How My Daughter’s Rare Disease Diagnosis Transformed My Career

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.