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What my career looks like after surviving cancer

  • Posted on February 4, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

Feb. 4 marks World Cancer Day, and I wanted to share my story. My name is Ursula and I’m working at Avanade as a Delivery Lead, which is a kind of project lead. And I’m a cancer survivor.

What does that mean? I had cancer about four years ago and was able to overcome it. It took me nearly 1.5 years with all the diagnostics, surgeries, chemotherapy and finally a rehab to recover. Still, I have some disabilities and have to do daily training and weekly physiotherapy.

During therapy, often it was a thin line between sensing what was wrong and not being too much concerned. If you notice every small ache and being alerted – you will go mad. If you ignore pain too much, you might come into trouble. I wanted to come back to work as soon as possible – otherwise I would not have been able to see where I really stand.

So what helps? On the one hand, for sure a healthy and disciplined life. But even more importantly, it helps when colleagues and managers understand that some things take longer, some things will be done differently and some things are still easy going. I try to be open when I reach my limits and my team understands and accepts it. I’ve never had any complaint about being different, but also from my side, I never used the sickness as an excuse. The biggest challenge now is to achieve a better work life balance, and knowing how hard to push to have progress but without overdoing it – accepting limits. The key is being relaxed about it all and taking everything at a pace that supports my recovery and long-term wellbeing.

When I returned, my former company was acquired by Avanade. I had no clue what that meant for me and my job – will I be accepted and supported? What kind of job will I have? My manager supported me very well and I received the time needed to get back to a good performance. Right from the beginning, I had interesting and responsible tasks. The trust of others in me was mentally very important. Last year I was promoted to manager. At the age of 56. Wow. That was way more than I wished or expected.

So my experience, whilst a challenging one personally, has been positive from a professional perspective. I received all the support I needed to bring my authentic self to work, asking for adjustments when required so I could thrive and do my best work.

Seeing our business place so much importance and focus on employees’ wellbeing and normalizing the conversation around disability and long-term health conditions in the workplace is refreshing and so important for everyone to feel included and valued.

Matthias Kießling

Thank you for sharing your story! 

March 22, 2021

Bitten Hvam

Dear Ursula
Thanks for sharing our story! I think it's important to highlight the positive stories. I'm a cancer survivor myself and it was very helpful to me to hear the stories of survivors. It can be tough and scary to go through cancer treatment. But hearing about people who have made it out alive gave me strength to keep up the struggle. 

February 10, 2021

Kaisa Lervik

Such an important perspective on what happens after you have survived. Thank you for sharing!

February 5, 2021

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