spirit or character…” What does that mean?

It means that being authentic is being true to yourself. If you’re putting yourself out there in a way that is true to who you are, your character, values, ideas so on and so forth, you are being authentic. The only person who can know if you’re being inauthentic is you.

Being authentic is not based on what I think you should be or do, but on what YOU think you should be or do. When we encounter inauthenticity we know. Something in our spirit tells us. If we’re listening, we tread lightly, if not, we get burnt.

Inauthenticity is when you portray your marriage as the one to be aspired to, but you’re in hell on earth. Inauthenticity is when who you are and what you portray do not align. It’s not when someone looks at you ans says you’re not authentic based on what you’re wearing.

The great James Baldwin says “I can’t believe what you say. Because I see what you do.” Being authentic is when what you say and do are aligned.

My Conclusion

So, after I pondered the post, consulted the oracle and explored my psyche I came up with this: What we say, do or criticize always says more about us than it does the other. Although I knew where the poster was coming from, they showed their insecurity more than anyone elses’ inauthenticity.

We don’t need for others to fail in order for us to succeed. If we stay true to ourselves we’re better off. If I don’t like what someone is sharing, thankfully, I can stop following. I’m also free to stay the course on what I’m working to accomplish. Throwing shade on what you’re doing, because it’s closely aligned to my venture, doesn’t make me better. It means I’m distracted.

In the end I examined myself and found being true to me is my authenticity. Speaking, living & sharing my truth is being authentic.

Go, speak, live and share your truth, no one can tell you you’re not authentic if you’re being true to yourself.