I’m Wondering (About Cancer Discrimination)

This essay was originally published on July 27, 2015.

Summer is always the sluggish time of year when it comes to work. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living – working during the summer is a drag. Commuting in hot weather via public transit saps your will to live (thankfully, I don’t have to endure that anymore), but so does that niggling feeling in the back of your mind that you’re not working because the evil forces are conspiring against you.

As you all know, I am a freelance writer. It was quite difficult to resign myself to not working while I was going through chemo, but that’s over and done with. Now that I’m feeling better and my brain is functioning at or near where it was prior to the infusions of poison, I’m still not working anywhere near as much as I’d like. Is this the universe conspiring against me? Am I a victim of discrimination? Am I unlucky? Is there a pile of shit out there with my name on it that I haven’t stepped in yet?

At the end of May I got some work from the local office of a marketing content company. The pay was good and the work wasn’t particularly taxing. The problem, however, was actually getting paid in a timely fashion. I’ve been lucky for the most part in my career as a freelancer, because I’ve only gotten ripped off twice by questionable clients. This time, I was sitting around like a schmuck waiting weeks for payment. Since finances have been tight, I was quite vocal to my contacts at this company about needing payment for my services sooner, rather than later. My assertive attitude paid off, literally, because I received payment for the work I did in June much quicker than I did for the previous project in May.

Here’s where the evil forces come into play: I haven’t done any work for this company at all this month. I sent an e-mail to my contacts telling them I was ready for a new project, and never heard back. Did I screw myself by being too aggressive? Or, is it possible that these people read this blog and decided they did not want to work with someone who had cancer?

My e-mail signature contains a link to this blog. Every time I apply for work via e-mail, I use this blog to showcase my writing skills. I’m starting to think that prospective employers might be somewhat hesitant to hire someone who is recovering from breast cancer. I’ve e-mailed at least a dozen queries over the past four weeks, and haven’t had so much as an automatic reply from any of them. Do I offend? Has my mojo as a wordsmith deserted me? Or, am I damaged goods?

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this entry, none of which are easy to answer. When you go through a tough time in life, you want to believe there are good things waiting for you on the other side of those difficulties. Some people struggle constantly to keep cancer at bay for as long as they can. I like to think I am on a path where that won’t be the case.

As far as my career as a freelance writer is concerned, I want to pick up where I left off, but I also want to believe that there are better, brighter opportunities ahead of me. Freelancing is an unreliable, stressful way to earn a living. You’re always hustling; if you don’t work, you don’t make money. It’s exhausting. But, in all that stress and exhaustion lurks an elusive notion that at some point, there will be a reward that will make it all worthwhile.

I’m wondering: where is my pile of shit, and when do I get to step in it?

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