• Tracy Benelli

Balancing Work, Life, and a Cancer Diagnosis

Robin Roberts, Christina Applegate, Shannen Doherty – just three women who have or currently are living and working through a cancer diagnosis with poise, grace, and strength of women like them. Shannen Doherty recently spoke about her most recent cancer diagnosis, saying:


"It's a hard one because I thought when I finally do come out, I would have worked and worked 16 hours a day, and people can look at that and say, 'Oh my God, she can work, and other people with stage 4 can work. Our life doesn't end the minute we get that diagnosis. We still have some living to do."


You do still have some living (and working) to do. Your ability to thrive doesn’t end when you get the diagnosis. Neither does your ability to work and to continue on your successful career path. Here’s the deal, my friend, you are so much more than the diagnosis. You are more than you think you are. This is where the hard work starts because you must silence the voices inside your head that doubt your capabilities to balance your personal life, your professional life, and your new, and temporary, patient life. With the right attitude, you can do it.


You're a good leader, a good person, a good colleague, a good wife, a good mom, a good daughter, a good friend, and a good coworker and people expect you to show up at your best, every day. This is because you've set the precedent that you will show up every day, and bring your best to whatever it is you're doing. But with your diagnosis, it may feel like you're about to let everyone down with one sentence, “I have cancer.”


Here’s the truth: you will not let anyone down. Some days you are going to show up at your best and sometimes you won’t. You are human, and you're faced with a medical diagnosis that launches you into the unknown. Your "new normal" is filled with the unfamiliar, so let's flip the conversation and focus on what you do know.




The First Step is to Breathe

You know your job, and you know what you expect from yourself. You know this so well that you’ve surrounded yourself both personally and professionally with superstars. You know how to prioritize and manage, and you know how to move things forward. I understand that this diagnosis is exhausting. That's why it's essential to take a deep breath and ask for help. The vision that you’ve created of a superhero with unrealistic personal endurance cannot propel you forward. It’s time to see yourself as a human being who is figuring out how to do life and do work and do cancer treatment. Understand that your priorities have shifted - maybe they are entirely turned upside down. Get out a pen and a piece of paper and write down what you want to accomplish and who can help you achieve it. Your team is going to wonder whether you can "do it all" and you owe it to yourself to show them that you are optimistic, focused, and ready to pull together collaboratively to continue to meet your professional (and personal) objectives.


For example, if your priorities are finalizing an important presentation for a potential client, getting your 13-year-old to practice, and meeting with your new oncologist, you can't go at it alone. Ask a teammate for practice pick up. Delegate the presentation formatting to a team member (you'll be the final set of eyes before it goes to print). And get yourself to the doctor's office. Your colleagues (and your loved ones) are going to be cheering you on because when you succeed, they also succeed.


Remember Your Vision

Occasionally, on the hard days, you will need to push back hard against the self-doubt and get your spirit fired up, your imagination ablaze, and your energy stoked to white-hot level. Remember the vision you so passionately worked to make a reality? Commit to rediscover your “why” and know with confidence that you have everything you need right now to navigate this chapter of your life story.


Share Your Story

Are you currently facing a diagnosis and trying to figure out how to balance the parts of your new normal? Please share your story and this post on social and let's start healing together.

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©2020 by Tracy Benelli