Eileen Z. Fuentes | I Literally Lost It All And Then This Happened…
After making the decision to go part-time 3 years ago, I realized that I had returned to the life and conditions that created sickness in my body and it scared the hell out of me.
advocacy, breast cancer, cancer, careers, Columbia University, freedom, gynecological, job, oncology, parenting, Purpose, self-healthcare, spirituality, timing
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Photo: Briana Heard

10 Jan I Literally Lost It All And Then This Happened…

Almost four years ago, I wrote a heartfelt post titled, “Freedom Fridays”, about my decision to go part-time. It remains one of the most popular entries on my blog. It was written 3 years after my breast cancer diagnosis. When I wrote it, I was completely burnt-out. I realized that I had returned to the life and conditions that created sickness in my body and it scared the hell out of me.

For the years that followed, I dove into my advocacy work while I remained in my part-time job. Most people were envious of my 3-day workweek/4-day weekends and I cherished the little things like dropping off and picking up my daughters from school. While the hours in the office were reduced, the workload remained the same and it made me feel overworked and resentful. It was physically and emotionally debilitating because I felt completely out of alignment. I was anxious because I knew exactly what I wanted to do and impatient because I was not doing it. With my salary being reduced by 30%, I was forced to rely on my savings to pay my bills. I was so laser-focused on helping others that when my entire savings account disappeared, I hardly noticed. I was living less than paycheck-to-paycheck and was forced to contemplate returning to full-time work. Do I ask to go back to full-time in a job that I had been in for over 15 years and had totally outgrown? Do I look for another one? I was in a fog and remained this way for some time.

Then the phone call came… On the phone was the man who removed breast cancer from my body. I was sitting in my minivan on one of my days off, wearing sweaty gym clothes and with my daughters sitting in the back. He said that there was a newly created position that I would be perfect for. After a conversation with my oncologist, together they thought I should consider applying for it. I just sat there in silence and unable to move. It was surreal…

There were administrative requirements, background and drug tests to complete. The delays were ridiculous and in addition, my job required me to give 4 weeks notice. When I finally received the offer letter, I almost didn’t realize that my last day would be exactly one day before my 7th cancerversary (which I prefer to call my REBIRTHday). The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

So what am I doing now? Well, I am a full-time clinical coordinator, serving breast and gynecological oncology patients at Columbia University’s Cancer Center. I work with patients to help them navigate across specialties, coach patients through diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, and ensure that their needs are being met. In the 3 short months that I’ve been there, I have been in the room when women are being diagnosed, I’ve held their hand during their first chemotherapy infusion, I’ve accompanied them for their doctors appointments, and have helped patients talk to members of their family about their diagnosis. Admittedly, dealing with cancer can be heavy but I’ve learned through the  connections I’ve made, that life is priceless. I stay in a constant state of gratitude.

For someone who used to dislike science in school, I am learning so much about how breast and gynecological cancers work. What was once a confusing for me is now fascinating. I look forward to my weekly meetings with some of the top leaders in cancer care as well as the ground-breaking research taking place in this field. I am currently working on my favorite project, the wellness program that used to be seasonal but now will be ongoing.

There is so much more that I do in my job that will never make it to this blog because frankly, it lives better in my heart. To think that I get paid to do what I do seems ludicrous.  I still can’t believe I manifested this life…

Have you felt as if you are not living your purpose? What keeps you hopeful or hopeless? Do you have any similar stories to share? Talk to me…

Related Post: Freedom Fridays

Eileen Z. Fuentes

After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008, Eileen became her own Self-Healthcare Activist. She is an Integrative Cancer Coach and works full-time helping patients do more than just survive at Columbia University’s Cancer Center in New York City.

18 Comments
  • Ramona De La Cruz Gerónimo
    Posted at 10:51h, 11 January Reply

    I/We watched you go through what you went through so valiantly, and thinking of how you could make this process a little easier for those like yourself going through this. There’s really no easy way, but YOU, Eileen, was chosen to find a way…….. and you did!!!

    I am so proud and blessed to see that I raised you to be strong and take control of any situations that would arise in your life. Although, I have to admit, this was not one I anticipated, but you courageously faced it and are using to do what you love and are passionate about.

    I say this with tears in my eyes, this wonderful human being is MY DAUGHTER Eileen and I am so proud. I love you so much! MOM!

    • Rachel
      Posted at 14:21h, 11 January Reply

      Oh Mama, you made me cry! You do have an amazing daughter! It must run in the blood! Thank you for being!

      • Eileen
        Posted at 15:28h, 11 January Reply

        My mom is good at getting those tears rolling and yes it definitely does run in the blood. Thank YOU for being, Rachel.

    • Eileen
      Posted at 15:01h, 11 January Reply

      Thank you for setting the standard so high. It is because of you, my grandmother and my great-grandmother that I am who I am, a “strong woman that could take control of any situations that would arose in my life.” I’m proud to be your daughter.

  • Amelia Baffa
    Posted at 11:25h, 11 January Reply

    I am so happy for you Eileen. You and I meet at the Smith Center for Healing Arts ” Integrative Patent Navigator ” Workshop back in 2013. I have followed the SPEAK and love your work ( you have inspired me in many ways). I am so happy that you found a position that fulfills you, for which you are well equipped. its all about finding the right fit. I am also a cancer navigator, I work with teens and young adults, its the most meaningful work I have ever done, and I have done some good stuff!. I wish you continued success both personally and professionally..

    • Eileen
      Posted at 15:04h, 11 January Reply

      The universe makes no mistakes, both in our divine meeting and in the work that we do. Thank you for your kinds words, your support and your friendship. There is still so much work to do and I am so glad to be in this together. Success to you too, sister.

  • Shannon Phillips
    Posted at 13:56h, 11 January Reply

    Beautiful manifestation for a Beautiful soul. You are my soul sister Eileen. You and your Mom are making me cry… Lol .. tears of joy of course because I know in my knower that your experience was to catapult you in to your destiny which is NOW. Blessings upon Blessings upon Blessings for you dearest Eileen. XOXO

    • Eileen
      Posted at 20:18h, 11 January Reply

      My Shannon! I am what you are… and I agree that what I thought was my curse turned out to be my blessing. It has brought so much richness to my life. So many good friends and experiences. Our knower knows best. Big love, sister.

  • Kathy Vera-Mena
    Posted at 15:02h, 11 January Reply

    This is so moving. Cancer related or not, finding your purpose is a subject that is universal. You are an inspiration to all who come in contact with you. You are a light in the world. And yes, reading this brought a tear to my eye. ❣

    • Eileen
      Posted at 20:15h, 11 January Reply

      Teacher approved! Thank you for your constant love and friendship. It means so much.

  • Danuta Micor
    Posted at 18:14h, 11 January Reply

    Wow, Eileen it is about time you got a break. I am so happy for you, I remember at times you were not sure if you would like to do such work, as it was reminder of what you had been through, but when you released the burden, and healed totally you were able to receive the GIFT sent from your Higher Power, and YOU showed up!!

    Lots of luck.

    • Eileen
      Posted at 20:13h, 11 January Reply

      This is the gift that keeps on giving. I am feeling oh so blessed.

  • Erica
    Posted at 19:07h, 11 January Reply

    Beautiful Eileen!!!!!!!!!! So proud of you! Inspiring!!

    • Eileen
      Posted at 20:10h, 11 January Reply

      Thank you so much, Erica. You are equally inspiring.

  • Carolina
    Posted at 19:55h, 11 January Reply

    Inspirational. Like always. :)

    • Eileen
      Posted at 20:10h, 11 January Reply

      Love you, like always XO

  • Kaity
    Posted at 13:24h, 15 January Reply

    Love it! As I was reading, I felt like you were talking to me in person. You have an incredible voice and ability to connect with people. I am so grateful to have crossed paths with you. Wishing you all the best on your continous journey! Keep up the great work! Besos :)

    • Eileen
      Posted at 13:40h, 15 January Reply

      Look who’s talking. I stay in awe of your passion, dedication and willingness to make this wacky world a better. Thank you, manita!

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