Thursday 26 April 2018

Catherine O'Mahony: ‘Busyness’ may be a badge of honour but appreciating leisure time doesn’t make us lazy

Response: Facebook vice-president Nicola Mendelsohn has decided to keep working after her cancer diagnoses
Response: Facebook vice-president Nicola Mendelsohn has decided to keep working after her cancer diagnoses

Catherine O'Mahony

Sometimes it feels right to reflect on our increasing devotion to the cult of 'busyness'. The thought struck me this week as I read about Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook's vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, who marked World Cancer Day by talking about her diagnosis with an incurable form of lymphoma.

Mendelsohn is not having treatment for her cancer, other than taking up exercise and cutting out sugar from her diet. She may start conventional treatment if her cancer worsens, but for now she is monitoring her symptoms as she continues to work for Facebook, where she is the most senior executive outside the US. She feels, she says, "healthier than ever".

To be clear: each person's response to serious illness is individual and it is not for me - or anyone - to judge Mendelsohn on how she chooses to live her own precious life. She has a family of four children who are presumably buoyed by her strength. And an outpouring of support followed Mendelsohn's revelations as people praised her bravery and stoicism in the face of adversity. She is clearly a trouper, a riser to the occasion, a survivor. And yet her case makes me feel ever so slightly wistful for a time when her reaction to her illness might have struck people as curious.

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