Photo credit: Michaline Todd
"Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." -- Marie Curie
There are days when this beast of a disease lays me low, but those days are the exception not the rule. Most often I am able to think clearly about my situation and not let fear cloud my judgment. Finding ways to fear less helps me to stay strong. The best days are those when I am surrounded by friends and bolstered by their support.
A few weeks ago I joined the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in San Carlos, California. The event was a big slice of Americana. Boy Scouts in full regalia flanked the stage, along with firemen from the San Carlos Fire Department. A little girl, 8 or 9 years old, sang the national anthem, then the mayor of San Carlos led us in the Pledge of Allegiance before welcoming the cancer "survivors," including me.
After the welcome ceremony we began the relay, with teams walking in shifts over the next 24 hours. Team FearLess was sponsored by MarkLogic, a database company at which, until recently, I was vice president of communications. Because of my health, I had to leave a job I loved. Strolling the lush green course under a Bay Area blue sky, catching up on company gossip and personal news, I was struck by how much I miss seeing these people every day and how many of these colleagues I now count as friends.
When I was first diagnosed in January, I wasn't sure how to tell my coworkers. A friend proposed that I avoid specific detail and just say I'd be out on medical leave. But I thought, no, they'll think I'm having liposuction or some problem with my lady parts, and people will be too embarrassed to ask how I am.
I wanted to call it what it is. I have cancer. Metastatic lung cancer. And no, it's not from smoking.
Throughout my illness my colleagues rallied around me. They organized a meal caravan, delivering dinner to our home several nights a week. The human resources team was invaluable in helping me navigate the insurance and disability labyrinth. I received a steady stream of calls, emails and visits letting me know that I was missed and not forgotten. I was even given a subscription to People magazine, possibly the best gift I've ever received. And just weeks after learning of my diagnosis, the company signed on as a platinum sponsor for this American Cancer Society Relay for Life, raising thousands of dollars and showing up in force to walk around the clock.
Organizations will always talk about how they value their employees and put people first. I feel fortunate to have been part of a work family where they truly walk that talk. Their ongoing kindness and support helps me to fear less.
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