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Cancer and Your Career: Coping With a CLL Diagnosis With a Busy Professional Life

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Published on February 27, 2019

How do patients cope with cancer in the height of their career? During this Patient Café, a panel of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients including Patient Power founder Andrew Schorr, Michele Nadeem-Baker and Jeff Brochstein, share their experiences receiving a CLL diagnosis while working their dream job and being a high-income earner, and then making the transition from a fast-paced lifestyle to find a new work-life balance with their condition.

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power. We thank AbbVie, Inc. and Pharmacyclics for their support.


Transcript | Cancer and Your Career: Coping With a CLL Diagnosis With a Busy Professional Life

So I want to dig into that a little bit more, and I'd like to start with you, Michelle.  And tell me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that when you were first diagnosed you were really in a pretty high-level executive position in PR and communications, and how did you cope with the diagnosis in the middle of a very busy professional life? 

Michele Nadeem-Baker:

I had to give up my job and my career.  And I was well known in Florida, and I moved back up to Boston.  I needed to remake connections from when I lived and worked here.  And I've been consulting ever since versus within a company and a full-time job.  So trying to use what I do best, just communicate and go and help others.  And what's been happening is I found that it's been mostly in life sciences and related fields. 

Can you share a little bit about what it took for you to make the change that you did? 

So sometime we're tired.  Sometime we're distracted—not distracted, that's not fair, but we have doctor visits.  We have bone marrow biopsies.  We have other things.  I get IVIG, monthly infusions.  So how do you juggle all that? 

And I think we learned to do that.  At least that's what I've done, and I think it's been satisfying that we can communicate with others, and it's part of who we are.  Never wanted the diagnosis of CLL, no, no, no, but if you have it how can you go forward and do that?  And I know both Jeffs are involved in helping other patients as Michelle is too, so that's part of it. 

It's pretty intense at the times.  One thing that I've really experienced in terms of just first firsthand trying to deal with having CLL and making all the appointments, the bone marrow biopsies, the routine blood work, you know, I tend to—I don't openly communicate my condition to everyone at work, but I've been lucky and I've been blessed to have pretty decent managers who I directly reported to ever since diagnosis, and they've been just very accommodating and understanding.  And in some regard they have to be, but I've been lucky enough to find that in the workplace, and that's been really, really great.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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