How cancer led a veterinarian to change jobs
Black and White headshot of IndeVets Employee Deb
Words by:
Debra Sapcariu, DVM — Associate IndeVet

Confronting the challenge of a diagnosis of recurrence of Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer in the midst of a pandemic is certainly life altering.

Given the severity of Covid 19 in conjunction with immunosuppressive chemotherapy, it was no question that I would need to take a medical leave of absence. What I didn’t expect admist all this chaos was that I would later leave my job and take a new one — all during chemotherapy and a pandemic.

Shifting priorities amidst chemo and Covid

I had first heard of IndeVets the year before after seeing their booth at a conference. It seemed like a great concept but one that I thought was suited to younger vets with young families and didn’t really apply to me.

While out on medical leave last year, I had the time to focus on my career and current job. I realized that although my job had many benefits, I wasn’t really living my life the way I wanted.

In addition to being a single mother, I was a sole practitioner running a busy small animal practice on my own. Working 40 hours a week in the office but more hours mentally and emotionally outside the office. All the burdens of ownership, without the perks, were on my shoulders and it was a heavy weight to bear.

Stepping out of the rat race due to chemo and Covid allowed me time to reflect on my work/life balance. I quickly realized the scales were tipped in the wrong direction.  A cancer diagnosis changes one’s perspective pretty drastically and a recurrence of that cancer forces one to face that perspective yet again.

More IndeVet Stories: Navigating burnout and depression in vet med, and how relief can help

Having a terminal yet chronic cancer means learning to live your life WITH cancer. If the disease was “just terminal,” one might quit working and only live life to the fullest. But because it is chronic and therefore one could live with this disease for many years, it becomes critical to achieve a healthy work/life balance.

Obviously, this is something we should all strive for but the emphasis is renewed in the face of recurrence.  Additionally, I think the pandemic forced us all to reevaluate our lives and look inward and question ourselves, “Are we living our ideal, best life?”

Finding vet-life balance with relief

The answer did not come to me easily. I, like many, worried about leaving my current job, leaving my clients and making that big change from general practice to relief.

But the temptation IndeVets offered of a true work/life balance that was better suited to my needs of a single mom, living well with cancer won out in the end. I decided to take the chance and leave the knowns of general, private practice behind and venture into a foreign world of relief work with IndeVets.

Any apprehension I might have had quickly vanished in my first weeks as an IndeVet. The ability to control my own schedule and the flexibility this job offered far outweighed any previous concerns.  Many other benefits of IndeVets began to shine through such as the joy of going to new practices every week, meeting new people, learning new ways of doing things and still satisfying the desire to help animals and their owners.

One change that I was worried about, was leaving the comfort of private practice where I had the ability to consult with others and connect with fellow veterinarians. I quickly learned that being a part of IndeVets did not mean doing relief out on your own but instead becoming an associate veterinarian within a larger network of practitioners.

The IndeVets family is large and easily accessible for consults, questions, support or advice. Although I don’t work side by side with my fellow IndeVets, I know they are reachable when I need them.  In fact, I feel more supported within IndeVets than I did alone in practice.

For the first time in my career, I am working for a large company that provides benefits that don’t exist in small private practices, such as our People Success team. IndeVets has proven to be extremely responsive to their employees’ needs and is constantly striving to enhance their benefits.

For the first time in a long time, I finally feel as if I was living my life to the fullest while scheduling work around my life whereas previously I was working consistently and trying to squeeze in bits of life around my work.

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Living our best vet lives

For me, it didn’t just take a cancer diagnosis… that happened way back in 2013, 3 jobs ago! For me, it took a worldwide pandemic and a cancer recurrence to open my eyes.

I hope for others that the benefits of a job with Indevets can shine the light into the darkness so many vets are facing right now, especially during this pandemic.  There is no reason to deny ourselves a work/life balance and a company like IndeVets has proven… it can be achieved!

Dr. Debra Sapcariu passed away on Saturday, April 16, surrounded by family and friends, after a 9-year battle with cancer. Our heart goes out to her family and all that she touched. You can read her obituary here.

More from IndeVets:

How Covid exacerbates issues veterinarians face daily

8 brain hacks to become a happy, healthy vet

Surprisingly human: How vet care is also people care

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