For many people, work can be a respite from personal dramas and stresses. For business owner Nikki Weiss-Goldstein, her job was a place to escape to while undergoing treatment for bilateral breast cancer. She hid her secret for seven months before finally coming out of the "cancer closet" in a blog on Huffington Post. She shared her story on HuffPost Live.
"I made a conscious choice not to tell anybody but just a handful of family and some close friends, and that was it," Weiss-Goldstein explained to host Nancy Redd. "I could probably count the number of people I told on two hands."
Weiss-Goldstein's diagnosis was difficult for her to process, so hiding it was easier for her than talking about it. "I always considered myself a very healthy woman, and so I don't think I really wanted to believe it. The less I talked about it, the less real it was for me. Work was my livelihood both emotionally and financially, and I didn't want to ever give somebody a reason to think I couldn't do my job."
After undergoing a double mastectomy, Weiss-Goldstein's first request was for her cell phone. "I told my clients that I was taking a week-long vacation and unplugging, and no one knew that that was at chez Cedars-Sinai Hospital. I had set up some projects for my clients prior to going to the hospital -- five of those projects came in. So I was coming out of anesthesia on my cell phone, trying to book these jobs for my clients."
Part of the reason why Weiss-Goldstein wanted to keep her cancer diagnosis from her workplace was the sense of normalcy that she could have at the office.
"Nobody was asking me 'How do you feel? What's going on with you?' I wasn't thinking about doctor's appointments every day -- I was getting up and getting on the phones or taking a meeting. It was my safe place. It really was. And for a long time, my career defined who I was. Not so much anymore since I've gotten married and have a son, but for a while, I really was defined by my career."