When my son was diagnosed with cancer, I remember my gut reaction was, “I’m quitting my job. Actually, I’m never working again.”
Taking care of him seemed like the only thing that mattered in life—the only thing that had ever mattered. When I didn’t know if he would make it, I kicked myself for wasting even one precious moment at work when I could have been spending time with my baby.
But then, Cooper started doing better. Time went on, and I calmed down a little bit.
My reactions tend to be a little on the extreme side. But finally, I could see that I probably needed to find a balance between taking care of my child and keeping my job, so I could help pay the bills.
A Temporary Time-Out
Luckily, my employer was extremely lenient and said things like, “You do whatever you need to in order to get that baby healthy.” So, I worked when I could, which wasn’t much.
I felt guilty having to miss so many days. I knew I wasn’t being the kind of employee they deserved—the kind who could actually show up on a regular basis.
However, my husband’s job was our main income source (not to mention our source of insurance), so there was no question he had to go to work whenever possible. And I needed to stay home with Cooper when he wasn’t healthy enough to be left with a babysitter.
Not Your Average Babysitters
It was hard.
To our amazement, two family friends actually volunteered to step into the terrifying, stressful world that is childhood cancer and help us out.
Despite their generosity, they were both put through rigorous training (by me) on what needed to be done to keep Cooper safe, what they needed to watch for, and what was and was not okay during cancer treatment.
I honestly don’t know how they put up with me and my high demands, but they did! And when they couldn’t watch Cooper, grandparents would drive from hours away to fill in the gaps—taking leave from work and using up their own time off to help us out.
Mental Breaks Benefit Everyone
As much as I wanted to quit my job when Cooper was first diagnosed, I started to realize that maybe it wasn’t the best option.
I noticed how much Cooper looked forward to visits from his babysitters, and I started to realize that no matter how much you love your mom, when you are on house arrest due to a low immune system, sometimes a change of pace and a new face are just what you need.
When I was honest with myself, I needed the days away from the house, too.
Sometimes, scheduling got complicated, especially in the dead of winter. Not only did Cooper have to be healthy for me to go to work, but so did his babysitters. There were times when I got down to my last option before I found someone who could watch him.
However, thanks to a lot of schedule juggling, sickness dodging, selfless volunteers, and an understanding employer, I was able to keep my job.
It was a challenge. It wasn’t easy. The stress and extended absence from work messed with my mind and made me feel inept and emotional.
But it didn’t last forever. Eventually, Cooper got better. He started going to preschool and treatment ended.
We just had to weather the storm—to hold on as best we could for as long as we could. Eventually, every storm runs out of rain.