Having enjoyed perhaps the busiest nine months March – November 2020 since I began to practice employment law many years ago, my personal and professional life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with cancer in early December last year. Certainly not what I expected six months shy of my 40th birthday! I found it difficult to say it out loud for quite some time, preferring instead to refer to the well know euphemism of ‘the big C’.
I was incredibly fortunate to be treated by a fantastic team of specialists in my particular cancer condition over at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield. Mid-December saw me starting chemotherapy in a hospital overlooking what used to be Sheffield University’s astroturf and a stone’s throw from the famous (infamous?) Nottingham House pub on Whitham Road, two places I was very familiar with from my undergraduate days (of course when I wasn’t up at the law school!). There followed a fortnightly cycle of visits to Sheffield and treatment for the next four months, during which I continued to work as and when I could and, somewhat begrudgingly, passed matters on when I needed to. I now understand what clients really meant when they told me the side effects of their treatment. And how easy it was to lose track of medication or even what day of the week it was. Or just how much it meant to them to get a text or email from someone, not because they had to but because they wanted to – to check in, say hello or raise a smile with a funny anecdote.
I’m very relieved to say that chapter of my life is now over! The treatment was successful and I am now firmly on the road to recovery. Although judging from my poor excuse of a run recently, I still have a fair way to go before I get my fitness back!
Whilst obviously a difficult time, the last few months have allowed me to take a bit of a step back from work, both as an employment practitioner and business owner, and reflect. I now appreciate the pleasure I get from helping others and the satisfaction I feel from making a positive difference, whether to a client or a member of staff at Hibberts. I recognise more than ever the importance of words and conduct, and how a small thing may mean so much. I hope I have a better understanding of what a cancer diagnosis may mean – but also how everyone’s situation is absolutely unique and deserves to be treated as such. I’m very grateful to my colleagues at Hibberts, family and close friends for their support but know that not everyone in my position will be as fortunate.
I’m certain that moving forward I will be a better lawyer. No, I haven’t spent the time poring over textbooks and law reports, but I will have far more empathy and compassion. I will also be better equipped to advise businesses on what they must/must not do but, even more importantly, about what they can do. I’ve thought back to the times I’ve advised about keeping in contact with staff. If writing this article encourages just one of you to send that text or pick up the phone to someone going through a tough time, then I will have made a difference.
Employers can obtain expert employment law advice in a timely and efficient manner from Hibberts solicitors. This blog is not a substitute for legal advice and specialist advice should always be sought about your particular situation.