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Woman hunched over her laptop with icicles piercing her back

This Job Is Killing Me

I spent a good part of my life working in various facets of the fashion industry. It’s been a hailstorm of events that have shaped me into the tough cookie I am. For the many that spend 8 hours or more at work, well, you may understand it can be a bit much. I recall working late at the office (in Production Management that is very likely) over 10 hours 3-4 days of the week. There was always an issue that needed to be resolved, and having my peers and overseas vendors on hand in their actual time was pertinent to the job. My job almost felt like that of a doctor because I was always on call.  

I understand all too well the grind of doing it all. I’ve given my all. But while I was doing it, I knew my body was reaping the consequences. I don’t know what it is about not knowing how to say no or continuing to push the envelope. Sometimes, we just can’t do it all. I’ve wondered if that’s a good or bad thing. When we’re asked to do something that’s part of our job that may cause stress while completing it, well, many of us do what we have to do. Yet, when our bodies give clear signs that it can’t keep up, many tend to push along anyway. I’m sure, for many, if we sat down and think back to 1-2 years before being diagnosed, we could probably pinpoint when our bodies gave clear indications it was done.

Stress: The big “S”

The big “S” is a huge factor in what triggers many of our ailments. I can recall sitting at my desk with my shoulder and upper traps so tight, it felt like icicles piercing my body. Or those headaches that would arise when a problem could not get resolved when it needed to be resolved. Whether you love your job or not, one point I think we can all agree on is that it shouldn’t be leading to our demise. The biggest factors to my stress triggers were multitasking, heavy workload, and issues working with my peers.

Now, wrap all of that along with getting a handle on your cancer. It’s a lot!

Steps to reduce your stress

First, you have to admit that your job is actually taking a horrible toll on you. Sometimes when we admit that stress may be a deterrent, it opens up room for more discussion, and how you need to move forward.

Work-life balance

It’s important that we take the measures needed for wellness. If you’re currently on meds, you have to really strategize to give your body what it needs to battle what it’s battling.  Before your diagnosis, perhaps you weren’t getting the rest you needed, but now with the help of chemo, you are forced to change your old habits. Working out a schedule to be out of the office and home in time to eat and rest is a huge factor. If you are in an industry where you’re needed after hours, then schedule specific days that are your “Push It” times to do more, if you can.  Your “Push It” time cannot be every day. It’s not beneficial to “Push It” every day, as proper rest is a key component in treatment.


I remember clearly skipping lunch many days and heading to our vending machine for a bag of Doritos to get me through. I would work straight through with the help of junk snacks just to finish what I was doing. Well, guess what? Sometimes, even with our strong efforts, what we are working on won’t be totally resolved that day. So eat something healthy! If you are lucky to have an appetite after chemo, a balanced diet is important. The new craze of meal prep is so very helpful; if bringing your lunch on a work day or chemo day helps you stay on course then do so. Bringing your own food filled with items with color, vegetables, and fruits gets you out of trouble by keeping you from eating things you shouldn’t be eating. I found that food plays a big role when it comes to stress, as you want to refrain from being an emotional eater, even at the job.

Mental breathers

If you are lucky enough to get breaks at work, then take advantage of it! Many places have small lounge chairs in the restrooms or other areas if you need to settle your nerves and take a 5-minute nap. I know you’re saying, “what is 5 minutes though? It’s minimal in comparison to my 1-hour naps at home!” It gives your body a little something to regain your energy to complete your day at work. If a nap doesn’t seem feasible, just allowing yourself to get some fresh air and regain some energy with the sun or fresh air is a huge booster. If there’s negative energy inside, why not break with the calmness of fresh air?

Many of us don’t have the luxury of not working while battling cancer, but we have to rethink the whole picture of how is this going to work. You can’t condone or encourage stress while trying to beat your disease. We all need to work smarter as we beat this.

The time to fight is now, with integrity, grace, hope, and a smile….when you feel like it

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    I believe stress is a huge contributor to illness. We live in a tough world and it seems stress has become a normal part of our day. I used to think I strived on stress, but in reality is was affecting my immune system. You are so right is all of your advice. If you only have five minutes, make the most of it. Fresh air and sunshine are also key. I’ve been trying to talk a daily walk and I always feel better after. Thanks for sharing.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator author
    7 months ago

    Hi Ann,
    It’s just the little things we all need to do in stepping back in seeing what is actually going on. Many adapt to stress, as its own normal. I’m happy you’ve adjusted your lifestyle a bit at a time. Best!

  • Jim Smith moderator
    8 months ago

    Excellent advise. I believe stress was a big factor in my CLL. I was in marketing and pushed myself way too hard to accomplished crazy deadlines that I should have just said no to. Unfortunately, I did the same thing while taking care of an elderly parent–taking on too much without any help. It was during that period that I was diagnosed with leukemia. I’ve purposely made my life less stressful now and my blood counts are much better. I can’t say for sure that getting rid of my stressors made the difference but I believe it did.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator author
    8 months ago

    Jim, whether it played a role or not I’m sure we both can agree stress can go bye-bye, or to the back of the room, in many cases. Best!

  • Crystal Harper moderator
    8 months ago

    I can relate to this post so much and I think I needed this reminder. After I got done with chemo, I swore that I would make some changes with my job to try to eliminate stress in my life, but I recently found myself slipping back into my old bad habits. I’m constantly striving to go to work to live instead of living to work. It’s a tough thing to manage when you have a demanding job but out health depends on it so much.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator author
    8 months ago

    Yes, Crystal
    We always have to keep things in perspective when it comes to that demanding job. I agree it’s tough but necessary. Best!

  • Matt Goldman
    8 months ago

    thanks for reminder Yolanda. stress comes in a lot of forms and it’s a challenge to minimize it. but that needs to be our goal.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hey Matt,
    We all need this reminder because unfortunately, many of us are living day to day on this ride. Best!

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    8 months ago

    @yolandabrunson-sarrabo Stress is responsible for so many things that can make our illnesses worse. The list goes on and on. It’s so important to manage it, you hit the nail on the head. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator author
    8 months ago

    Yes, Daniel, I couldn’t agree with you more.

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