How My Daughter’s Rare Disease Diagnosis Transformed My Career
“You will never forget this day as long as you live,” Deb Fowler, a Managing Partner of Green Room Communications, told me on August 19, 2020, and she was right (as she often is!). That was the day my younger daughter was diagnosed with a lifechanging, debilitating, rare disease that we never saw coming; it completely flattened us as a family. As we slowly started to pick ourselves back up and began the seemingly endless scheduling of doctors’ appointments, frantic late night Google searches, and desperate calls to family and friends, I had no idea how I would ever work again or, honestly, if I would even care about work again.
But I did. After taking a brief leave of absence to get our arms around the diagnosis and treatment protocols (unfortunately there is no cure), I returned to work with the full support of leadership and all my colleagues. The biggest surprise to me? Work truly saved me. It gave me a focus when I never thought I could focus again. I have something to contribute. I can solve problems here that I cannot solve in my life.
Since I work in healthcare communications, I believe I am a better strategic partner to my clients than I have ever been before. We talk a lot about being “patient centric” and focusing on the ecosystem surrounding the patient. The insights I have gained as a caregiver and patient advocate give me a perspective that is invaluable – for me and my clients.
As we near the one-year mark of her diagnosis, here are a few insights that have made me better than ever at work:
- Everyone is dealing with something – approaching each other and each interaction with a sense of empathy and openness, knowing people may be dealing with something that has nothing to do with you or their work has released me from taking things personally.
- Perspective is everything – I know what matters and what doesn’t and that allows me a freedom and confidence in my work that I never had before.
- Every (work) problem has a solution – What we do is important, especially in the healthcare space and there are solutions. Lean on your teams and listen to a variety of opinions – just like I have learned to do since no one doctor has my daughter’s cure – listen and learn.
- Give your opinion – What’s the worst that could happen; someone will disagree with you? You can handle that. You have and will, handle worse.
I hope others don’t have an August 19, 2020, but I know they will. I am not the first person to deal with an unexpected family crisis. My hope for you is that you can take some of the lessons I have learned and apply them to your own career – without the crisis.