What Having a Health Crisis Taught Me About Work, Life, and Values

Medical IV drip photo

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

The last quarter of 2017 until just recently, I’ve been dealing with significant health issues. I don’t usually share these kinds of things with strangers. I learned from a young age to keep certain things to myself, like personal health, hard times, and pain.

What many of my clients, friends, and would-be employers didn’t know was that I was in and out of the hospital for endometriosis and adenomyosis. Samantha Bee recently aired a comedy special about endometriosis, and some celebrities like Lena Dunham have shared their experiences with it. I am among the 1 in 10 women who have endometriosis, and there isn’t good data on how common adenomyosis is. What all of the information linked here will say is – it is really painful.

I was suffering for years with pain from these conditions.  I had been diagnosed with endometriosis the previous year, but there aren’t any treatment options for this disease. It can’t even be confirmed without surgery. I didn’t have the time or money to seek out more help or information about my condition. I just kept pushing through the pain and wearing a smile for the camera. It all came to a head in August when one of my endometrial cysts burst and I found myself in the ER at 2:00 in the morning.

After that night, I found myself worrying all the time and fighting to keep working and seeking out new opportunities. I kept applying for work, reached out to new and old clients for work, and pushed on – like I had always done, just in between doctor visits and pain pills. I had surgery with a local doctor, but they couldn’t solve my problem. It was severe now – stage 4 endometriosis. In just over a year, my condition had gone from minor dots to spread all over my insides.

It is humbling to go through surgery just to find out that you need more surgery. After nearly a month, I had recovered on the outside from my first surgery. On the inside, I was grappling with what was happening to my health and wondering how I could work through it. I researched my condition, hoping to avoid another unsuccessful surgery. Because I took the time to do that, I learned that I needed to find specialty care for the next surgery. Next, I had to find someone I could afford, and try to find someone on my health insurance network. (Aside: this was incredibly difficult and stressful. I don’t understand why getting good medical care has to be so hard in the United States.)

Meanwhile, I had a great interview and was offered a job that I really wanted. There is no greater battle in your career than to want something but feel you aren’t healthy enough to do it. I cried. I debated. I didn’t even know when the next surgery was going to be, but it needed to be soon. I was in pain. The job wouldn’t wait for me. I finally turned down the opportunity – choosing to take care of my health over my finances.

I needed a hysterectomy, oophorectomy, and endometriosis excision. I finally found a specialist – there are only 150 in the United States who know how to do this surgery. The only one in my network was 1400 miles away! I decided to put everything on hold and do it. I had surgery just before Christmas far from home. I still put on a smile for the camera. On the inside, I couldn’t even fully think about work anymore. I was preparing for a life-changing surgery, months of recovery, and hopefully, a pain-free future.

My story doesn’t end there. During my recovery (I’m still recovering), I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I prioritize, what my strengths are, and what the world expects of me. The world doesn’t care what you’re going through – except maybe for 5 minutes. But I care about what happens to me. I only have one life, and I have the right to be healthy and pain-free. While some people like to talk about “work/life balance,” sometimes there is only room for the “life” part while you take care of an issue.

We all choose our priorities every day. I chose to push through pain and put a smile on. And then I chose to put that aside and really heal my body, travel 1400 miles to get the best care, and put work on hold to do it. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I value my health and well-being first, because I cannot help others if I’m not well first.

Today, I’m feeling better than I have in over a year. My résumé might look a little spotty to some, but only those who have lived my journey will understand the sacrifices I have made.

In case you were wondering, I’m working on my Master’s degree in Marketing, and I’m looking for remote or part-time work in the Houston area while I finish my new degree. Feel free to reach out if you have a marketing opportunity.