Be the Boss Over Cancer

I applied to a job 9 months ago, right before I discovered I have breast cancer. I just received a request to interview as a position just opened up that is ideal for my qualifications. 

I finished chemotherapy and my mastectomy, but I'm about to start radiation in the next few weeks. 

The doctors and I agree that I will be well enough to work, but as far as scheduling goes, I have radiation every day, and this will likely either cut into my morning or my afternoon during the work day. 

I was wondering whether I should mention that I have cancer during my original interview. Since I'm still going through treatment I know that at some point I will have to broach the subject of my frequent doctors appointments. 

When is the right time to do this, and how should I bring it up?


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  • Sarah Goodell

    Sarah Goodell on May 9, 2013

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Catherine,

    Thanks for reaching out and apologies for the delayed response, we're experiencing some problems with our website alerts. I have sent your question to one of our career coaches who will get back to you soon.


    Sarah, Cancer and Careers Program Coordinator

  • Kathy Flora

    Kathy Flora on May 10, 2013

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi, Catherine,   

    Congratulations are in order all around...on your successful surgery, on the completion of your chemo, and on the great news about the job opportunity.

    I know that you still face radiation each day for 33 or 34 days... and that corresponds with the interview that is scheduled for a great opportunity.   And, it is tempting to disclose your cancer history in this first interview.  In spite of that impulse, please take a moment to consider the following before making a decision:

    The interview is just the initial opportunity to meet the potential employer.  Depending on the level of position, there may be several candidates and a series of interviews over a month or more before a decision on the selection is made.

    Your radiation  will take a brief period of time each day for several successive days.  However, with any luck and cooperation from your treatment providers, you may be able to schedule it for early in the morning or late in the day, precluding any possibility of interfering with any but the very latest or earliest scheduled job interviews.

    Chances are very strong that you will have completed your cycle of radiation prior to ever having to start the new job.   Think carefully if disclosing a past illness will serve you well in establishing yourself with that employer.  Do you need to have accommodations in order to maintain the schedule?  Did your cancer cause any permanent disability?   If not, then there may be no reason whatsoever to let the future employer know, especially that early in the search process.

    Although it may seem very surprising, it takes about 2 to 2.5 months for a person to actually secure a position and start the job from the time they actually interview for the first time, unless we are talking about an entry level position. So, rather than focusing on whether or how to disclose  your cancer, focus your interview preparation and how you will discuss your ability to add value to the organization in question.

    I hope this  opportunity turns out to be exactly what you want and the step you need to bring you full circle back to wholeness.  Wishing you the very best,

    Kathy Flora, Career Coach 

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