I have an update in the way of a medical leave, folks.
One of my major concerns has been how/if work would be able to give me a medical leave for surgery and recovery. Having started a new job last September, I, obviously, haven't been a full-time employee for the 12 months that policy outlines as a requirement to qualify for a leave.
Let me give you a little back story, in order to provide context that will help define the company I work for. I work for (and with) a group of incredible people, many of whom I know from a prior work life. The bulk of our senior management and a good half dozen or so other employees worked together at my last bank, from 2006-2008. It's a great mix of people, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the familiar faces from my past as well as getting to know (and love) the other employees who I don't have that years-old history with.
This job fell into my lap last year. Greg had contacted me in August of 2011 and told me that they were looking to expand the loan department and asked if I would be interested in a position they were creating. It took a while for them to iron out the details and define the position, but once the position was created - and offered - I accepted, and joined a team of former (and new) co-workers and friends at the end of September.
Because of the way this position literally landed in my lap, because I had been praying for my life to change, because I had been wanting to get back in to a corporate work environment, but hadn't known how to make that transition in this economy... Because my health had been poor and it seemed that nothing had gone the way that I thought it would (or wanted it to) for quite some time, I felt like this job was a direct blessing from Heaven.
I know that sounds cheesy. I also know how I felt in September of 2011 when I accepted this job. ... And I know how I feel today, right now, as I have been made aware, for the I-don't-even-know-how-many-th time today that the Lord knows what I want, and what I need... and that He directs me to where I need to be.
Not everything has been sunshine and roses at the bank. It hasn't been easy. We're busy. Really busy. I started in September. We were short-staffed for much of the fall and winter, so I worked a lot of hours. More hours than I had thought I would be working, and sometimes more hours than my poor, sad little body could comfortably withstand. But my friend Christian was right there alongside me, cracking jokes and making Coke (and/or cake) runs to keep our blood sugar up in an effort to trick our bodies into thinking we had enough energy to work another 12 hour day.
The last six months of my life have brought with them their own unique set of challenges, not the least of which was discovering in January that I had a new tumor. I had been certain that this opportunity to be back in the banking world had meant that I was moving on to a new phase of life, a phase in which I could wear heels with pants to work if I wanted to. A phase in which cancer would be a memory, and not a current threat.
There have been changes that have been hard to roll with (ie: the insurance change that took effect May 1). There have been days that I have wondered what in the world I was thinking when I left a much larger company where I had both the seniority and the disability benefits that would have given me job security in the face of impending health issues.
Those were the days that I'd remind myself that I had prayed before I made the decision to jump companies and careers. I had prayed good and long and hard, and the answer that I had received was that I could do what I wanted to do (go work with Christian, and for Greg) and everything would be okay. And on those days, I'd tell myself to breathe. And to hold on. And to wait. Because, somehow, someway, things would be okay.
And on the days when it was almost impossible to remember the promise that everything would be okay, because everything in my world was so clearly NOT okay, I would remember a quote that I recently read:
"Everything will be okay in the end. If everything is not okay, then it is not yet the end!"
And then I'd laugh (at myself, at life, and at the cancer). I'm tell myself that, clearly, it wasn't the end yet, and I'd decide to pick myself up, and trudge on and trust and wait and watch to see exactly how it all was going to play out.
Meanwhile, as I have been waiting to see exactly what "okay" would look like, my boss has been great. I've been able to rearrange my schedule and comp all of my hours, so I haven't had to use one minute of PTO in the last six months. (And that's saying something, considering there have been multiple months that I've had to miss half days at work once or twice a week for appointments.)
Greg has told me, time and again not to worry about work, that the bank will always be there, that I am more important than my job. (Not that I don't know this, but it sure helps me to be able to let go of worrying about work when I have him telling me that that's what I need to do.) This is the man who couldn't wait until Monday to hear the results of my appointment last Friday. Multiple calls were made from (and to) him over the weekend, until we could finally connect on Sunday so that I could give him the full low-down. He asked if he could tell the rest of senior management. He reminded me, again, that life is more important than work. He told me that I'm too young to not fight this (and gave me a lecture on how it would be okay if I did have to have a colostomy bag if it meant that I was still alive, if it came to that ... but it won't, Dr. G said so). He told me that he'd been praying for me all weekend, and with tears in his voice, assured me that it would all work out.
Monday morning, I went in to work and met with senior management, who advised me that they were doing everything they could to ensure that I would be given the time off that I would need to recuperate. Because we are a small company (less than 50 employees), this wouldn't be a traditional FMLA medical release, but that they were looking for a way to work around the 12 month employment clause so they could give me a work release that would allow me to retain my insurance benefits while I was out.
It took about 24 hours for them to make contact with all the right people and fill out the forms, but this afternoon, I signed paperwork that will allow me 8 weeks of full-time release to recover from surgery. (And when those 8 weeks are up, we'll fill out new paperwork for the several weeks of part-time work release that will follow.)
I'd considered it from every angle, and knew that somehow, it would work out. (Worst case scenario would be that they'd have to terminate employment, as I haven't been there for the 12 months, but that I could carry COBRA for the time that I was out and then reapply for employment once I was well enough to go back to work. This, my friends, is so not worst case scenario.)
I have a medical release approved. I'll have health insurance as I go through surgery and 8 weeks of recovery. I cannot tell you the peace of mind that this brings. There aren't even words.
I'm so grateful. For a good job in a time that a lot of people struggle to find work. For a company that I feel will take care of me as best they can, because they see me as a person and not just an employee. For quality people and friends in the workplace who've taken an active interest in my life and well-being. For 8 solid weeks of recovery time, every minute of which I think I'll need.
When I found out in January that I had a new tumor, I vowed that I would work every minute of every day (well, the Monday-Friday days, anyway) that I could -- until I couldn't do it anymore. And now, thanks to my new little friend, I'm not going to be able to do it anymore. I made a deal with the Lord and with myself that if I did all that I could do, that I would be able to trust that, somehow, it would all work out. This, my friends, is a huge piece of that "things will work out" puzzle. It isn't all of it (I like to think that there's a whole section of this puzzle that just hasn't come together yet that's all about remission and being cancer free for the rest of my days), but being granted a leave that will keep me insured and give me the time I need to heal from this surgery, is a tender mercy. A tender mercy of the highest order, for which I am so very grateful.