Be the Boss Over Cancer

My life was going well. I was just turning 40 and out celebrating with my college friends. I was saying how lucky we all were to be healthy to be happy and to be mother's -although I was no longer a wife or spouse to anyone. I was recently divorced and grateful for my kids and my new townhouse and the chance to start over. Shortly after Thanksgiving that year I was ordered to a local hospital for a needle biopsy in my throat. I had been sluggish and tired since I was 31. I was diagnosed with papillary cancer Dec 2 2006. I went for surgery and returned to work. I would have been at my company almost 9 years when they called me in at the end of the day as the new year began that I was to be let go. It took me just 7 months to find a new job and my new co. was a supporter of the American Cancer Society. I was let go May 7 -after requesting my vacation time for July. I mad a mistake telling my boss I had to return to the hospital July 13 so I might as well take that week for vacation. He said to me...Judy what is going on with this cancer." I told him I am fine. It is follow up. That was the truth. I was let go and all I heard from him was.."it's unfortunate we have to let you go today." You are just no longer the right fit. How could that be -I brought to them all my accounts from my former company and then some. I was an over achiever and went the extra mile all the time. That was just ME. Now, to have health coverage my monthly premium to Cobra is 331. That does not account for my home, my car and my children and all the living expenses. How will I be able to pay everyhting on NJ unemployment. I need advise - 1 is i need to find a new job and quick. I need to also find a better health plan. I feel personally both jobs let me go due to my cancer follow up but by law they can't admit to it. I also can't fight them as I need both as a reference for my next job. I almost rather find out I'm sick again so as not to have to deal with all this again. I don't seem to be as marketable. I also have a huge scar across my neck area so it' s hard to not tell someone the truth when they meet me.


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  • Rosalind Joffe

    Rosalind Joffe on May 25, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Dear Judith

    Thank you for sharing your situation and your concerns. Although you've identified that you need a job with good health coverage, I'm not quite sure if you have a question for us?

    I do have some questions for you that might help you as you consider next steps. Is it possible to learn more specifics? Your last boss might be willing to tell you what he meant by "no longer a good fit" if you explain that you need to explain this in interviews? Although he won't say it was because of your cancer history, you might probe. Perhaps he'll say something that would tell you if he believes that your behavior in any way contributed to this - or not. According to your description, living with cancer wasn't a problem at this job and you didn't ask for any "accommodation"-- so his his reaction to what sounds like an isolated event (testing that wouldn't impact your schedule) seems odd. Although it might feel heard to hear what he has to say, it is one way to turn this into a learning opportunity. You learn might be helpful in the next job.

    I so empathize with your feelings of frustration and the wish to get sick again. But from your self description, you sound like someone who can make this work. As far as the scar and disclosure, do you have to explain it unless you choose to? It's your decision, isn't it? Use that to your advantage.

    Please write again if you have more questions I can address here.



  • Julie Jansen

    Julie Jansen on Jun 2, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Dear Judith,

    My apologies for my delayed response to your posting and plea for help. Clearly you have suffered a great deal, not only because of your cancer but also because of the way you have been treated by your employers. I am sure that you have already done this, but as a first step, I would reach out to some legal experts to become very clear about your rights. There is a long list of legal resources here on this site for starters. is also a very good organization to reach out to.

    You also need to find out what kind of discounted insurance plans the state of New Jersey has.

    You are very marketable still and thankfully the market is picking up as well. As tough as it feels, it's important for you to dig into a thoughtful job search. It's always easiest to focus on what you've done in the past. I am sure that you know who the competitors to your previous employers are and I would start there if you haven't already. You also want to get your confidence level back up to where it once was. This isn't easy but reaching out to people and networking is a good way to start.

    Taking action and nurturing yourself are the two best remedies for moving yourself out of your current state. Please write back if you want more specific feedback.



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