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Amy Coleman on June 25, 2012
The Grand Rapids Press recently highlighted a two-part series on work and cancer focused on legal rights and disclosure. The second piece, "Head off trouble on the job: Be open about cancer diagnosis, specific about needs," really got the Cancer and Careers team talking about what's expected, reasonable and appropriate for people living with cancer and disclosure in the workplace.
In the article, Sue Schroeder advises that your first step should be an open and honest dialogue with Human Resources regarding your diagnosis and the time off that might be needed. This may not be the case for everyone. Deciding whether or not to share the news of a cancer diagnosis is extremely sensitive and personal. For some, that could look like an initial meeting with HR. But maybe not for others. After deciding whether or not to share the news, a host of other questions might arise: Who should you tell? When should you tell them? What exactly should you say? And how should you even go about telling them?
Before making these decisions, an effective first step may be creating an action plan to help gain a sense of control over what's likely to be an overwhelming situation. This allows for some space in between finding out about your diagnosis, processing it and sharing with those close to you before tackling how to approach your "new normal" in the workplace. Taking the time to write a flexible action plan after connecting with your oncology team and having a better sense of how your diagnosis and/or treatment could potentially affect you in the workplace could make all the difference in the work and cancer balancing act.
For the most part, giving advanced notice at work and keeping the lines of communication open will allow for more problem solving and support from your management team and colleagues. Still, as Schroeder so truthfully notes, "jerks happen." If you do suspect that you're being discriminated against in the workplace as it directly relates to your diagnosis or treatment, learn more about your options here.