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Deborah Hall: Finding Support Among Colleagues

“Why am I worrying about work, while I’m fighting for my life?”

Deborah Hall
Breast Cancer

Deborah Hall was about to launch the most important project of her career as a technical project manager in software development, but what her coworkers and manager didn’t know the morning of their big client meeting was that just 24 hours earlier, doctors had diagnosed her with breast cancer, teetering on Stage 2.

Internalizing the uncertainties of what her cancer diagnosis meant for her work and life, Deborah found solace in two coworkers who helped her manage her anxieties.

Dedicated to the Job

In her four years working for Yardi Systems, Deborah had rarely called in sick. So, when Deborah missed a week of work, hospitalized for what she thought was the flu, she knew she couldn’t hide her health. Deborah became septic, her blood pressure dropped, and after numerous tests, doctors found a mass in her left breast.

After her cancer diagnosis, Deborah recalls falling asleep on her laptop looking through images of women who underwent mastectomies. The next morning, she was set to meet the new vice president of her company in town to help lead the biggest merger project in her firm’s history. Deborah’s new boss caught a glimpse of the images on Deborah’s screen. Never one to hold back, Deborah shared her diagnosis, and he displayed the support and calm Deborah would come to appreciate of her company and colleagues throughout her journey.

“I can’t imagine having gone through this without the support of my company. I was ready to put my health first because I knew there were so many people here who felt a commitment to get my job done,” Deborah said.

Deborah took five weeks off to undergo treatment, including a bilateral mastectomy under the care of her surgical oncologist Dr. Katrina Emmett Birdwell and the dedicated staff at Texas Breast Specialists–Methodist Dallas Cancer Center. When she returned to work seven days after reconstructive surgery, one of her coworkers stepped up to help ensure she didn’t miss a beat – keeping detailed project notes and gradually catching her up when she returned. Deborah’s colleagues became close confidants. These friendships helped her remain positive in the face of many challenges that cancer brought. Her coworkers were even by her bedside after surgery.

Key Learnings from a Patient’s Perspective

Her diagnosis coming at such a hectic time, Deborah admits to worrying about the time she’d spend out of office and the details of the project she’d miss. “A part of you feels guilty,” Deborah said. “Why am I worrying about work, while I’m fighting for my life?”

Although Deborah first planned for the worst-case scenario, her colleagues helped ease her fears. Deborah says she’s thankful to work for a company where both coworkers and executives offered support, encouragement, and resources to help her fight cancer and thrive at work.

Currently undergoing hormone therapy, Deborah says she still encounters tough days, experiencing severe fatigue, lack of sleep, achy bones, and even mood swings that occasionally impact her workday. However, Deborah said her cancer journey has taught her to take on, and appreciate, more of the good in life than the bad. “You have to ask yourself, not ‘why me?’ but, why did you choose me and what is my purpose?”

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.