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The Work Dilemma

Posts: 84
Joined: Aug 2011

I had one of those revelatory moments at work. I was completing my self-assessment for the past year and came face-to-face with the fact that my cancer really has had an impact at work. But how do you acknowledge that in a self-evaluation? Because I am very familiar with employment law and HR, I tried desperately to find away to not mention it for fear it would show up in a decision not to promote me, or something else. In the end, I said I'd had health concerns that had prevented me from meeting some goals, although I still had great successes.

I was diagnosed in April. I missed about six weeks for my first series of surgeries. But I returned to work full-time after my tongue surgery and neck dissection. During two months of radiation and chemo, I worked full-time or part-time for all but two weeks. I took another 10 days off for my last surgery. Overall, that's freakin' amazing. Yet, I've missed meetings for doctors appointments, came in late. Just this week, for the first time, I told my doctor I couldn't miss another important meeting and I needed to reschedule.

As I face another round of radiation, my big concern is how will it effect my quality of life and my ability to work. I'm far from a workaholic, but being able to continue to work through all of this is my personal sign that I'm doing ok. That may be totally messed up, but it helps me to continue to move forward.

I have a great workplace (which provides great insurance). They have been flexible, never balked at my needing time out, provided flexibility and telework. Still, I hope to have another 20 years of work left in me and I hate to think what having cancer is doing to me right now.

nwasen's picture
Posts: 235
Joined: Feb 2011

Have you or can you go for the Family Emergency Medical Leave? I had to do that and lose all my vacation and sick time. Was not paid but it saved my job. I don't earn alot but I have pretty great insurance. Our owner would love to see me gone (he as much said so at our last insurance meeting). Don't know if he hates me or Obama more....but I mind my p's and q's and do my job.
I guess my feeling is your health and getting back to being well again is your first priority. Without your health the rest doesn't matter.
I understand you don't want to lose a good job but take good care of yourself first.
Good luck and keep us in the loop with what happens.

Posts: 84
Joined: Aug 2011

I still have sick leave and vacation. That's really not my concern. I would qualify for FLMA, but it would be difficult to go without the compensation. I'm not really expecting that I will need to worry about that.

The reality is I want to work. But it's hard to acknowledge how much being sick has impacted me at work, even though I've been incredibly lucky. But filling out my self-evaluation was just another reminder how awful my year has been and how much this illness has impacted me.

ratface's picture
Posts: 1320
Joined: Aug 2009

Obviously you place great emphasis on work and more than likely are happy at what you do. For me it was just the opposite, after cancer my job just seemed insignificant at best, it just could not fill the need for self fulfillment as it was now trivialized by the enormity of the disease. Work had been revealed to me as a very small part of my life. I considered all my available options and decided to move on. I decided that taking care of me was priority one if I was going to make that five year survival. It's a very personal decision and one which requires much introspection along with some significant financial and medical decisions. My gut feeling about you is that work fulfills that void for you and that you need to stay exactly where you are for now. You don't need to make this decision today but knowing there are decisions to be made is revealing.

fisrpotpe's picture
Posts: 1349
Joined: Aug 2010

you have been blessed to be able to go thru surgery, radiation and chemo and not miss much work and back to work so quickly full time. most important would be the health and happiness and if something happens deal with it if and when it happens. i look at your year was challenged and you have come out on top. congrats


sweetblood22's picture
Posts: 3228
Joined: Jan 2010

So, I think I'm a little confused. Are filling out a self assessment for a review? Like job performance? If that's the case, I would not allude to it at all. That would be really weird, to review myself, although my boss verbally would have me do that, which was a sneaky thing for him to do, I realized after the fact, because I was always way harder on myself than he would ever be on me.

I was a workaholic prior to me getting cancer. Working 48 hrs and up per week. Before that at McDs I often worked 65 hrs a week. In the beginning of all this mess, I worried and fretted over work and I wanted to keep working through it all, but soon realized there was no way it was going to happen. For a long time work was what tied me to being normal, and I thought for sure, I'd be back to what I did before in no time. Then that didn't happen for me. For a long time, my self worth was tied up in the workaholic me. It took me a long while to find me in my new normal, especially with people asking me, aren't you back to work yet? Don't you want to be productive? I feel I have been more productive, and have touched more lives since I've not worked, than working in a shoe store, waiting on customers who are a pain in the keister. Although, I know I did make an impact of many of the kids that worked for me. I am still in touch with many of them. But, I am no longer stuck on the fact that I will most likely never be able to work full time again. Short of a miracle. I am 100 percent certain I cannot do what I used to do.

Jennfer39's picture
Posts: 23
Joined: Nov 2011


I too face the dilemna of whether or not I explain my medical issues, and how they kept me from reaching goals that were established in last year's review. I have decided not to allude to the disease, and simple pick up these goals and add them to my list of objectives for next year. I was out of work for 3 months total, and was not there for the end of our fiscal year. Whether my boss mentions my health issues in my review, and in writing remains to be seen, but would not be wise on his part based on HIPPAA and legal issues around FMLA. He is a good person, so I doubt he will.

I have read the responses to your thread, and I can also relate to a shift in my thinking as it relates to my job. Stress is just not an option for me in my work environment going forward. The pay I get is excellent, but the toll I was allowing my work to take on my health was inexcusable. I did consider changing careers.......but have figured out that I can change my approach TO my career, and begin to enjoy my job again in doing so. I go back Monday, and will give it a shot. Less stressed approach, and more focussed on what matters....my people and my own health, and the rest will fall into place, or I will keep my options open to move on, like others mentioned.

As sweet said, I am always harder on myself than my boss could ever be. To me, bringing back all that I have gone through in my personal journey isn't relevant to a review process for anyone but me and my family, in the privacy of my own home. I will revisit and review my health crisis again next year, in February, when my husband and I take an anniversary cruise to celebrate another year between us and the end of treatment. My self assessment will undoubtedly be much more of the same......beating myself up for all the shortcomings that my boss wouldnt see if I didnt mention them.

Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8298
Joined: Sep 2009

I wouldn't over think it on your eval.....

If you look at it another way...think of the Freakin Amazing side of it.....

You were able to meet a huge amount of your work and responsibilities while undergoing the treatment...how many others would be motiviated, willing or able to meet that challenge.

More than likely given your history, the rads will have a small impact on your job performance at the most.

Always a good idea to cover yourself with FMLA, just incase....

If you have and maintain good communication with your immediate and employer, more than likely you shouldn't have any problems....

Go into it positively, it'll be better for you and your employer...


Posts: 1
Joined: Dec 2011

Hi all,

I just wanted to put in my two cents and share a resource that you all may not be aware of for helping with these delicate work & cancer issues. Cancer and Careers, a national non-profit, offers a variety of resources on our website to help situations like this. One that I think may be particularly helpful is our free career coaching here: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/career-coach. They can help you talk through these kinds of problems and come up with a solution that works for you.

We also offer free publications, teleconferences, numerous articles and more, all geared towards helping survivors like yourselves thrive in the workplace. I hope this comes in handy!



fisrpotpe's picture
Posts: 1349
Joined: Aug 2010

Thank You Alice, i am sure many will check it out.


longtermsurvivor's picture
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mar 2010

I was completely unaware. Thank you for posting.

ratface's picture
Posts: 1320
Joined: Aug 2009

Is the envirement still safe under your new level of physical and mental capacity? Mentally I could not funtion at the level necessary to keep myself physically safe and out of harms way and this was a major decision maker for me.

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