Last year I set out to blog regularly in order to lend insight into topics of interest to companies that are trying to figure the best way to build a website or market their business. I set myself a long list of topics and set about writing daily, and posting whenever I’d finished a brief essay on my self-assigned topic. I have never intended this to be a personal blog, other than to share personal experiences that pertain to the topic at hand. I debated just picking up where I left off, but decided that my personal perspective on this topic may be of value to other solopreneurs, and worth sharing.
This is my first blog post as a cancer survivor.
A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive breast cancer. I won’t bore you with the details, other than to say that what followed that diagnosis was two surgeries, six weeks of radiation, three months of chemotherapy, and a bout of pneumonia. Then the recovery began.
Being a solopreneur made the entire ordeal much less stressful than it might have been. I didn’t need to ask anyone’s permission to attend the many, many medical appointments that dominated the past year (radiation treatments alone are five days per week). When the worst of the fatigue from chemotherapy hit, I didn’t need to ask anyone’s permission to take the time I needed for my body to heal. When I felt a little better, I’d work on the sofa with my laptop; a little better yet and I would work a few hours at my desk.
I made the decision early on to stop taking on new clients for the duration. It was fortunate that my illness coincided with a deep recession, so there wasn’t a huge amount of work to turn away. I continued to work with current clients, but made sure they were informed of what was going on. I had one stipulation for any projects I’d take on: no tight deadlines. All business development projects—including this blog—fell by the wayside. After decades of putting my work first, my health became my #1 priority.
I am fortunate that the drop in income was a struggle, but not a disaster. I have good health insurance, and cannot stress enough how important that is for anyone of any age, no matter how healthy you think you are. I am also fortunate to have a husband who was able to help support me not only financially and emotionally but logistically: driving me to appointments, cooking meals, and picking up the slack as efforts towards household chores fell by the wayside, too.
Years before, I had purchased long-term disability insurance, yet I ended up never filing a claim. It was difficult to gauge how much I “should” have been able to work; there are many who continue to work full-time straight through chemotherapy. I didn’t want to stop working 100%, nor did I want to continue working 100%. My medical schedule and energy level varied from week to week and day to day, so it was difficult to say how much I was working or intending to work. My situation didn’t conform to what was expected on the insurance company’s claim forms, and needless to say, they were of no assistance in figuring it out. When it was all over, I ended up canceling the insurance and wishing I’d saved my money all these years.
I had my first meeting with a potential new client during my last week of chemotherapy. My biggest anxiety about the meeting was what to wear on my bald head. Since I work at home, I had not bothered to fill my prescription for a wig. Although I have a fine collection of scarves, I didn’t want to show up to a business meeting looking like a gypsy. And nothing says “cancer patient” like a turban. My husband suggested the obvious: Why don’t you wear your red beret? Which is what I did, although I had to tug it down over my ears to disguise the lack of hair.
As my energy level has increased post-chemo, so have the hours I spend on my business. I’m working on several client projects and have a few more in the queue. I’m studying Google Analytics with the intention of obtaining my certification, and also taking a 26-week course to become a Certified Marketing Advisor. I’ve started some non-work-related creative projects that may or may not converge with my design work at some point down the road. I’ve updated my business plan with tasks that take me all the way through to the end of this year.
Having meetings and milestones on my calendar again is a great tonic. For several months I was focused only on getting through the day, or even the hour. To be able to focus on goals that are months or years down the road, and being healthy enough to do the work to meet them, is something I don’t take for granted.
One of my milestones has been to resume blogging. Check!
I’ll be resuming my editorial calendar from last year, picking up with my discussions of web development options, especially my personal favorite, WordPress. Following that I’ll be talking about branding and logos, print design and marketing collateral. In addition I’m developing a library of quick tips that I hope to pepper throughout the blog. As I go through my studies on marketing for entrepreneurs and Google Analytics, I hope to share some of what I learn here as well. If you are interested in these topics, come on back, or better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.