Finding support during difficult times

By: Jennifer Greenwood, Scrum Lead, Senior Project Lead

Many people worry about turning forty, becoming middle aged, over the hill. All I remember about turning forty is being diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, I had worked for MetLife for one year as a project manager, my daughter was about to turn six and start first grade, and my family was busy and happy. I hadn’t been feeling well so we knew something was wrong. When the diagnosis came it was not a big shock, but still devastating. It brought up so many questions with no answers, around my health and treatment, my job, keeping my daughter’s life stable, health insurance and payment. The questions were never ending.

I was very fortunate in every other aspect of my life besides my health at the time. Duke Cancer Center is almost in my back yard and this is where I received and continue to receive excellent care. I have lots of family, friends, colleagues, doctors, neighbors and more who provided support in more ways than they will ever understand. MetLife supported me with great disability insurance and support from upper management for the times I needed flexibility around appointments, surgeries, treatments and more. My medical insurance covered the costs of my treatments, so we didn’t go into medical debt. Still, so many things are impacted in your life that aren’t covered by anything, such as needing to trade in my beloved manual transmission car for an automatic due to the post-surgical pain.

Once the immediate cancer treatments were completed and I was, and am, cancer free, I was able to return to work full time. My job awaited me, and colleagues were excited to have me back. It was challenging to get back my stamina at first, but I had a lot of support. Within a couple months, it was as though I had never left. I was still dealing with various appointments and procedures from time to time, but life was getting back to normal. Outside of work, I was going to school functions for my daughter and taking her to ice skating lessons again, doing things with friends and family on the weekends, and picking up chores around the house that my husband had been doing while I was sick.

It has now been eight years since that cancer diagnosis. I still have regular physical therapy appointments and checkups at Duke. My daughter is about to start high school now and is as busy as ever. I still spend my free time with my family and friends. I passionately participate and raise money for the local ‘Making Strides Against Breast Cancer’ walk every year. I am still at MetLife and supported by my colleagues and upper management. The time I have missed for various surgeries over four years, and continuing care today have never affected my career growth. I have developed and progressed in different roles as though I had not been sick.

Everyone gets something in life. No one leaves unscathed. It may be an illness, car accident, or any number of other issues. There is nothing like knowing you have the support of your family, friends, colleagues, community, medical team, and employer.

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