April 16, 2017

Should I Return To Work After Beating Cancer?

I’ve made some compromised if not conflicting career choices. With that said, I feel like for now, I’ve made the right choice to go back to work after beating cancer. At least that’s how I see it.

The Difference Between Can and Should.

Returning to work after treatment or even diagnosis for that matter, is a deeply personal choice and although everyone has to make it for themselves. I think the answer really resides inside what you want to return to. It’s not that you can’t return to work or a life that resembles something you consider normal. It’s more a question of should you return to the same work you did prior to cancer. If you had 2 abdominal surgeries like I had, but you were a construction worker before treatment. I would in my mind try to choose a different path for myself as not to invite further injury that may take me out of the workforce completely.

Coworkers Matter

The struggle to document everything possible that relates to the path cancer lead me down. The one that influences me everyday, has become an afterthought. I don’t like that. I always said, no matter what I can never forget the lessons cancer taught me and it’s important not to fall into the rut of life again. I can’t lose site of what I am, who I am now. This brings me to my new job.

I am a graphic designer by trade and although I’ve found myself leaning more on the the technical side of that career path I’ve always been drawn to inspiring design work. Print, web, typography, calligraphy, watercolor, art is art, and if you have an eye for it, it doesn’t ever just go away, it’s like a pet that you are responsible for. You have to feed it and it will be fed whatever you bring it close to visually. My new job is with a local printing company. It’s small, but prestigious in the local printing scene. The people are nice and friendly, there are no egos I’ve encountered and the work seems to be solidly flowing in with signs of growth on the horizon.

Define The Career’s Conflict.

So why is this a “conflicting career choice”? Well, The printing industry has been known to utilize many chemicals during the printing process that contains carcinogens. Now, you pick up a printed piece of advertisement and no big deal. Now pick up ten-thousand, then another ten-thousand, smell it, run your hands over it to see if the ink smears. Go into a warehouse full of advertisements you’re responsible for and take in the fumes from the five presses you have running and have to clean with harsh chemicals to clean out the ink when making adjustments.

You walk around in the fine misted air full of dust and soot and particulates from the ink that’s been vaporized during the printing process. There’s a faint hint of sawdust as well made from the trimming of paper products made from fine but highly processed paper types that have been bleached and dyed and what have you. Imagine you have to walk through this place daily to check on things, coordinate with co-workers, clock in or out for lunch in the break-room centered in this area.

Now, let’s go back to the other side of the building separated by a thin wall and share a ventilation system with this area. The fumes are not so pungent anymore. That unique smell you couldn’t quite put your finger on when you came in to interview is no longer noticed and you’re just happy to be on “that side” of the building now. Am I painting an accurate picture of what I mean when I said “conflicting”?

Sometimes It takes Time.

I work for a great company, with great people, but all around me I have a story to share, a life to live and a future to think about. I’m breathing in this air with the rest of my coworkers, many of whom seem to have various ailments specifically skin cancer.┬áIt’s unsure the surroundings have anything to do with it, but I do know it couldn’t be making it any better. Time will tell I guess.

In the meantime, I’ve discussed my attempt at going vegan over the coming year with co-workers and have gotten a mixed response, but mostly positive after the initial “you don’t eat meat?” stare. Maybe my role here is to be an example. To help those who may benefit from the change in diet and lifestyle. Maybe I can help counter act some of these ailments with my cancer life knowledge. It’s a fine line between saying and doing sometimes.

Stay The Course.

I’ve got to keep my chin up, eyes forward and my heart in the right place. If I start to exhibit any symptoms of any kind of ailment, I’ll be forced to do what’s right for my health. The conflict resides in the statement, “Do I get out before it even becomes a problem.”. While I’m here though, I am going to try to do what good I can for my fellow man. Lead by example with a plant based diet, become health resource to those in need. I also plan on researching the machines we use and what kinds of inks and cleaning agents that are utilized as well as the different paper sources we have. Maybe there’s a chance for some synergy between an ecologically friendly printing facility and a cancer graduate.


I'm Jason, I have Colon cancer. This is my story.

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