Being diagnosed with cancer changes everything, but sometimes maintaining the "status quo" is helpful. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, I had just started my 16th year of teaching early childhood special education in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Working with young children with disabilities is wonderful, but can be mentally and physically exhausting.

A couple weeks after my diagnosis, I had my first surgery and ended up taking about a week off work, but I was anxious to get back. I felt uneasy not sticking to my regular work routine. I didn't want to sit around and worry about cancer and the possible ramifications.

As I was healing from the surgery, the doctors were preparing me to go into treatment (radioactive iodine). I was not given any replacement medication for my thyroid. The doctors needed my thyroid levels to be in the extremely hypothyroid range to start treatment.

For the weeks it took to get to that point, my body was slowing down. I was extremely tired and foggy at times. My doctor at the time kept telling me that she would write an "excuse" for me to stop working. I refused. Although I was not fully myself, I felt that keeping that consistency of working was keeping me from the constant worry.

The first two years after my diagnosis, I had three surgeries and two treatments (a week-long each). I had to take quite a bit of work off for these procedures and doctors' appointments, but continued to work when I could.

In some ways, I was lucky to be healthy enough to work. Keeping life as normal as possible after a cancer diagnosis is one way to cope with all the ups and downs and stresses associated with cancer.


Share Your Thoughts

Did you work during your cancer treatment? Were you able to maintain a sense of normalcy? How? Share your comments below.

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About the Author

Carolyn Wesley grew up in the Milwaukee area within a very close family -- with her parents, Paul and Judy, an identical twin sister, Jeanette, her younger sister, Brenda, and younger brother, Gregory. Her father is Paul Joseph, who spent his career as our local expert meteorologist on TMJ-4 for 36 years. Carolyn was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer on August 19, 2010, three weeks after her identical twin sister, Jeanette Joseph, was diagnosed. The two years after being diagnosed, Carolyn went through two radioactive iodine treatments (RAI) and three surgeries (thyroidectomy and two left neck dissections). She has follow-up scans and blood work to monitor her thyroid cancer since it is still "detectable."

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Carolyn Wesley
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Amy-I'm so glad to hear about your supportive co workers! It's nice too that you have that flexibility with your job.
Please feel free to contact me through the MPS email at any point if you want to connect or chat!

Amy Koch
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Carolyn, I feel exactly the same. I also work for MPS, as an SST/Instructional Coach, and try to work as much as possible through my treatments. On certain days in my chemo cycle, however, I am very thankful that my current position allows me to close my office door if necessary. I have very supportive co-workers, too, who understand this. Keeping to my regular schedule helps me not only to cope with the stresses but also helps me feel that I'm okay. That, too, is so important through all of this.