THE NEXT CORNER

Carpe diem? No chance. I'm going back to work.

January 21, 2018

Having published my most recent blog yesterday, I re-read it this morning and had one of those moments. You know the sort: when you say something completely harmless but then regret it with hindsight once it's too late. It's similar to when you forget to mention something that is important to the person you're talking to until after you've parted company. Or, worst of all, you ask someone how they are twice by accident.

 

In my most recent blog, you might have noticed that I mentioned work a lot, and you could be forgiven for thinking that I measure how un-cancerous I am by how much time I can spend in the office. And, to an extent, you would not be wrong.

 

But many of you will doubtless have said to yourself "If I were just emerging from the couple of years that lot have been through and had a month or two of freedom ahead of me, I would be bouncing off the walls, travelling the world, seeing people, doing things, going places, BREAKING OUT!"

 

So I wanted explain why I seem to be so keen to get back to work and don't seem to mention bouncing off the walls, travelling the world, seeing people, doing things, going places, nor even breaking out much at all.

 

First and foremost, it's not that we don't want to travel the world and generally break out - in fact that is more or less all we want to do. We spent an absolutely wonderful 10 days in Spain in September, but it didn't involve much travel and adventure, more chilling and recuperating. Our last real, proper jaunt overseas was to Sri Lanka almost exactly two years ago, a trip we absolutely loved and long to repeat, either to the same tropical island or somewhere else hot, sunny and fascinating - we're not fussy! But aside from that, we have been mostly stuck at home, in our dinky little cottage (or in a hospital) with the dog so yes, we long, yearn, positively ache to get out of Udimore, out of England to spend some time elsewhere.

 

But here's the problem. We can't. For several reasons. A small part of this is the fault of my adorable wife (love you, darling). Since cancer became a part of our lives, she has started a new job and a Master of Arts which, you can imagine, more than occupy her along with her existing job teaching ceramics to people with special needs, and her other extracurricular commitments. And because she is teaching, we now have to fit our lives in with school holidays (I know, eugh!) despite not having children of our own.  And even during the school holidays, she has to work on her MA almost every hour that she can and teach the special needs groups, so time is not on our side.

 

A bigger part, though, is my work situation. I know I have said it before but my place of work, Batcheller Monkhouse, has been beyond exemplary in how they have looked after me since my diagnosis in May 2016. They honestly haven't missed a beat - I have been allowed all the time off I have needed without a shred of guilt or bad-feeling, and they have paid me throughout almost as though I have been working full time. I am enormously lucky to be working for such a firm, and as a result, I feel an enormous debt of gratitude.

 

In exchange, I have tried to make an appearance in the office as often as I have been able, even if just for half an hour here and there. And as soon as I was well enough, I returned to my desk on a pretty much full time basis in order to begin repaying the debt of gratitude.

 

I am also blessed to work with a group of people who all get on astonishingly well. The office is full of laughter and fun, and we all seem to get on more as friends than colleagues. I am lucky to be able to consider work more of a pleasure than a chore - sure, there are times when things get heated and stressful, but we all know each other so well that in those circumstances we look out for one another and do our best to support each other. We are a small, close-knit team and I believe we are all lucky to work where we do.

 

So, while we would dearly love to just shove off for a few weeks or even months, leave all our cancerous woes behind and just "be" for while, I do not feel I should - BM has been so kind to me, it would be a truly low stunt to pull.

 

Top of the reasons, though, is that despite their looking after me, my income has unfortunately reduced considerably since I was diagnosed, and our expenses have gone up. Cancer is a very expensive business. According to a MacMillan report in 2012, 83% of people affected by cancer are £570 a month worse off. In my line of work (and many others, of course), one can come to rely on one's bonus and obviously in the nearly two years I have not been working, I have not received my bonus. This has tightened our purse strings considerably.

 

To make matters worse, I was given my diagnosis about a fortnight before my annual review when, ordinarily, I would have received a pay rise. This means that I have not received a pay rise since May 2015 - nigh on three years ago - and all the while, prices and the general cost of living have been creeping steadily upwards. My career has stalled, and for no reason other than stinking cancer. Unfair, much?

 

The point being that, even if we were to decide to take off for a bit, we couldn't afford to.  For the time being we're stuck, and until I get a pay rise, not to mention a bonus again, we won't be going anywhere or, for that matter, doing much! And so going back to work is a two-fold thing - first, it provides me with a sense of routine and normality that has been completely missing from my life for the last 21 months. And second, the sooner I can commit to work, the sooner I will see a raise in my income, the sooner Bekky and I can shove off for, at the very least, a decent holiday.

 

I realise, of course, that this is the perfect example of a First World problem - I am truly fortunate to have a job and an income at all, and our daily life has continued almost unchecked throughout this whole ordeal - the food we eat, the bills we pay etc. But there's no denying the fact that, where previously we were rolling along quite nicely, cancer has left us skint.

 

So there it is - why am I so keen to get back to work, and why aren't we instead in the throes of a massive Carpe Diem moment? Money, basically. Cancer has robbed us. I'm not looking for sympathy, nor am I declaring ourselves a charity case, we're fine really, I just wanted to offer an explanation and thought you might be interested. And having read this far, either I am right, or you're particularly bored.

 

Tomorrow is Monday. If you need me, I'll be in the office. 

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