Be the Boss Over Cancer

I have worked for my current employer for 16 plus years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2011, surgery, chemo & radiation followed. I missed two full days of work and 4 partial days while undergoing chemo. A few weeks ago I was informed that my position was going to be re-structured within the next 6 months and strongly advised to start looking for a new job...of course a severance package would be considered. My hair has just started to grow back, but I still look like I am recovering from treatment. Any advise or guidance would be greatly appreciated.


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  • Rosalind Joffe

    Rosalind Joffe on Mar 7, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:

    Dear Julie,  It must be difficult to be in this position after years of service and then going through the traumas of cancer and treatment.   It's always hard to know from these questions what you already know or have done, so excuse me if I offer suggestions you've already acted on.  

    First, I wonder if there might be a different role in this company for you, even if it's a 'step down', less money or retraining.  You're not even a year post surgery and your body is still recovering and I imagine that you're still testing medication.  It's almost always easier to stay where you are than to start new and this would be a time you might want to tread water, even if it's not for ever.

    If this isn't an option, then get out your resume.  Find yourself a top notch resume writer (there are many on the web these days) and make sure it positions you  to the best of your ability.  I understand your reticence about your hair but the reality is that most people will not realize why it's short nor will they know what it looked like previously (unless they knew you then).  

    You should do a clear headed, self assessment of how symptoms might be impacting you know before you talk to anyone about  a new job or even a resume writer.  If you're still weak or struggling some days, then take that into consideration for the next job.  You want to find work that you can do successfully rather than find yourself in the job market again in a few months.

    You should also decide whether you want to disclose the cancer.  There are many reasons not to, especially if you don't have numerous appointments nor any imminent surgeries.  But consider this carefully if you plan to use your existing network to look for new work.  People do talk and it's hard to job search if you're worried about what someone knows or doesn't know.

    I hope that this gives you some things to consider and the you find this helpful.


  • Julie V.

    Julie V. on Mar 26, 2012

    Thank you for your response. I am working on writing my own severance package and then looking for work in a few months. Hopefully things will calm down and I can get my energy back. I appreciate your thoughts, you have given me several things to consider. Again, thank you for your help, J

  • Julie V.

    Julie V. on Mar 28, 2012

    Can someone within your organization review my severance package for me? If not, can you recommend someone in the Chicago area that can help me?  I want to make sure that I have protected myself as well as possible. If I have to leave my company, I want to do it with grace and my integrity intact, and not be taken advantage of . Thank you

  • Rosalind Joffe

    Rosalind Joffe on Mar 28, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Julie - I'm not sure what you are asking for.  I'm not a lawyer nor a human resources professional but from my work with clients around this, a severance package is typically about money and benefits. You wrote you want to leave with grace, integrity and not feel taken advantage of.  That's a tall order and I think that at least some of this is about your own expectations for what you 'should' have.  If it's the legal issues that concern you, then you probably should consult a lawyer.  

    I'm assuming when you say, 'within your organization', you mean within cancer and careers?  Once you respond around your concerns, I or someone here can direct you to a resources that would be useful to you.

    With warmth,

  • Alice McKenney

    Alice McKenney on Mar 29, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Julie,

    You might want to consider contacting the Cancer Legal Resource Center; if they are unable to advise you on the specifics of your severance package protecting you legally, they should be able to refer you to someone who can.  They have a local office in Chicago (as well as their main office in LA) - their contact information is below. I hope this helps!

    Disability Rights Legal Center

    c/o McDermott Will & Emery LLC

    227 West Monroe Street

    44th Floor

    Chicago, IL 60606-5096

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

    TDD: (213) 736-8310

    Fax: (213) 736-1428 (Los Angeles)

    Fax: (312) 278-0353 (Chicago)




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