[Editor's Note: Longtime concert photographer and fellow Weekling Andrew Youssef found out almost two years ago that he had Stage IV colon cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events for us on top of other freelance work and holding a day job at a hospital, of all places. As he continues to fight for his life, this series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]
Last week, I returned to my job at the hospital working as a clinical pharmacist. At the hospital, I work ten-hour shifts and while I previously worked full time after my initial surgery and chemotherapy treatments, I have decided to switch to part time to accommodate the ability to shuffle my hectic schedule of chemotherapy treatments, concerts, working and recovering from the more difficult days of chemotherapy.
Working while on chemotherapy is not an easy task. Most oncologists will recommend that their patients return to work so that their lives can have some sense of normalcy and help them forget that they have cancer. My situation is a little more unique in that by returning to work, I am back at the place where I originally collapsed and diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Walking by the same hospital room where I spent ten days coping with my diagnosis is more difficult than you can imagine.
Most patients who do resume work don't have the constant reminders of cancer like I do. While I understand that there are a lot of patients who successfully defeat cancer, if they are in the hospital it is likely that they aren't doing well. Verifying some of the same chemotherapy medications that I take is a sobering experience and I hope that these medications work for those patients as they do for me at this moment in time.
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Another tricky aspect of working while on chemotherapy is that I need every second Wednesday off to receive my treatments. I also try to take those next couple of days off in order to rest from the onslaught of diarrhea and tiredness that will eventually put me down during that weekend. The weekend that I do feel better and able to function is one that I'm required to work. Obviously this impairs my ability to see my friends and spend time with my family during the weekend.
Most friends have suggested that I potentially look into undertake writing and photography full time. As much as I would love to do that, my health insurance covers my twelve thousand dollar a month intravenous chemotherapy treatments and four thousand dollar a month oral chemotherapy medication. Unless Bill Gates wants a photographer/biographer, I will be working as a pharmacist as long as cancer lets me. The good thing is that I enjoy being a clinical pharmacist and with a cruel twist of irony is that I am working saving lives in order to save my own.
*Last Shot: Helplessness Blues at a Fleet Foxes Concert *Last Shot: Chemical Warfare *Last Shot: Time Is Running Out *Last Shot: Helmet Doesn't Let My Dedication Go Unsung *Last Shot: Struggling to Shoot Coachella *Last Shot: Photographing Coachella is Like Running an Ultramarathon *Last Shot: Coachella 1 Cancer 0 *Last Shot: Coachella 2 Cancer 0 *Last Shot: Seeing "Stars" with Hum *Last Shot: Battling Cancer to Shoot the Red Hot Chili Peppers *Last Shot: Telling Your Friends You Have Cancer *Last Shot: The Time Juliana Hatfield Made Me Forget I Have Cancer *Last Shot: The Difficulty Of Updating Friends About My Health *Last Shot: Meeting Meshuggah *Last Shot: The Roller Coaster of Cancer