Cancer. Work. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that…
For many people when they first hear a diagnosis of cancer for themselves or a loved one, work accommodations are not among the first thoughts that enter their mind. Usually our mind will race through a variety of concerns such as:
- Am I going to survive?
- What do I tell the kids?
- How hard will it be to tolerate the treatment?
- How expensive is this going to be for our family?
Once the reality of treatment starts, however, some of those work-related questions may start surfacing:
- How much do I need to share with my employer about my cancer diagnosis?
- Is my job status secure?
- What happens if I just can’t put in the hours and energy that are needed for the job?
- Is there any one I can talk to confidentially about my concerns?
Thankfully, the American Disability Act provides significant support for employees with a serious diagnosis. Employers are required by law to provide reasonable work accommodations for any employee with a disability and, yes, impairments caused by cancer or its treatment would be included in that category.
For example, accommodations could include changing the number of hours worked or adapting your weekly schedule. Or another example may be making adjustments to the work space such as furniture changes, parking locations or office technology to make it more comfortable or possible to continue working during and after treatment.
There are a variety of reasons someone may continue working during their cancer treatment. Perhaps work brings a sense of normalcy to life during a time that feels very unsettled. Or work colleagues may provide a wonderful emotional support system to help deal with the challenges of treatment. Maybe it is a financially-based decision. All of these reasons, and others, are valid.
Talking with your healthcare provider is a good way to get a realistic idea of what challenges treatment may bring to your day-to-day activities. If you want specific information related to cancer and employment, www.cancerandcareers.org/ and also www.cancer.org/ provide a wealth of information. Perhaps you have already navigated the world of work and treatment. Were there conversations or factors that helped you decide how best to handle that situation? What worked for you? Please share your wisdom with the group.