The Return to Work

Today marks my six day of work post transplant. I say day, what I really mean is that today, I will do three hours of work, alongside the six hours I have already done this week and still have six hours to go. I am taking this slowly.

It has to be slow. I am trying to restore a masterpiece.

My body decided that I could not do any work before now. I tried. I took my blackberry on my extended holiday to Tottenham Court Road, but after looking at it once, and realising that my energy was better spent doing transplant-y things instead of getting angry, I did not look at it again. I then lost the mental ability to reason, so… Work. Not. Happen. It’s been frustrating and arduous, and it has felt so much longer than four months. And it was four months of change.

Prior to my transplant, since my diagnosis, I had always been in contact with work, to varying degrees, but in contact. I knew what was going on and I knew my place in it. I somehow, and with hindsight I find it miraculous, managed to work during a course of treatment, albeit on incredibly flexible, reduced hours. It was my choice to do so by the way, working kept me sane. I was adamant that I would not need long for my transplant. Evidentially, I was wrong, and that decision was not mine, and before I knew it, four months passed. To put that figure into some sort of perspective for you, the last time I went that long without any employment, I was eleven years old. I may have mentioned this before, but I am proud of my work ethic.

Just as I feel like I lost bits of myself during the transplant, so too do I fear this when it comes to my place at work. I was quite surprised a fortnight ago when I found myself becoming anxious. That’s right, I too suffer from the anxiety that so many 20-30 somethings of my kind also suffer from. For so long, returning to work was something I wanted more than I want the invention of a nice, fat free cheese; that I never considered the possibility that I would feel apprehension about my return. This return is different to before, because I know that I am returning to return. I currently have no intention to go off sick again, but I do not wish to tempt fate, so that is all I will say on the matter.

The return to work is the biggest symbol of my previous chapter finishing and the new one beginning. My challenge is not chemo anymore, my challenge is finding where and how I fit in this world in my new body, and this includes work, for that is what I am going to spend the majority of my time doing. And this my friends, is going to take time.

I found, a whole fortnight ago, that the more others built up my return to work as an event to rival the release of a new iPhone, the more my anxiety increased. It’s a big deal. Employment is a big deal. My government will be so happy that I have realised this. It’s a big deal for so many reasons, not least because I feel like it is a test against My Myeloma, and over the next four months, I hope to discover that I can work full time, albeit with some home working, socialise and remain illness free. The question on my lips is just how much has It taken away? The proof they say, will be in the pudding, a pudding I want to get out the oven right NOW. My return means much more to me than seeing if I can physically work 37 hours a week. The act of walking on the 7s is entwined with something bigger, and I cannot separate it.

On a practical level, my concerns pester, far beyond the nuisance of the crystal maze of when my IT is going to work again. Believe me, that is indeed a problem. I do not know if the odds will ever be in my favour.

I work for and with human beings; I have responsibilities that are more than myeloma, that in itself is a shift. These human beings work at set times, I believe some people call it a routine. I have not had one of these for a wee while, and the thought of now having one, as much as I want one, terrifies me. Trying to teach my body that we need to be up at a reasonable hour, and then to stay up, is proving quite difficult thus far, though it is early days to be sure and my well thought out 16 week plan is not going to plan because the computer has said “no”. In modern times, I can no longer skip breakfast as I once did, it may sound like a little thing, but it adds times to my morning, as does showering (I no longer have to do this at nighttime, to allow drying time for my long luscious mane, may it rest in peace). It’s not just my energy levels a routine disrupts; sitting on a chair in an upright position for a long period of time, is not something I nor my back, feel accustomed with. The few times I have done it, have resulted in stronger drugs and slurred speech. I dare you to have been in my body last Thursday after 11 hours of work and seven hours of bus. Then, do I need to explain why public transport in rush hour makes me perspire? If I do, you have obviously never fractured a vertebrae and still have full use of your body. Lucky you.

On an emotional level, I’m scared of failure. I’m scared of not being able to overcome the above. I’m scared that my illness and the inevitable concessions for the above will cause resentment. I’m scared that I will not regain my ability to be civil. Most of all, I am scared that failure in this, means a failure in my return to normal.

I cannot take any of the above for granted anymore. Sure, some of it is folly, but it is still something that feels new to me. In order to strive every aspect of my life has to be adapted or thought through to succeed. And every time I leave the house or interact, they are there, niggling away at me.

Some people can just get up and go to work, or log on, one day, I hope to be one of them. For the moment, I see every day as a marathon. One terrifying, uncertain and exhilarating marathon. Consider that. Until now, I hadn’t.