Be the Boss Over Cancer

I had cervical/uterine stage 3b CA in 1988, treated with 7 wks external plus 3 days internal radiation followed by a radical hysterectomy. My health had been fairly good until 2010. I am a Registered Nurse since 1970 and have been working as a Travel Nurse for 3 1/2 years in various Recovery Rooms across the United States.

My problem is this: since January, 2010, I have started having severe abdominal cramping, gas, nausea, fatigue, blood in stool and food intolerances. These episodes have become more frequent and more intense within the last few months. As a result, I lost 2 assignments last year and was just dismissed from another assignment a few days ago. I am seeing a GI specialist on 4/5/11 due to these s/s and the fact that I am now incontinent of bowel/bladder function.

I have little money in my savings and 3 small retirements (I will be 62 in September) because I thought I would be able to work until at least age 70 or beyond. I have a mortgage, owe $14,000 in CC debt, do own my car. Will I be able to qualify for Disability Coverage and Medicare and how do I go about finding money to support myself (single) until the coverage comes about? I am stunned by the onset of my bowel problems and find myself totally unprepared as far as guidance on how to proceed.


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  • Alice McKenney

    Alice McKenney on Apr 5, 2011

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Jeanne,

    I'm so sorry to hear about your recent turn of events.  I have forwarded your question on to one of our career coaches who will hopefully have some words of wisdom to share.  However, in terms of your questions about qualifying for disability, etc. I recommend that you contact the Cancer Legal Resource Center.  We work very closely with them and their info is below. If you have any additional questions please let me know.


    Toll Free #: (866) THE-CLRC or (866) 843-2572

    Phone: (213) 736-1455

    TDD: (213) 736-8310

    Fax: (213) 736-1428




  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Apr 5, 2011

    Career Coach Comment:

    I can see that your current situation is very stressful attempting to balance your health issues along with a need to maintain your earnings.

    Here are a few options for you to consider. Your nursing experience is very valuable and you may want to utilize it in a different setting. Travelling a great deal does not appear to be a good match with your current challenges.

    Consider a FT or even PT position with an insurance company, an HMO, VNA or a Home healthcare organization. Perhaps a VA hospital, if there is one in your area. Also consider any case management or quality assurance organization. You could also consider working as a nurse for a Medical practice. Rather than hands-on nursing, explore positions where you can utilize your experience and knowledge to manage cases.

    Social security is available to you at age 62. Check to see how much your monthly benefit would be and how much you are allowed to earn without penalty. Then assess whether this will be enough for you.

    You will need to have a diagnosis to work from to apply for social security disability. You can do this even after you begin collecting SS at 62. Approval can take a lot of time, unless you are diagnosed as a stage 3 or 4 cancer patient. In 2009, I qualified retroactive to 2008.

    Keep in mind that even with SS or SSD, you need to be able to bridge the gap with a health insurance plan until you qualify for Medicare on your 65th birthday. This is why I suggest working for a healthcare organization that might provide health care insurance even for part time work. Otherwise, COBRA can be very expensive.

    Keep telling yourself how lucky you are to have a career and skills that can offer you a variety of options as you tackle your health challenges.

    We are here for you and to guide you as you apply for other positions ie. what to reveal and what not to say about your health issues at job interviews.


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