Chronic illness, unlike acute illness, isn’t static. It continues to reverberate.
I’ve been writing about Maestro James Levine’s (my post on grieving) cancer and the back injury/surgeries that have kept him from performing.
As it turns out, the man he replaced at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa, will not be at the podium at Tanglewood this summer due to ongoing issues in recovering from esophageal cancer.
(OMG, Are we the only who see that working with a chronic illness presents serious problems?)
Both men rank among the very top in the world in a highly competitive field. But I find one lesson us mere mortals can take from this:
When you live with chronic illness, one strategic move is to be as good as you can at what you do so you’re not easily replaceable.
These guys were the best before illness. They had already filled the piggy bank with goodwill. Their employers can’t wait for them to return to work forever. But they’ve built up a strong investment in sticking by while they try to get better.
Maybe you’re wondering: But what can I do to be that person an employer does not want to let go — or see leave — when my performance suffers because of debilitating symptoms?
Have you considered how you can be as good as you can at what you do? Few of us are world class performers or even “great” at what we do. But sometimes our value is not only in what we deliver.
When you’re angry about difficult symptoms, does it show? Do you resent that your job is so difficult or what others aren’t doing to make it easier? How’s that going for you?
On the other hand, have you considered how can you support others, be an even better team player and display your strong work ethic? It’s one way to get the support you need from others when you’re struggling. Can you be sure that support will be there when you need it? No. But you’ve at least got a better shot at it.