***Half of this was written at my return to work following chemo before going out again for my bilateral mastectomies*** Return to work post mastectomies will be written once it happens!
So it’s my first week back at working as an acute care occupational therapist and I must say… I am exhausted!!! Although I am so so so happy and blessed to be back and working with my amazing co-workers and of course the patients, I would be lying if I didnt say that I have had times late at night or early the next morning when that lovely alarm goes off and I just want to crush my iphone… Or that I have questioned if I went back to work too soon, or if I should have returned back to work at all!
Only 2 weeks after chemo and my multitude of allergic reactions, I was feeling back to myself at home, therefore my doctors and I decided it was a safe decision to return to the rather physical job of an OT! I mean, how hard could it be? Some people go through treatments and work at the same time! I was lucky enough to be out of work for five months and still have a job to come back to! I returned to work basically with a little angel and devil on each of my shoulders. The angel is telling me that my energy level isnt normal, that im going to have to pace myself and im most likely not going to be as productive as before I went out on leave. However, the other side is that little devil that pushes me to be productive, drives me to see as many patients as possible, and go on full blast all day so at night I just want to face dive into bed!
Lets go back to Monday March 14th, my first day back and treating on the floor! That Sunday night I was a wreck! Train wreck to be exact. That weekend we traveled to Harrisburg for our good friends beautiful wedding, we let lose… Had a puppy sitter for Izzy for the very first time (thanks bff!) and just raged! #shouldaseenjohnssnapchats However, come Sunday night and after a 3.5 hr drive home… I was exhausted!
That night, soooo many things were running through my mind. Would I remember what to do, would I make it through the day, what if I forget something, what about the computers, I hope its not too different, and that question thats always dawning on me… What about my hair! I was a nervous wreck that my coworkers and more importantly patients wouldnt know why I had short hair and ask a million questions… Or think I was “sick” therefore not trust my skills as a therapist!
Oh the drama my little mind creates for me. I swear I even had a dream of exact wording of the assessment portion of an evaluation! For those of you working as a therapist, you have to know what i’m talking about. Basically, we are kinda like little robots… We have the same greeting and introduction, the same questions regarding home setup and previous level of function, then evaluations differ depending upon diagnosis, you explain the plan and goals– and most importantly the patients goals or concerns, say your goodbyes and on to the next patient we go! Why was I so scared that I would have magically forgotten my routine that literally is engraved into my white matter!
Walking into work that day I was so nervous. Then, I walked into the OT office and there stood many of my collegues and literally a breakfast feast! It was like I could breath! My coworkers 1. Didnt forget who I was, and 2. Cared enough to go out of their way to welcome me back in such a touching way… It literally meant so much!
After numerous hugs and hellos with my long lost therapy team, off to a meeting with my new director and supervisor! Turns out a few changes had been made, I explained my plan of coming back for a few weeks before my double mastectomy but I was so grateful to be back! In no time I was off to the floor I went to treat my first patient!
It was all so new and exciting! Literally I jumped in ready to be the best OT I could… So basically that means ADLs and Independence all day long people!! Lets move your little behinds, go to the bathroom on a toilet, shower, get dressed (okay maybe i’ll let you use some long handled equipment), and lets find the meaning of life together! My first patient of the day literally was like riding a bike. Guess what everyone… It all came right back to me!
Okay, so I remembered what it was like to be an OT… But my hair! Oh ya, hello Meghan you are not the little long blonde haired OT anymore. You now walk into patients rooms with a near bald look so obviously patients and other people working in the hospital are going to ask questions… Or would they?!
Truthfully out of about 8 patients I saw my first day back, maybe one mentioned my hair. It wasn’t even like they said “oh whats wrong” or “are you sick”… It was simply, “I really like that hair cut on you”! Say what?! The human race is kind? The human race really isn’t paying attention to my baldness?! Nope!
I mean, I have to be fair, I did have a patient or two with dementia who may have said “whats wrong, where is your hair” or “are you sick”… But truthfully it was rare in the days events! I actually had a fellow PT come up to me and ask how I was explaining my lack of hair to patients because one of her patients made a comment about me to her and I decided to go the truthful route. Sure I could play it off like I just cut my hair… By why should I be ashamed or embarrassed of the life I am living? I simply explained, “I recently finished chemo and am awaiting surgery and the word that I am cancer free!”
Truthfully, I am completely shocked how people reacted. It was unlike any reaction scenario that I could have ever dreamt up. Though some people appeared sad or empathetic and went into story telling of their own loved ones cancer journeys, others stopped everything right then and there, grabbed my hand and began to pray. I had one elderly woman who actually said to me, “you know i’ve never met anyone with cancer before”… Of which my response was “well good thing you met me because i’m practically famous;)”
All in all, returning to my life as an OT has been challenging yet so so so rewarding at the same time. Although I am awful at energy conservation techniques and turning down my gear to slow down… I absolutely LOVE the fact that I get to 1. Help others, 2. Share my story, and 3. Give people hope and courage to push through their battles and show them that they cannot give up! Oh and to… #sparkleon