Be the Boss Over Cancer

I am so thoroughly confused and am scared to death that I might make the wrong decision. I hope someone can show me the right route to take.

In September of 2010 I returned from a vacation and visited my gynecologist for constant bleeding. I am in my mid-50's. The doctor detected masses in my uterus and ordered a biospy. I notified my supervisor that I might have to go onto temporary disability due to what I was hoping would be surgery for fibroids.

Less than a week later I was terminated with no reason given as was my employer's stated right. A very short time after that I got word that it was uterine cancer.

I went onto unemployment while I was trying to get enough ahead on COBRA so that I could go through surgery. My surgery was late February 2011. I went onto CA temporary disability at that time. I was told at that time (sadly can't find any notes on that yet) that the unemployment would be on hold until I got off the disabilty.

I recieved my last disability check on 3/6 and my COBRA will run out on 4/1.

I have now found out that my unemployment claim had run out late last year and that when/if I go back onto unemployment I will be getting only $87 per week instead of the $450 I was formerly getting. There is no way that I can support my household on that amount.

I have absolutely no idea what to do. I have submitted an application for federal disability and am waiting for paperwork for CAL COBRA. The unemployment evaluation agent that I just spoke to wants me to fax over to her letters from my primary physcian and oncologist stating that I'm able to return to work. I am greatly concerned about the impact of sending those letters if I send them. I am currently physically able to work, but am looking into the future (a week or so) at a number of tests that I am awaiting approvals for, including a colonscopy, breast ultrasound (for a small lump-- likely same one seen and biopsied before) and repair of a hernia that was likely the result of the hysterectomy.

 If I submit the letters and then Disability sees them, then it will look like I'm not disabled, but any of these upcoming procedures might produce information/results that do result in disablity.

I am also concerned that if I don't get the CAL COBRA paperwork soon and qualify, I won't be able to go through the above procedures. And If I get only $87 per week, there is no way that I can afford the cost of CAL COBRA if it's anywhere the cost I had to pay for the federal COBRA.

I am also looking at that my mother wants me to go out to Las Vegas to take care of her after she broke her hip in November. So FMLA might also be in the mix, but I don't know how to swing that either.

In my ideal world, I would get a well-paying job with medical insurance so that I could take care of my medical issues and take care of my household. I want to work. I need psychologically to work. I have submitted resumes all over the country. I'm willing to work anywhere, out of the country, even. I have had a number of interviews, including while I was bald from chemotherapy. Nothing has yet gelled.

My most important priority right is get money into the household and to be able to pay for my medical care.

I have no idea what step to take and I feel like I am surrounded by sand traps wherever I turn. Any guidence would be much appreciated.


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  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on Mar 22, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:


    What a terrifying and stressful ordeal.  I am so sorry that you have been going through all these added stresses while in treatment.

    The best piece of advice I can give you is to contact the Cancer Legal Resource Center, they are a national organization but they started in CA and are headquartered there so they know a lot about both applicable federal and state laws and insurance issues.  After you have the insurance/legal pieces under control and a plan, then you might want to come back to us to discuss specifics around your job search and what is and is not working (or feel free to respond here with more specifics so our coaches know how to help and try to address what isn't gelling).

    The CLRC's info is:
    Toll Free #: (866) THE-CLRC or (866) 843-2572

    Phone: (213) 736-1455

    TDD: (213) 736-8310

    Fax: (213) 736-1428


    Good luck!


    Rebecca Nellis
    Director of Programs

  • Patricia W.

    Patricia W. on Mar 22, 2012


    Thank you for your response. It took me forever to reach them the last time I tried. We played phone tag a lot and they were always giving me a number that dumped me right back into their intake line. I'm sure they were trying their best, but I'm afraid it didn't help me as much as I needed. They were the ones who gave me your information as well as that which led me to learning about CAL COBRA.

     I need to speak/write to someone who has been where I am now. Do you or anyone else know where I can find that information?

    Thank you.

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