Friday, April 6, 2012

Being diagnosed with cancer on my third day of work

There's never a "good time" to find out you have cancer. There are, however, times that are slightly less convenient than others--like finding out the third day into a new job.

This week, we had a new employee start in my office. In between trainings, he mentioned how nervous he was on the first day. Boy, can I relate. I was a nervous wreck when I started working at my company. A 2008 college grad, I had one hell of a time finding a permanent, full-time job (thank you, economy). Until January 2010, I filled my time with low-paying temp jobs and zero-paying internships. Landing my first "real job" with dental and retirement seemed almost too good to be true. It felt like at any moment I was going to wake up and snap back to the reality of watching Law & Order reruns on my parents couch at two in the afternoon.

Three days into my new job, I got the news: a small mole I'd had biopsied turned out to be a malignant melanoma. As my doctor talked about things like cancer margins, all I can remember is thinking: can’t melanoma kill you?

Looking back, it still blows my mind how calm I was immediately following my diagnosis and in the days leading up to my surgery. The day I got the bad news, my boss suggested I take the day off. Spend some time alone to clear my head. I opted to stay at work, to work through the worry. Even though things appeared normal on the outside, and I carried on like nothing had happened, I stopped eating. The only thing I could get myself to swallow were the bottled fruit smoothies in the downstairs cafeteria and the occasional Pepto Bismol or Tums. Within a week, I lost seven pounds. 

Because I've been training a new employee this week, I took the time to look back and remember how I was trained a little over two years ago. On the third page of notes, in between instructions on how to update our internal database, it still says in my handwriting:

Dr. ------- surgery
                        Mandy, referral

It gives me chills every time I see it. I don't think I'll ever be able to start a new job without remembering what it felt like to learn I had melanoma on my third day at work.


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