June 21, 2011
I’ve been out of work for the past two weeks. Everyone at work had been following my situation closely. I just didn’t know how close.
I’m not one to openly talk about my problems – even if it was something as serious as getting cancer. I don’t talk much in general, let alone talk about myself (aside from this blog, where I do nothing but talk about myself.) Plus, I’m actually kind’ve shy (aside from what my pictures on Facebook would have you believe.) I tend to internalize my thoughts and feelings.
I only told a few people at work about my situation. Not that I didn’t want to tell everyone, but I didn’t want to burden people with such a heavy conversation when all they’re trying to do is get some coffee. Besides, it’s hard to turn water cooler talk into a discussion about my health. I imagined the conversation going down like this:
Me: “Yo! What up son?”
Coworker: “Why are you talking like that?”
Me: “I love my wife.”
Coworker: “I KNOW. That’s all you ever talk about. Now, get out of my way.”
Me: “I have a huge tumor in my chest!”
Coworker: Shocked face
Me: “What are you doing for lunch?”
I didn’t get the pamphlet on how to strike up this conversation, so I just didn’t say anything. I tried not to wear this burden on my sleeve. I wasn’t walking around looking like Eeyore, hoping someone would ask me, “What’s wrong?” I just went about my business, which ironically, is working on chemotherapy websites.
I work for a healthcare advertising agency. Most of our business comes from pharmaceutical companies. I work on nothing but chemotherapy drugs. Coincidence? I’m glad they transferred me off the Atripla account. When I first started working there I was blown away by how intelligent, artistic and talented everyone was. I was way out of my league. Everyone there is passionate about what they do and it shows in the work they create. It also shows in how they care about one of their own.
The few people that I did tell at work were Shane, Anisa and Jill. I kept them in the loop as much as possible. Shane asked me what I wanted or needed, because people at work wanted to do something for me. I no longer know how to ask for gifts, unlike my father. I used to have this talent. Somewhere after Christmas of ’91, my cunning for demanding gifts suddenly diminished. I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone with my troubles. Besides, I didn’t know what to pack for my chemo adventure. What do chemo patients need anyways, a barf bag and a Snuggie? I just asked for some soup.
Erica talked to Anisa about coming over with Shane to drop off some food that my coworkers made for us. It was nice to have some friends over and catch up. I could use the break from the medical monotony. We cleaned the house and Erica made some spaghetti. Needle scratching record. Erica cooking? This should’ve been a dead giveaway that something was up. It never dawned on me as suspicious, even though they were supposedly coming over to drop food off. I’ve been a little rusty lately. My brain went on vacation about three weeks back. All thinking was handled by my doctors, not me.
Shane and Anisa came over after work that night. They both stormed into the house and gave me huge hug. They handed me a poster, some presents and nothing resembling a pot of soup. What gives?! The one thing I ask for and they can’t even do that. Chumps!
My animosity soon turned to lament when they handed me the poster, a “get well soon” card. This card is my coworkers in a nutshell (aside from the pictures of me being a jackass of course.) The card was thoughtful, touching, collaborative and creative. Everyone should experience something as special as this at least once in their lifetime. It was too much, seeing everyone’s words of support and well wishes. It made my heart melt. If nobody was around, I would’ve withered into a puddle of tears on the dining room floor. Nevertheless, I kept my composure, but only because I had some gifts to open up. What came next blew me away, but I shouldn’t have been surprised considering who it came from.
As if an iPad 2 wasn’t enough, they also started a meal program for me. They all picked different days to bring food over to me. Ridiculous, right?!
That night, I sent an email to all my friends at work, letting them know how angry I was because they did too much and I didn’t deserve it…I also thanked them. What they might not know is how moved I was. That night I sat in my bed thinking about the card, the gifts and how fortunate I am. I was completely overwhelmed. It’s a weird Catch 22 – going through something so unfortunate to feel so special. Although I was just barreled over with a flash flood of love and support, it lifted me up and gave me more strength. Suddenly, I felt like a general with an army of warriors behind me. With my war paint on, I trotted on horseback and addressed the battalion behind me, “They may take my hair, but they will never take my iPad!”
If you thought I’ve had a good attitude throughout my whole ordeal, maybe this gives you some insight as to why. You can see the incredible support system I have. When you look at me and the challenge I’m up against, you’re not looking at one person taking this on. You’re looking at an army fighting together.
But with this benefit, there’s pressure to beat this thing for everyone who is supporting me. It’s a heavy burden when you look at it this way, but I’m up for the challenge. I want to do it for everyone. They’re the ones lifting me up and giving me strength. Now, if I could just figure out how to share the chemo side effects with my army.
A very special thanks to Anisa, Jill and Shane for all you have done for me. You have been my biggest supporters at the office. You made all of this possible and it means so much to me. I can’t thank you enough.