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News & Blogs: Accelerating Your Career

How cancer helped me take control (seriously)

Thursday, September 03, 2015  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Stephanie Getz

It may sound crazy, but having cancer has made me a happier person.

In June 2012, at age 42, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than two years later, I took a huge leap and quit my job.

Before taking control of my worklife, I was, quite frankly, miserable in my job, a position I took after being diagnosed with cancer and which I’d held for less than a year. I was a senior executive traveling to a different city every few days meeting with people who hated my company and what we stood for. I was so stressed out, I cried daily. I felt like I was failing.

I remember seeing segments on morning news programs about people who decided to quit their corporate jobs and do something completely different. I always admired them, but continued to do what I was doing because I was comfortable and felt safe.

I had been contemplating doing something different with my life for a few years, but I was terrified to give up my high-paying position. In my mind, my "important” career defined me. But cancer taught me that there was so much more to life and gave me the courage to walk away. It really wasn’t that hard, once I set my mind to it. It was actually quite liberating. I learned to say "No" to things I didn’t want to do and "Yes" to things I usually said "No" to because I was too tired or didn’t have time. I learned how to live happy.

When I finally summoned the courage to leave that firm with thoughts of semi-retiring and starting my own business, my peers and friends said I would be bored. They were worried about me. Well, I’m not bored and I don’t regret my decision in any way, shape or form. I’m doing exactly what I want to do every day and I’m healthy and not stressed. That was the whole point. Less stress to stay healthy.

When opportunity knocks

Earlier in my career, as an executive at shopper marketing firm RGI Inc., my largest client was Dole. I became best friends with my main contact there. When I left my last job to go out on my own, she approached me about working for Dole as a part-time spokesperson. This was a perfect opportunity for me, since the Dole Nutrition Institute is passionate about their research on how fruits and vegetables can help prevent diseases, including cancer. I feel very good about representing a company that has the same values I do. My gig is exciting and allows me to keep my health insurance and make a little money, but continue my new life.

I have adapted to my new life so well I can’t imagine ever going back to a job that makes me miserable, no matter the title or pay. I don’t need that much money.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it takes a little time to materialize.

Everyone thought I was crazy when I quit my job. But I had to do that be free.

Whether your leap means telling your boss what you want from your career, making a lateral move in your company, seeking an opportunity with an organization that values you and aligns with your own values, or switching tracks completely, don't waste time being ignored, underappreciated and unhappy. Making a change that leverages your talents and experience and allows you to lead the life you want to lead can be scary. But that decision is yours to make. Follow your heart.

Stephanie Getz is an independent consultant and blogger. She is a Network of Executive Women member and chair of the NEW Cincinnati mixer committee. She's active in the Young Survival Coalition.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.


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