Back to Work?

So, when is the most appropriate time to return to work?

This poses a few challenges. From a neurosurgery standpoint, my tumor has been removed, my incision is largely scarred over, most of the swelling is gone, I can walk and talk, and everything else will take 6-12 months to heal. From that standpoint, I’m ready to tackle life.

From a rehabilitation team standpoint, I’m still pretty easily tired out, my head hurts constantly, and my intellect has gaps and shortcomings in spots. These types of things take a bit of time to mitigate, and I haven’t had the cognitive assessment yet to evaluate my readiness to return to work.

For me, it’s difficult to tell. I know I can hold a reasonable conversation, even if various words are missing. I know I can take a shower and make food and walk around town without help. I know I miss details here and there, and have a tough time focusing (especially when my head feels worse). I know that anyone who looks at me or holds a conversation with me probably wouldn’t immediately notice a difference from before the surgery, provided my hair was cooperating and covering the head scars reasonably well.

There is little information, though, to tell me how things will go when I need to analyze stakeholder attitudes, coordinate team activities, evaluate communications and training efforts, engage leaders and end users’ support, learn and recall innumerable details, track activities, pay focused attention to details in long meetings, collaborate with other teams, understand and interact effectively with the I.T. department, and respond quickly to unexpected issues as they arise – you know, usual change management stuff. Nothing outside of work really offers much information about how higher-level brain-things will go when those activities are back on the table. The stakes feel high, though – doing well is important for the company.

All I know is whatever random bits in my noggin don’t work properly at the moment may fix themselves over the next 6-12 months as my skull base and nearby nerves and brain tissue heal. In the meantime, the trick will be figuring out what’s missing and identifying appropriate workarounds. Also, not overdoing it. I tried to take an online tutorial about data analytics yesterday, and had to stop and take a nap after an hour and a half.

So I’m definitely nervous.


13 thoughts on “Back to Work?”

  1. Here is a thought, you yourself just listed several instances of your condition not being 100 percent as yet. If your thinking is impaired enough for you to notice then you decision making skills have to be just as suspect as being just as impaired. I mean you are asking a brain injured person not fully recovered(you) to make a very serious decision for you.

    Come again?

    Perhaps a bit more time off, only a bit as everyday you do your tax your brain is everyday you improve both your thinking and decision making skills.

    Channeling Mr. Spock, “It is only logical”, no?

  2. Maria!

    We miss you and hope you’re doing well. Just wanted to make sure you know how lucky we are to have all your planning and hard work come to fruition. (Kelly would be proud of those big words I’m using!!) We have had some great successes and its definitely due to all your all hard work and planning.

    You are a huge part of the success we have had and can’t wait for you to come back so we thank you in person.

    Be well and see you soon!


    1. Thank you so much for the incredibly kind words, Tony. That means a lot to me. I’m glad to hear how well things are going, and super-grateful for your hard work and fortitude in taking on this project in my absence. Stepping in like that on such short notice can’t have been easy, and I know there was a ton left to do. You’re a rock star for making it work so seamlessly. Please say “hi” to everyone for me, and tell them I’m wishing them the best! Take care, Tony.

    2. Thanks so much for the kind words, Tony. I look forward to grabbing lunch with you when we’re both in the office so I can hear all about the rollout! Thank you so much for picking up that huge effort on such short notice. I understand you and the team are knocking it out of the park.

  3. Benjamin Goodwin

    Maria –
    I enjoy reading your random (and not so random) thoughts and musings about life, trials, and overcoming adversity. I honestly await your return with enthusiasm and excitement, you are such a valuable part of our team. Be well, and do good!! See you soon!


    1. That means a lot to me, Ben. It’s been a very strange year, and it’s been nice to have a place to vent a bit! I understand a lot has changed at work since my departure – I can’t wait to see everyone and find out about all the latest changes and information. I’ll be especially curious to know how you are enjoying your big new project.

  4. It will be interesting to hear what the pros you’re working with have to say about this, your missing words, your weariness, thought organization, etc. I just hope they don’t give you the answer my stepdaughter, JoDee, came to hate when recovering from breast cancer, surgery, chemo and radiation, “Well, everyone is different.” You want to know what you’re experiencing is normal and this too shall pass. I hope you can make some lines in the sand and say, at this week after surgery, I started to do “X” better. You know, something you can measure? Sending you positive thoughts and well wishes.

    1. Hi, Judi. Yeah – I’ve heard the “everyone is different” line quite a bit, too. lol

      Happily, they’ve also said it should take 6-12 months to heal, and then whatever I’m left with after that is what things will be like going forward, so that’s a helpful framework for the whole thing. I’ve definitely noticed improvement since the surgery, the improvements just happen so gradually it’s difficult to pick up on them unless you’re evaluating things over time. Ultimately, the first month and a half was the most stressful because I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be happening and what might be a problem. Now that the odd wandering puffiness has reduced, the incisions have settled into scar tissue, and the other random weird symptoms have settled down a bit and become familiar, it’s easier to take the healing process more calmly. I feel like I have a better idea what to expect from the whole thing, which helps a lot.

      Thanks for the good wishes, and I hope you are doing well in Minnesota.

  5. Irene Broman


    I bet the whole idea of returning is a bit daunting. But you’ve been getting some practice at dealing with daunting business of recovery, so I put my money on you. I also know you have super high standards, and it takes a team to get most of these projects done. When you do come back, you’ll be so richly welcomed! We’ll just be happy to see you, and I expect your contributions will boost your own confidence.

    Fan of the blog; fan of you,

    1. That’s very sweet of you to say, Irene! I’ll definitely be relying on my coworkers to help me get back up to speed. Luckily, OCM is filled with extraordinarily gifted people, which makes a huge difference. I’ve missed you – it’s a pleasure to work with people who are also your friends.

  6. Sophia Terada

    Hi Maria,
    I wanted to pass on kudos for the Membership roll out from Bob Hicock, our SVP in the SD Region. We owe so much of Membership’s success to your hard work; I’m so sorry you aren’t here to bask in the glory of a job well done!

    From: Bob Hicok
    Date: July 14, 2015 at 6:38:12 PM PDT
    To: Mike Brosius
    Subject: Re: New Membership Training and Go-live Update 7/8/2015

    You and group are doing a good job supporting all this.

    1. Hi, Sophia. I’m really glad the rollout is going so well! Thank you for the kudos – I can’t wait to come back and congratulate everyone on the team for their awesomeness. They worked incredibly hard to turn out amazing work, and my hat is off to them for their great success.

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