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usakat's picture
usakat
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Hello SemiColon Friends,

I finished chemo just after Christmas, was re-staged NED (originally stage III), and was back to work the first week of January. I worked up until May and was still in treatment getting Ferrelicit infusions when I got married and relocated from the West Coast to the East Coast. A cross country relocation comes with all the associated and necessary changes - insurance, medical team, and job.

I'm currently working through the maze of military health care through my new husband's health care plan, waiting for the policy to formally take effect. I have selected an onc and onco/gyno I want to see, but I'm waiting on referrals from my primary doc. It's been a strange process, but I will get through it and on to my overdue scans and tests.

I've settled the issues with my insurance and medical team, but now there is a question about work.

I was just offered a great job, which I plan to formally accept on Monday. However, I'm wondering if I should first tell them about being a cancer survivor and that I am so recently out of treatment. It really shouldn't matter because I'm strong, healthy, eager and motivated to do great work, but I will be needing time off work immediately for tests and scans, and then again every three months thereafter. Why can't doctors work Saturdays?

Do I tell my prospective employer prior to accepting the offer that I am a recent cancer survivor and require some latitude for health care? I work in a very demanding field that can be quite unforgiving. I've always held the notion that honesty is the best policy.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

davidsonxx's picture
davidsonxx
Posts: 137
Joined: Mar 2007

My advice to you is do what you think is the right thing. Whatever happens you need to be comfortable with what you did.

Having said that I would not recommend saying anything about your recent cancer unless you think the time off will impact your job performance. There are still a lot of people out there that think cancer is an automatic death sentence. You could very well commit career suicide because they don't expect you to be around for very long. My suggestion would be to talk to them about needing time off for personal reasons and to avoid using the word cancer if you can.

Is there any way you can delay starting your new job until after you have this first round of tests? That way you would have 3 months to prove yourself before needing time off.

Betsydoglover's picture
Betsydoglover
Posts: 1254
Joined: Jul 2005

Katie -
You already got one piece of good advice. You might try just mentioning that you have a chronic condition that requires a day of tests every 3 months or so (and perhaps a couple of hours for doc appt). It is sad to say, but I agree - don't say the "C" word - most people have no clue and don't understand. They instantly think "DEATH!"

Privacy is big now - so accept the job - hopefully your new boss will be very cool and you can just tell her/him that you need to work an adjusted schedule for a day or two to accomodate some medical tests.

Good luck,
Betsy

peacegift2002's picture
peacegift2002
Posts: 16
Joined: Apr 2004

Since I just finished up a hard year of reoccurance, I took disability and am struggling with the same issue. The people I look to for advice and that I trust are telling me NOT to mention the cancer, even though they must make reasonable accomodations for you according to the ADA. I hate not being honest, but I was told to mention vague family problems as an issue. On the other hand, since you have the job basically and they want you, I have seen with my own eyes an employer who said "well, we will work it out." I would sound them out at that final interview, maybe referring to some prescheduled tests you will need to take care of up front. If they are ok with that, you get the job, they love you and will do what they need to do.
And I found out that if you ask, sometimes you can get some of these tests done on Saturdays! That is a real pain, isn't it? Well, go with your gut, I hope this helps, and may all be well with you.

PGLGreg's picture
PGLGreg
Posts: 741
Joined: Jul 2006

Don't tell. It would be improper of your prospective employer to change his mind and not hire you, so by telling him, you would be tempting him into bad behavior.

robinvan's picture
robinvan
Posts: 1014
Joined: May 2007

Hi Katie...
Congratulations on the job offer!! Nothing like a good boost for the confidence.
To disclose or not to disclose? A tough question.
A few things I would want to think about. For one I would want to be clear that I am neither legally required nor morally obliged to disclose my cancer history. That way I could dispense with the feeling that "I should". Ethically I know that I am free to maintain my medical history as a private matter and not feel guilty about it. I may CHOOSE to disclose, but it is up to me. My cancer history is not relevant to my qualifications and my ability to do this job now and in the foreseeable future.
I would want to consider what implications there might be amongst co-workers and colleagues. Is this an element of my identity that I want to be known? or not? Could I live with this part of my life concealed from my work community?
I would want to consider the "culture" of the organization that's doing the hiring. If they have fair and objective hiring and human resources policies (and were following them) it wouldn't make a difference. Some employers, however, may balk at hiring a cancer survivor, even if they can't legally discriminate on that basis. Could I take this chance.
Self disclosure can go a long way towards establishing rapport and trust. Wouldn't it be nice if they hired me because I'm the best candidate for the job!! Cancer be damned!!
Realistically though, I'm not sure it works that way.
If I did disclose, I would be assertive about my good health, my excellent prospects for the future, and my capacity to do the job.
Sorry Katie... a lot of conflicted rambling, no real advice! Just make sure your head and heart agree!
Good luck in your deliberations...
Rob; in Vancouver
"And it is also said, go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes." Frodo Baggins
"A Cancer Journal" www.rob-pollock.blogspot.com

jana11
Posts: 708
Joined: May 2004

Well... if it were me, I don't think I would say anything... but it's not me; and I am answering based on thinking about this for about 5 seconds.

You have to feel right about your decision. Discrimination may be the situation it they balk, but... you know your field. Taking one day off every 3 months doesn't seem so bad. So many people have personal reasons for needing time off.

I would probably tell them I have a "chronic health issue" requiring periodic review. See what feels good. Sleep on it and let your instinct lead you. There is NO wrong answer!

Best of luck. jana

scouty's picture
scouty
Posts: 1976
Joined: Apr 2004

Great question Katie,

I recently encountered a similiar dilemma. I have been out of work on disability (considered early retirement since I had been with the company for 25 years) for 2 years so I could fight and heal from my cancer. Now the disability company is helping me find another job since I am too healthy to be on disability (a wonderful problem to have).

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was getting some resume advice from the resume reviewer for a major executive recruiting company. He immediately noticed the 2 year gap in employment from 2005 until now. I gave all the same reasons you've gotten here as well as my concerns about health insurance companies. He didn't seem to agree with me not be truthful and asked me a very simple question.... "Would you want to work for someone that wasn't understanding about my cancer and it's lifelong impacts on you?" I had to say absolutely NOT and now have that 2 year period of fighting and healing on my resume. Trust you gut, as Oprah says, it never disappoints you.

Lisa P.

Betsydoglover's picture
Betsydoglover
Posts: 1254
Joined: Jul 2005

Hi Lisa -

I think if you have a significant resume gap, as you do, then it is better to be up front. It's pretty old fashioned, but many employers view resume gaps with suspicion - often thinking of things like severe mental health issues, alcoholism etc. Sad - maybe the lucky person was just able to afford a once in a lifetime experience and traveled the world - but to these employers, fighting a successful cancer battle sounds better than an unexplained gap.

Betsy

usakat's picture
usakat
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Hi Lisa,

I've always appreciated and enjoyed your posts here at CSN. I'm glad to see that you are too healthy for disability. I hope your job search goes well and you find something that gives you nothing but 9 to 5 satisfaction.

Bob says, "HI." He hopes you're well and we both look forward to seeing you in Nashville.

Katie

HowardJ
Posts: 484
Joined: Jan 2005

Great question. I started a new job this past January and have struggled with the same question. So far, I have not told anyone at my new job. At times I would like to tell people, and other times I am glad I have not. I don't really have an answer for you but want to thank you for asking. Also thanks to everyone who responded.

Howard

Kanort's picture
Kanort
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi Katie,

Congratulations on the job offer, Katie.

You have gotten some excellent opinions. I agree with Lisa, go with you best instinct. Keep us posted.

Hugs,

Kay

sladich's picture
sladich
Posts: 430
Joined: May 2007

Ditto on Lisa's response; however, your health is a confidential matter. Congratulations on a new job. You should think positive - that you are cured - no need to tell them anything.

Debbie

usakat's picture
usakat
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Thank you SemiColon Friends,

Thank you all sincerely for all the great advice. You helped me formulate some excellent questions to ask myself. Things like relevance of my recent cancer fight to the job I do and my ability to do it, privacy, obligation assessment, risk versus reward, and whether or not I want or need to be a cancer poster child at work.

I waffled until I sat down and made a pros and cons list. Interestingly enough the list was fairly balanced so I had to add weight or value to each item on my list.

While I do have a strong desire to help change the face of cancer (i.e. It's not a death sentence), I have to be logical and realize this question is really about a job, nothing more, nothing less. I do enjoy the work I do and get a lot of satisfaction from it, but it no longer singularly defines who I am (see my personal page).

There will come a time at work that my cancer will be revealed and I will show my peers that there is a full life after cancer, but in the context of accepting the position offered it has no relevance. I'm entitled to sick time, vacation time, and a personal day off, all of which more than provides for time away from work for whatever purpose.

I'm going to accept the job and leave my cancer out of the discussion. It's up to me to properly schedule my life to accommodate everything I'm responsible for - my husband, my family, my friends, my health and my job.

Thanks again for the help everyone. I knew I could count on you once again for valuable insight and to help me through the maze that is cancer.

Katie

P.S. Rob - love that quote - still laughing at that one! Visions of hairy footed Hobbits writing from their computers fill my head and I'm immensely amused.

ron50's picture
ron50
Posts: 1721
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Kat,
Say G'day to SB for me . Congrats on the job. I told my boss absolutely nothing. He is such an armpit. Cheers Ron(selfemployed)

HowardJ
Posts: 484
Joined: Jan 2005

Thanks for the chuckle!

scouty's picture
scouty
Posts: 1976
Joined: Apr 2004

Good one Ron and I suppect you aren't near the armpit you think you are!!!!! Thanks for the laugh.

Lisa P.

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