15 March 2010

The Office

No. This doesn't star Steve Carrell. This stars three amazing people, with whom I have the privilege of working and knowing. This is not only because they're all consummate professionals. But it's mostly because they are the most wonderful human beings: compassionate, unassuming, intelligent, helpful, kind, and considerate, generous, all with amazingly wicked sense of humor. They make it so that going to work was (and is) something I look forward to doing.

Structure and routine played a very important and positive role during my bout with cancer. And one of the important routines for me was going to work as much as possible at the time I was undergoing chemotherapy. It gave me something worthwhile to focus on during my waking hours; a sense of usefulness because it felt good to wake up every morning knowing I was contributing to a common good; and less of an opportunity to sit and wallow in cancer. And somehow, it empowered me to go on with the bout, each round.

It was also important that, at work, it would be "business as usual." I didn't want anyone to know that I was sick and wanted to go on as if nothing extra-ordinary was going on. Certainly, the notion of people asking and fussing at work was nothing I wanted I wanted to face. Fortunately for me, this was made possible by those three folks I mentioned above: My boss, N; his second in command, H, and my colleague and hallway neighbor, the wonderful Ms. B. We're a small team serving a huge purpose in national non-profit organization. We get along very well and work well together. Suffice it to say, this is the best place and the best group people I've ever worked with -- and I've been working for a long, long time!

When I was sick, they made sure that I never worried about work when I was out due to chemo. But, while I was at work, I was never made to feel somehow lacking because I was sick. They showed utmost care and concern without patronizing or smothering. They absolutely honored my request that we do not skip a beat because I was sick; that we do business as usual, as if cancer wasn't an issue. I was treated as normally as possible, and I couldn't thank them enough for this. And, because I didn't want my illness to be public, they were staunch protectors of that "secret." I most thankful for their effort in creating that space for me where I could just feel normal and not be sick. What an invaluable gift that was!

... and they cared (in so many little ways) like...

N would go to this tiny candy place every other weekend so that he could buy for me these organic ginger hard candies which were of tremendous help to my nausea. This was the only place they were available and he was always glad to go fetch them for me. H would faithfully come to my office every morning to see how I was and "mothered" (in a very good way) me by watching out for my fatigue level and being sure to remind me to rest or go home, if I didn't look well. And Ms. B, what can I say about her? She did everything from bring me scarves and hats for my head, to listen to me vent, to .... really everything else...seriously. She understood, when no one else could.

Everyone should be so fortunate to have such wonderful people to work with. I don't know how well I would have fared without the unwavering support and care that N, H, and Ms. B have generously given me all this time. I can say, without a doubt, that how well I fared during chemo has a direct correlation to how well these folks have cared for me and treated me during that time.

.....and for that, I will always be grateful.


l'optimiste said...

I had a similiar experience during chemo; I worked all the way through it, thanks to some amazing colleagues - people can help you feel so much better just by letting you be useful.
And everyone should be so fortunate to have such wonderful people to work with! Sadly, they quite often don't...

ce_squared said...

I agree, L'Optimiste! We're certainly both fortunate to have had such support. (Great hair, by the way!)

Bonita said...

Oh, my dear, you were hugged in so many ways, whether you knew it or not. Even though it's a solo journey, we tried our best to travel with you. And you were SO there for me, countless times....thank you.

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