As many of you know, I started a new job this week. This job - so far - seems absolutely perfect for me. It's part-time, non-profit, working with incredibly accomplished colleagues, coaching teachers in and around the city. The past few days I've been getting oriented to the principles of the organization and undergoing some meaningful training along with 8 other new hires, both from Philadelphia as well as a few other cities.
I think a lot of cancer survivors struggle - upon returning to work or changing their professional directions - with how and when to disclose survivorship. Will people think less of you? Will your employer worry about your ability to perform the required duties? Will you receive equal or fair treatment from others? For me, of course this wasn't a topic of discussion during my interviews, or a part of me I felt willing to share with my co-workers during lunchtime conversations. It's a rather large meatball to drop onto a stranger's plate.
This morning, we entered into Day 3 of our training. Our new presenter assumed (correctly) that we were "name tagged" out (all you educators out there will know what I mean), and she simply asked us to write down one unique thing about ourselves on a colored 3x5 card. I struggled to think of the perfect idea - I enjoy crafting, knitting, sewing, traveling, mothering, beaching, reading... but none of these seemed particularly out of the ordinary.
Then I remembered I am a writer, too. Not that there aren't OODLES of self-proclaimed/blog writers out there, but it is something I enjoy that may set me apart a smidge. Anyway, on my card, I wrote simply, "I write a blog." Wouldn't that be enough?
Turns out, no, all eyes on me, expectantly waiting for me to elaborate. Blog? What about?
Game time. To reveal or not?
I chose to disclose. I spoke quickly, spitting out the bare minimum details, cheeks flushing, and the reception was warm. But still, I was thinking it was a mistake. TMI, right?
A few hours later, when we went to take a morning break, a co-worker came up to reveal something personal of her own. We made a great connection. And even later at lunch, my new friends were asking for details, and another revealed her father begins chemo for lymphoma next week. Another connection was made with someone whose mother was diagnosed with a rare cancer (caused by toxins in her school, ahem). And yet another person explained how she had been dealing with an autonomic nervous system disorder (like mine) since her mid-20s.
To all of the risk-taking athletes across the pond, Happy Summer Olympics!
P.S. Unsure of how to talk to someone recently diagnosed with cancer? WATCH.