On April Fools Day in 2011, I got the call that no one wants to get: The lump in my left breast was cancer.
I had a 10-year-old daughter, a loving husband, and a beautiful life. For more than a year of that life, I dealt with surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, Herceptin treatments, and recovery to remove the cancer we could see and kill that which we could not.
Fortunately, I had begun working as a freelance writer and editor in 2002, after my daughter was born. Over the years, I grew my business to more than a dozen clients who gave me regular work that I do in my home office. I could work on a story about veterans who became entrepreneurs in the morning and take my daughter to soccer practice in the afternoon. I had the flexibility to make every school concert and basketball tournament and was still able to work for some of the most well-known publishers in the world. My income was and is significantly higher than what I could earn working full-time as a writer and editor.
While it’s true that my husband—an independent real estate appraiser—and I had to purchase our own health insurance, the benefits of self-employment far outweighed that fact. I was able to tailor my work schedule around my treatments and surgeries. When I felt good, I wanted to work. It was a wonderful distraction and made me feel like more than just “a cancer patient.” It didn’t matter that I didn’t have hair or couldn’t be exposed to crowds because of my chemo-weakened immune system during treatment or for weeks afterward. (The photo accompanying this story is of me a few months after my hair started to grow back.)
Freelancing gave me the freedom I needed to get better and support my family. I could do interviews and write stories remotely and only when I wanted to do so, picking and choosing to work when I felt like it. Had I been working as an employee in an office, I would not have had that flexibility and would likely have had to take unpaid leave during the course of at least some of my treatment, hurting my family’s income.
I hope that the legislators will allow freelancers like me to continue to work!