Be the Boss Over Cancer

My husband was having weird health issues for almost 2 years while he was working at his last job. None of the doctors were able to figure out what was wrong. I work in HR and asked him to request a possible leave of absence so we could focus on getting him well & finding out what was wrong but 2 days after he asked his company about his possible STD & LTD benefits his job was dissolved out of the blue. This was in May of 2009, then in AUG of 2010 a swollen lymph node led to him being diagnosed with stage 4a head/neck cancer. He went through all of his chemo & radiation treatments & is doing great! He has had 2 clean scans, 6 month and 1 year in JAN 2012. We are so thankful & happy and he's finally getting his energy back & has been looking for a job for several months now.

He has excellent work history & I had his resume professionally done and it looks great but he isn't getting ANY calls/interviews and we think it's due to the almost 3 year gap in employment.Should we put something on his resume about the gap or leave it?

If he does get interviews what should he say/not say? We sure hope he has beat cancer and so far so good but we're afraid if he mentions cancer it will scare the potential employer off. I feel like there is no reason for him to mention it as long as everything is good & his doctors are not concerned.

My mother is disabled & lives with us and some friends have suggested we say he has been helping with her care until we got a FT nurse (this is not a lie he has). If we do that, how should we list this on his resume or should it just go on a cover letter?

His unemployment has run out & we are running out of options. He's on my health insurance and it's great so he doesn't even really need benefits...just a paycheck.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.


Leave a comment
  • Alice McKenney

    Alice McKenney on Feb 21, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Missy,

    I have forwarded your post along to one of our coaches, however I do want to share a few Cancer and Careers resources with you in the meantime.

    Firstly, we have a brand new article on our site about dealing with a resume gap, which may be a huge help to you, check it out here:  We've also got a great webinar posted online about the job search that may help you out:  

    In regards to your question of telling a potential employer about his cancer diagnosis, you are correct that he likely does not need to however if he thinks there is any chance he may need to request a reasonable accommodation under the ADA (read more about that here: he might need to disclose.  For more information on cancer legal rights, contact the Cancer Legal Resource Center:

    Hope this helps for now, and a coach should be in touch soon!



  • Julie Jansen

    Julie Jansen on Feb 21, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Missy,

    First and most important, I am delighted to hear that your husband has navigated through such a grueling cancer diagnosis and is healthy!

    Often people who have survived cancer choose not to talk about it in an interview, especially if they have been given a clean bill of health as your husband has.

    There are several reasons that your husband is not getting interviews. One may be that he is applying for jobs on job boards instead of through his network. If so, despite his excellent work history and professional resume, the odds are stacked against him as far as getting interviews. I just helped a client hire an administrative assistant and used Craigslist to advertise the job. We received 500 plus resumes. So many people didn't read the ad correctly or follow basic job search etiquette and were not considered for these reasons alone.

    Most of these people had gaps on their resumes however this did not dissuade me from contacting them if I liked their background. I did always ask about it and if I got a satisfactory response, they were brought in for an interview. Frankly, the recession has helped people in your husband's situation because so many people do have gaps. I am not a fan of putting a reason for a gap on your resume however saying something in a cover letter is fine as long as it is short and sweet.

    Finally, it does take at least six months to find a job and along with networking in person and on LinkedIn, your husband should be going to professional trade association meetings and reaching out to headhunters. So patience is definitely a necessity!

    I hope this helps and please feel free to write again if you need clarification or more information. Good luck to your husband and to you!

    Take care,


Post a Comment

Please sign in to post a comment