Apparently, people on long term disability don't often call their insurance company to say, "Can I go back to work now?" (At least that's what my insurance rep told me when I spoke with her).
"What's the rush?" asked my oncologist when I mentioned a return to work.
And there certainly are many other things with which I could fill my time and not get bored (aside from physiotherapy and trying to find my house under all the rubble).
I know how lucky I am to have a supportive employer with a good insurance plan. I am also very grateful that I live in Canada where we have socialized medicine (women without health insurance face alarmingly high death rates) and a terrific oncologist who supports whatever choice I need to make (as long as I promise to take things slowly).
In part, I want to return to work slowly so I can build up my stamina gradually and not feel overwhelmed by the shock of trying to get up to speed.
But that's not all. I attended a staff retreat last week (at the Chateau Montebello, in a village near where I grew up. I'd always dreamed of staying there) and the truth is, I felt energized by the experience, and, in fact, have continued to have more energy since my return. It was so good to be around people and to have my thoughts be consumed by something other than cancer for a while.
I love my work (and my co-workers were an enormous source of support during treatment). And a significant part of my identity has always come from my work life.
I am a mother, lover, friend, trade unionist and now, irrevocably(but not primarily), a cancer patient. Each of these identities is important to me and I need to give voice to each of them in order to feel whole.
I know that I need to be careful. The last thing I want is to end up on sick leave again (and labour movement jobs are famous for being demanding and stressful). I am going to have to set clear boundaries and figure out how to pace myself.
But I feel ready to start re-claiming the life I had before cancer.
I'll let you know how it goes.