Amanda ventured to Chicago for the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers conference this summer and returned to Grand Rapids with pages of notes to share with our group!

A big portion of this conference focused on establishing autonomy after a medical crisis. The “new normal” builds individual identities for the patient as well as their family, especially parents. Transitioning from treatment into independence is a paramount step in the recovery process.

Dr. David Strausser spoke about career development as a method for pursuing autonomy. For many people, work becomes more than just a way to pay the bills. It serves as a social setting, a place to grow and challenge yourself, a structured schedule – We often end up viewing our job as a major piece of our personal identity.

There is no “one size fits all” career and often our vocational expectations need to be adjusted post-treatment to accommodate new challenges. We must factor in fatigue, mobility, and other limited functions on top of our own interests to determine potential jobs that balance between keeping us excited, engaged, and efficient.

The next step in developing your career identity is getting your loved ones on board. We talk a lot about support systems in Vita Collective and this is no different. Your family and friends will probably have questions, advice, and overall input on your job search. Ultimately, your goals are your own but keeping those closest to you in the loop will breed collaborative independence that is in everyone’s best interest.

Finally, putting together an action plan for your career pursuits will get you on the path to autonomy that works (haha) for you. Consider what you specifically need in order to acquire a job within your interests and capabilities. Are there specific schooling requirements? What’s available in your area? Do you know someone in that particular field who can give you insider details? What strengths will you bring to this job? Which aspects will challenge you? Take your time and let it be a fun project!

What makes you feel independent? We want to hear from you at our next Vita Collective gathering on Monday, November 20th. We’ll be talking about gratitude! The AYA members are also invited to the Happy Henna event on Monday, November 27th.