I received a shocking breast cancer diagnosis in January this year after I found a pea-sized lump in my left breast. Whilst I would in no way want it again, having cancer has changed my working life for the better.
Whilst some people take a year off work (I was told); I knew I needed to run my business and working would aid my recovery. I think my healing would have suffered had I not been able to carry on doing something I loved. Jobs change lives!
Getting over the initial disbelief of having cancer, I didn’t regard it as an illness, just something I had to get through; I approached it as I would a business task, drawing up a plan, revealing the news to my clients and candidates; I was very open about it from the start.
Following a lumpectomy, I was told the cancer had been removed. I needed further treatment: six sessions of chemotherapy and 20 sessions of radiotherapy.
Phase 1: Operation; Phase 2: Chemotherapy; Phase 3: Radiotherapy. Diarising start dates, end dates and dates in-between, there could have been delays; I may have caught an infection or my immune system may have been too low. Like any business plan, the critical path may not always remain static. It can change during the course of the project completion date as unforeseen circumstances can happen.
I monitored and diarised my first chemotherapy session. I was advised that this would pretty much be the same pattern for all six treatments. My chemotherapy was every three weeks on a Thursday. The first three days I would be fine; Sunday would be my down day. The days following got progressively better. I did feel uncomfortable with background noise, possibly chemo fog, and could only focus on one task. I used the time catching up on fashion articles.
Later that week I would go into the office to make calls to my clients. They would hear my upbeat voice and how my recovery was going. I still wanted to receive roles and keep things as normal as possible. The second week I would feel fine, being mindful that my immune system could be weakened by chemotherapy, I tried to avoid crowds or public places where there was a risk of picking up an infection. I would work in the office that week. The third week, when I felt almost back to normal, I would plan 2-4 client meetings in London; my immune system would be stronger and I could travel on the train.
I understand that this may not be for everyone, but work kept me focussed. I met my final critical path date, without any delays, on 7 August 2018. However, I could not have done this on my own. I had two amazing colleagues who assisted with the work load whilst I was having treatment.
At the beginning of the year, I was nervous our figures would fall as I may not have been able to put in the time. This has been one of our best years so far.
With careful planning, the right mind-set, good organisational skills and a fantastic team, you can still run your own business through a diagnosis and your figures can be up.