Another New Normal- Confessions

So many of you have asked me… why I am still working?
With the last several month’s blood tests revealing that I am really
officially out of remission, so many people are surprised I am still
coming into work…

(My view walking into my office one spring day)

So I ask you…
Why shouldn’t I still work, minimal as it may be, on the few days I still can, when I feel ok?
Why shouldn’t I make the effort to feel “normal”, since I’ve always said: “fake it til you make it!”
Why shouldn’t I still continue to try to be Counselor Julie, rather than Cancer Julie?

You see, coming into my work really isn’t “work” at all to me.
Coming into my office, interacting with my wonderful colleagues and students, makes me feel NORMAL!
And when your life becomes ABNORMAL and turned upside down, NORMAL feels really good!

Honestly, not working would seal the deal for me that I really am ill and not capable of normalcy…
I know that all too well from summer/fall 2010 when I was hospitalized and isolated for a whole month at City of Hope for my (first) stem cell transplant. I was really, really, really sick and wasn’t sure I’d make it out of there. I didn’t have the CHOICE to go into my office. I didn’t have the CHOICE to work or not. I was way too sick to do anything but have the daily GOAL of getting out of my hospital bed and walking to my bathroom on my own, a mere few feet away. My only focus was to survive another day. And when you don’t OWN your options, all past and future options become incredibly valuable.

My role of college Counselor has been a big part of my identity for almost 3 decades!
The college environment inspires me, makes me happy and makes me feel alive.
My job is not a job
My work is not work
Being a college Counselor is an opportunity to deeply impact lives.
And I would like to believe I still make a difference in people’s lives, even though I currently don’t do even a fraction of what I used to do, pre-cancer.

My motto: “Saving the World, One Student at a Time”.. is still an important part of who I am.

 And this is the view I am so very fortunate to have
while making a difference in people’s lives

If you really want the truth…
I’ve come to the realization…
I am actually afraid to NOT work!
I am afraid to not do what I have done for more than half my life!
I am afraid how I will actually feel when I actually CANNOT work
When my health, symptoms and treatments actually prevent me from working (which I suspect is coming soon)-
Honestly, that to me, is scary!

People tell me- quit work, and enjoy your life!
What are you doing Julie? You have limited time now, go live your life!
Wait… does that mean my career as a Counselor is not living, not enjoying life?
I worked really hard to become me, and who I am, and how I impact others’ lives.
That to me, is living life!

(My view walking from my office one evening)

People always ask me-
Why aren’t I traveling, jetting off to far-away exotic places
Zip lining
Eating, drinking, indulging
Partying like none other
Shopping, buying stuff
Going to concerts, and the theatre
Working on that bucket list
Or, if not traveling, just lounging around home
Or taking up a more sedate hobby
Well you know what, those things really aren’t what makes me happy
And sadly, I really don’t have the physical energy any more, or the immune system to do those things. See my blog from last summer’s disastrous Hawaii trip :/

What makes me happy is being someone; being valuable; contributing; sharing; caring; laughing with others; making a difference in this world, in whatever small way I do, until I can’t.
My work, means making a difference to those in my little world.
My office and my colleagues have been my extended family for half my life!

My amazing Counseling Office colleagues!

So I ask you … why shouldn’t I work, on those days I feel somewhat ok?
Why shouldn’t I try to be productive, feel as “normal” and “ok” as possible, on those days I can?
As the day will come… when I can’t…

Cancer is NOT a reason to stop engaging and contributing
Cancer is THE reason to continue living and doing those things that I can, while I still can
Because, soon, cancer will take that away from me…
I think dramatically changing my life right now would really make me feel sick, unaccomplished and non-productive.
But at next week’s oncology appointment I will find out, what I can and cannot do…

I’ve worked since I was 12 or 13 years old-
First babysitting, then grooming horses and mucking stalls to pay the monthly board of my beloved first horse-
I also worked for my parents doing “odd” jobs-
I then stepped onto the first rung of my career ladder, at 18, working as a Peer Counselor-
Which evolved into the second rung of my career ladder, working as an Advisor-
Which then evolved into my role of Counselor Julie!

Working for and with others is what I do best.
Being there, intellectually and emotionally, for others is what I specialize in.
Promoting, empowering, supporting, analyzing, challenging ideas, inspiring, mapping, planning, advocating, and encouraging dreams and goals… that is what makes me feel alive.
Not working, not doing, not being someone in this world, would confirm I am incapable and sickly… which would confirm I have terminal cancer and that cancer is winning.
And I am not willing to accept that cancer is winning yet…

 My office view one day 
when the Red Cross Blood Mobile
was visiting campus! O the irony of life!
And so I will work until I cannot; minimal as it may be, with apologies to my colleagues
I will do what I can, learning and accepting my new limitations
Knowing my cancer-driven “new normal” now defines who I am and can be
And I will live my life, in little spurts of energy, being there for others, human and animal :)
As that my friends, is what makes me happy… 
 And just maybe
I might make it to see the opening
of the new Student Services building
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Next blog:
The Treatment Plan…