Be the Boss Over Cancer

We all know that cancer does not discriminate—that it can affect anyone at any age. In fact, one look at the headlines reminds us that even high-profile individuals—from television anchor Robin Roberts to WNBA coach Michael Cooper—are diagnosed with cancer.

It’s true that some of the more-famous personalities may have greater financial resources and/or access to medical treatment. But what’s helpful to remember is that at some point they, too, must answer many of the same questions that confront every cancer patient: When should I tell my coworkers? How much time will I need to take off from work? Who will cover for me while I’m out of the office?

Unlike Goldman Sachs CEO Jamie Dimon, most employees won’t have to issue a letter to company shareholders disclosing their diagnosis, but they will have to decide whether to inform their employer. That’s a very personal decision—and there’s a lot to consider before getting to that point. The At Work section of our website has helpful information on sharing the news at work, including when is the appropriate time and how to create a strategy for doing so.

For many people, their job is a key part of their identity—and that part doesn't fade away when cancer comes into the picture. For some it actually becomes even more important, which is why they’re reluctant to take a leave of absence or even reduce their hours while undergoing treatment. Yet for those whose side effects directly impact their work, the situation can be even more challenging. For example, a throat cancer patient who is used to speaking in public, such a Cooper or Dimon, may not be able to do so for a while. Getting tips on how to manage side effects can help.

Understandably, not everyone can (or wants to) identify with celebrities. But when trying to balance a cancer diagnosis and a job, it’s important to know that there is a community of people out there who are going through a similar experience—and there are resources available.

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