How I Survived Cancer...and Losing My Job

After a 27-year-career, Giuliana found herself out of a job as a result of her cancer diagnosis. Read more to find out how she handled this devastating blow.

I worked in the health services industry for 27 years before being diagnosed with stage 3 peritoneal cancer. I had coded thousands of medical inpatient charts yet never in a million years did I think my name was ever going to be on the top of an oncology chart. Imagine the ego in that statement? I was clueless. I lived like most people. I didn't eat as well as I should have, smoked socially, didn't exercise as often as I should and was diagnosed with diabetes 2 years before the cancer. It was like God was whispering to me, "G take better care of yourself." But I didn't listen. I took advantage of myself. I ate what I wanted, did what I wanted and thought I was going to live forever! But nothing is as painful or scary as when the doctor calls you and your husband in and tells you "I am sorry but you have Cancer". It's an out-of-body experience.

Luckily I was able to take off from work through disability. During that time, I had surgery, 6 carbo-taxol chemo treatments, lost all of my hair, and was constantly being pumped with steroids and anti-allergic drugs. Yet through it all, I kept looking forward to going back to work and regaining some normalcy. I thought it would be easy. It was the light at the end of the tunnel.

When I was finally able to return to work, I had a positive outlook-full of hope for the future. But I quickly realized that as a chronic cancer patient, you don't return as the same person you were when you left. I now had not only the big C hanging over my head, but I was also in medical menopause and struggling with chemo brain. I was not as fast at completing my tasks as I once was and unfortunately, my employer had no compassion or understanding for what I was going through.

My oncologist wrote a recommendation to decrease my hours but that backfired and instead of helping me, my employer put me under performance review for months. At the end of the time the review was supposed to be up, they wouldn't move forward. Since then my union has had to negotiate on my behalf. There still is no resolution as I write this. It has been a painful journey. I gave the best years of my life to that job and went back willing and ready to give it all I had...but it wasn't enough.

Now I have decided to recreate myself, without my old job. I am building a harmonious work life/balance for myself, not for anyone else. I know that I must love myself enough to not allow myself to be treated with anything less than respect from an employer or from anyone else. I know that I have this power. Not an ego power, but a self-preservation power. I also know that in my case, the illness was a lesson. It was to show me that I needed to expand my thinking. I needed to learn the laws of the universe and how we are all interconnected. I had to learn to trust all is well and that no matter what you go through whether you are religious or not, that we are supported and that all is okay.

I had to learn to smile through it all. Gratitude is the answer to receiving all your blessings. When you are grateful you receive more to be grateful for. I had to learn to be kind always and to always think, "what would love say in this situation?". I had to feel what being unkind felt like so that I was never unkind to another soul as long as I live.

So if you ask me if I would go through cancer again, I would definitely say heck NO. But I would also say that the love I received from my family and my friends made it easier to go through, despite the affect it had on my career. Cancer is hard. Cancer is scary. But when you tap into the all the love and support the universe has to offer, it makes the time during the cancer go by faster. Fill yourself up with positivity and beauty. Help yourself heal.