When associate Daniel Ball was 26 years old, he was diagnosed with blood cancer. He initially shied away from sharing his story in professional circles, fearing the stigma associated with a cancer diagnosis would hinder his career. But the lessons Daniel learned about himself, his planned career path, and the power of his network have inspired others going through similar life challenges. So in honor of Blood Cancer Awareness month, Daniel shares how his tailored “life plan” was flipped on its head and how he has embraced the unpredictable.
I was on a flight back from Barbados, having just proposed to my now husband, when I started experiencing severe back pain. Over the course of two weeks, the pain escalated to the point where I wasn’t able to walk. After a series of trips to the physical therapist (thinking the pain was related to a pulled muscle), I eventually wound up in the emergency room. There, I found out I had cancer and would be starting chemotherapy immediately.
To be honest, it was brutal. For context, I went straight through college into law school and then began my career at Morgan Lewis. I was energized to start my career and excited to build a great reputation for myself as a reliable and capable attorney. To have a doctor say that I had to pause everything in my life for about half a year to undergo chemotherapy was devastating.
And trust me, I honestly thought I could manage both. Some of my colleagues like to remind me of an email I sent around after I was first diagnosed, letting everyone know of my cancer diagnosis but reminding them that I would still be able to get my projects done as needed. A typical Type-A junior lawyer move to say the least! Fortunately for me, my colleagues blocked any of my attempts to continue working, reminding me that my sole focus should be getting through treatment.
Communication is key. It is okay to check in and see how someone is doing. It is okay to ask the individual whether they would appreciate speaking to someone to learn more about firm policies relating to benefits, including insurance coverage and leave options. It is okay to ask the individual whether they would appreciate speaking to someone who may have gone through a similar experience. It is also okay to just send a quick hello. I was lucky to have all forms of communication.
I was also extremely fortunate to have incredible colleagues who really showed up for me if ever I had a question or just wanted to talk. My colleagues and Morgan Lewis as a whole supported me fully, ensuring I not only had time to heal, but also that I had the support I needed to take time off without worrying about my job.
I love sharing my story and talking to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer or may have lost someone to this terrible disease. A cancer diagnosis is incredibly difficult to process, but I’ve found providing individuals with an outlet to share their stories has been incredibly rewarding.
I also conduct an annual fundraiser to support incredible nonprofits, like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, that provide assistance to those individuals who are facing financial hardship while battling cancer.
Beating cancer before I turned 30 completely altered my perception on life. It reshuffled my priorities, reenergized my determination to be an exceptional advocate, and reminded me (and continues to remind me to this day) that each day is not guaranteed, so go out there and be the best version of you.