Well, to point out the obvious, we are aware of them both in October. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month AND, October is Halloween. Both happen every year.
What do these two things have in common?
On the lighthearted side:
They are both scary
They both have some connection to altering your looks
They both involve wigs and scarves and some sort of costuming
They both involve support -- for trick or treating, most kids go with their parents or friends... but not alone. For breast cancer treatment, most patients take someone with them for support and not being alone.
On the more practical side, there are other similarities. Breast Cancer month is an opportunity to celebrate all the education and resources that are available for all women (and men too). It's a smorgasbord of information and available services. The push is to get women to pay attention, get mammograms, do exams. We all know that early detection is the key. While scary with the possibility of discovering something, it's still the best option.
With Halloween, I remember when my son was young and started to go trick or treating. He loved it, of course. Who wouldn't? It was fun and still an innocent time. Kids never had to worry about candy being poisoned or apples having razors in them... until one day... they did... have to worry... because it was happening.
Parents then paid more attention. They went with their kids even at an older age. They forbid their kids to eat anything from the bucket that wasn't wrapped, etc. When they got home, they dumped it all out and sifted through it for safety. Only then did they allow kids the chance to dive in.
You see, it's all about prevention... affirming safety.
I write these blogs in the interest of humanity and it's concern for helping people with cancer and other major illness, especially in the workplace. It's in the reaching out, with information, interviews, resources and support that I hope I will make a difference.
Here's an example of a man I interviewed recently. He responded to my call for people to speak with who did not have support from their workplace. His needs were not high on the chart of their company's needs.
This man, unidentified, told me that he worked in a small company. He was confronted with the most awful thing a parent can experience... a son who was diagnosed with a tumor that would be dangerous to remove, but they thought that surgery might be able to alleviate some of the pressure. He obviously took a short leave of absence to be with his child. Wouldn't any parent? The child underwent surgery. It would be touch and go for a significant amount of time to see if the tumor would return. The employee informed his workplace that he still couldn't return to work for awhile. Their response was to ask him to come and pick up his belongings... that they needed to replace him... that there was too much work for him to miss more time.
Obviously this man knew his own values -- his need to be with his child. The good news is, the child pulled through and is still alive and improving. The other good news is that the man is even happier in his new work situation.
The message here, or should I say the concern, is that not everyone looks at the full 360° view of illness. If the boss in this situation had more empathy and compassion, the company would have done the "right thing." They would have supported their employee during this difficult time. They would have been able to allow the employee flexibility and a work from home option during the child's healing time and not lost a valuable employee. This parent would have not been so stressed out about not having a job along with his fears about his child.
So, as you face Halloween with your children or as you face the horror of a Cancer diagnosis, please take heed of what you've learned here.
Reach out for support
If you are an employer... please take the time to view a situation such as I described, as something that could happen to any of us and use it as an opportunity to tap into your more compassionate side. How would you have wanted the situation handled had it been your child?
So, that's my October report. More interviews to come, more blog posts to come as we approach the most beautiful and yet the most emotionally difficult time of the year.
Ann Fry is the Workplace Cancer and Disease Crisis Coach. She trains managers to engage and support people at work who are impacted by Cancer or a major illness (either their own or that of a loved one.) She's the person to call when the Executive teams needs to "triage" and sort through the crisis when one of their own is impacted. She can facilitate the conversation and help set the strategy for moving forward.