It’s one of my favourite jokes. “How many people work in your office/organisation?”. “Around half of them…”.
I’ve been reminded of it over the past few weeks as I’ve undertaken my ‘phased return’ to work at the Scottish Government. “Are you back working?”. “Well I’m back in the office…”.
As milestones go, getting back to work was right up there. I may have a new perspective on life, some changed priorities, but there’s been something incredibly rewarding about getting suited and booted again and getting back into the old routine.
A lot of things have changed. Yet a lot remains exactly as I left it.
I’ve had a few weeks of reduced hours (starting at 3 hours a day back in December) which I used to catch up with a year’s worth of workplace developments and to re-acquaint myself with some of the longer-term issues I was dealing with when I went off sick.
But, by and large, it’s been like riding a bike (not the falling off and breaking your arm bit though…).
I’ve been genuinely touched by the warm welcome back I’ve received from not just immediate colleagues, but from other staff who were aware of my ‘situation’ through reading this blog or other articles.
I shouldn’t really be surprised. Since diagnosis and through treatment and recovery I’ve been extremely lucky to have had first-class support from my employers, support which allowed me to focus all my efforts on the small task of getting better and kicking cancer’s butt.
There are too many names to mention here, but the backing, encouragement, sympathy and (just as importantly) banter I’ve received from right across the Scottish Government ‘family’ has been both humbling and inspiring. You know who you are. Thank you.
Truth is, in the early months, I couldn’t be sure I’d ever return to work. Sure, I put my best, most positive brave face on things and vowed to do all I could to overcome my illness. But getting back into the ‘old routine’ was never a given, never a certainty.
There are some people who appear genuinely surprised when I say I’m not only glad to be back, but I was desperate to return.
They probably wonder why someone who has had a cancer that is ultimately incurable and will almost certainly return one day – maybe next year, maybe five years, hopefully much longer away – wants to spend time at work when they could be “doing something better with their lives”.
I hope the words above (and below) help them realise why! Doing a meaningful job is part of me. Getting back to normal is a massive part of my recovery, mentally and physically.
I’m lucky that I genuinely enjoy my job. I love the challenges and diversity it throws up on a daily basis. The mixture of deep thinking, wide collaboration and instant (adrenaline-inducing) action.
These are some of the things that helped motivate me during my more difficult periods.
I know I have to be careful to pace myself, and not to overdo things too quickly. And I genuinely appreciate it when colleagues act to ensure that I’m not trying to do too much, too quickly, in a way that might adversely affect my recovery.
But I’m glad to say that after two months of building up my daily hours, and having finally gone ‘full time’ last week, I genuinely feel significant weekly improvements in my stamina, my concentration levels and my overall ‘mojo’.
This was given extra validation today by my three-monthly visit to see my specialist cancer consultant.
The outcome couldn’t really have been more positive. Blood counts all normal. No issues with my lymph nodes. Chest absolutely clear (despite a viral cough!). Still totally in remission and in as good shape as can be expected.
The added bonus was hearing that the research into Mantle Cell Lymphoma is continuing to bring exciting new treatments onto the market. And that a local audit review on the highly intensive treatment I had shows that many patients have still seen no return of their cancer 7-8 years after treatment.
The fact that we spent more time talking about President Trump than my treatment and recovery says a lot!
All-in-all, not a bad start to 2017. I think I’m nearly normal again!
PS – I’ve been doing my bit to help the wonderful folk at Maggie’s in Edinburgh raise funds for their much-needed new building extension. Being the media tart that I am I was more than happy to accept a request from the Edinburgh Evening News to do a interview as part of the ‘Buy a Brick for Maggie’s’ campaign. Here’s the article: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/health/edinburgh-dad-was-fittest-he-d-ever-been-before-cancer-discovery-1-4330095