Before I fell ill, I had a pretty large career. As you may know, I have two Master’s degrees and was fortunate enough to have a great run in pharmaceutical sales before retiring for a few years to set up care, nursing, and therapies for Emmett while seeing Griffin off to Kindergarten. As a pharmaceutical rep, I made a ton of money, had great benefits, won several awards, and proved to the world and myself that I could sell ice to eskimos. Then an amazing job fell into my lap (thanks to my neighbor) to head up Training and Development for a compound pharmacy based in Alabama. I was recommended for the position by a few of my former colleagues who respected me and trusted my decision making abilities. I have to admit, it was quite flattering. So just to review – Money; check! Power; check! Confidence in one’s abilities-check!
I don’t know if any of you are old like me and used to watch VH1’s “Behind the Music.” Every episode was the same. The announcer would chronicle a band’s rise to fame and glory, and ultimately, the band would get into some drug and/or money problems and hit rock bottom. The announcer had the same line every time: “So and so were on top of the world, and then…tragedy struck.” They would cut to a commercial and he would say, “When we return, the road back…” Well, insert here that same “Behind the Music” scenario. “All was going pretty well for Stacy, and then…tragedy struck. When we return, the road back…”
You are all well versed on the tragedy part. For all intents and purposes, let’s assume that I am on the “road back.” I had to give up that fantabulous job at the compound pharmacy for several reasons. One, I had to travel to Alabama once a month, which obviously I can’t do due to risk of infection, fatigue, and my rigorous treatment schedule. Two, it involved a lot of typing which I can’t do because of the permanent chemo-induced neuropathy in my fingers and hands. And three, I just can’t be held accountable for any projects because I don’t know how I’ll be feeling mentally, physically, or emotionally on any given day.
So here I am: smart, witty, and competent with tons of skills, relegated to collecting disability (thank you American taxpayers). Fortunately, my husband has an excellent job, and we’ve saved some money for a rainy day (by the way, it’s pouring) over the years to the point where they won’t shut the lights off in my home if I don’t work. I’m not saying that I am walking around in a fur coat, driving a Ferrari, and eating caviar. There are tons of out of pocket costs both for Emmett and me that insurance doesn’t cover. We just live within our means and try to make ends meet like everyone else. My heart aches for my fellow warriors who are in my same situation but are the breadwinners or single parent/provider of their households. The medical bills from cancer or any chronic disability are staggering.
I have this “need/want” to earn money. I guess it goes back to my blue collar, Polish roots where if you’re not making money, you’re not contributing. You know, like, “what are you bringing to the table?” And I guess money is the commodity on which I’ve always based my self worth. This is pressure I put solely on myself. My wonderful husband doesn’t want me to work. He wants me to get better, be happy, and nurture a loving home for our family. My mom told me that I “need to be more of a mother” which I’m pretty sure doesn’t translate that way, but more to what my husband said above. The problem is that I really don’t cook, I don’t bake, I don’t sew, I don’t iron, I don’t garden…well, you get the picture. My resume for “homemaker” reflects that I am unqualified for the job. I’m a pretty good cleaner/organizer, and that certainly makes up for a lot of other shortcomings.
I believe that life unfolds in phases. Remember, the “money-check, power-check, confidence in one’s abilities-check” part? What more could one ask for in a successful career? I am coming to terms with the fact that that phase of my life has passed. Been there, done that. I am in the “give back, pay it forward” phase of my life. I often say that all of these challenging personal trials happened to me for a reason. They did. For me to show others how to cope with such matters. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. There is no “pay”- there is passion, purpose, and pride, which in my eyes can certainly qualify as enough “pay” to fill my heart with more meaning and riches than ever imaginable. My “work” is lighting the way for fellow warriors and being a voice for those who won’t or can’t speak for themselves. I am humbly honored to accept this mission. And since all of you are my “boss,” make sure you give me a performance appraisal. I appreciate the feedback and promise to always strive to do better!
When I worked for Merck, their motto was, “Do what you love and the profits will follow.” I remember answering the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with, “I have no idea; I just know I want to work with people.” I am 46, still growing up, not knowing what I want to do. But I am working with people, whom I love, and every single day I am alive, the profits follow. Thank you for reading this and have a fulfilling day!
Author’s Note: Happy 13th Birthday to my son, Griffin, who is one of the 3 miracles in my life. I love you Griffin, and I am so proud of the man you are growing into with your compassion for the world.