Be the Boss Over Cancer

I have to have surgery mid-Feb and will not be able to work as a part-time ski instructor for the rest of the season. I do love to ski and teach and am having a very hard time saying good bye to my job, but I do want to be honest with my employer in order to have the door open to me again next winter. This is my second season working for this ski resort; I have worked in other departments including ski patrol for the last 11 at this same resort. Do I call out my illness by name? Or simply say the facts: surgery date and recovery time and offer to keep them posted on my recovery? My small town can't do the procedure, so I will have to travel and be out of town for a week. Thanks.


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  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Jan 23, 2013

    Career Coach Comment:

    Jill –

    I’m sorry to hear about the timing of your surgery – right in
    the middle of the ski season.  Based on
    the information you have provided, it sounds as though you may have a good
    relationship with your employer.  Is that
    right?    What is the culture of the
    organization?  Are they
    compassionate?  Supportive?  Do you have a warm friendly relationship with
    your boss?  Or, do you expect them to
    react that your illness is very inconvenient to them?

    The answer to these questions is your guideline as to how
    much you should share.  If you don’t know
    for sure, just test the waters.  Inform
    them that you must go for surgery with xx weeks of recovery.  That this is not elective surgery but
    potentially life threatening.  Tell them
    how “bummed out” you are at having to leave during your most enjoyable time of
    year.  That you hate to miss all the
    action.  If you get immediate compassion,
    you can opt to share more.  You want to
    be cautious because some people get scared of the “cancer” word and assume it means
    disability, incapacity and death.  That’s
    not the current reality with all the leading edge treatments today.  Personally, I continue to beat the odds and
    enjoy a good quality of life.

    Sometimes revealing more than is necessary is
    counter-productive to everyone.  Instead,
    re-assure them that you will be ready and fit for next season.  Stay in touch during your recuperation.  If you can, stop by for a brief visit.  Follow up off season to assure your spot for
    next season.

    By the way, since you will be getting treatment out-of-town,
    know that there are some lodging options for your family provided by the
    American Cancer Society and other such non-profits.  Hope Lodge is free to cancer patients and
    there are other housing options also.

    I hope this is helpful to you and good luck in your
    recuperation post surgery.


  • Bud Bilanich

    Bud Bilanich on Jan 26, 2013

    Career Coach Comment:


    First of all you have my best wishes for a successful surgery and recuperation.

    You are right when you say you want to be honest with your employer –this can be the best way to ensure that they will be likely to hire you again next winter. It is important to remember that being honest doesn’t necessarily mean a full disclosure, as Margot suggests.

    I found that people were very supportive when I told them I was having cancer surgery. I bet you will too. My personal experience taught me that calling cancer by its name, not an “illness”, gave me power over it. I felt that I was in charge, not the cancer.

    Of course, this is up to you. Whether or not you tell your employer that you are having cancer surgery is your choice. Regardless, as you have suggested, it is best to be as open and honest with your employer about your need for some time off this winter.

    Since you have worked at the same resort for 11 years, I assume you have a good relationship with the people who run it. Therefore, I see no problem with telling your employer that you are going to have cancer surgery. Then do exactly as you suggest – share with them the surgery date and recovery time. Offer to keep them posted on your recovery.

    I would also suggest that you check out some of the Cancer and Careers information on sharing your diagnosis and legal issues around disclosure to help inform your decision.

    Best of luck to you. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Bud Bilanich

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