Be the Boss Over Cancer

I was recently awarded long term disability from my employer (January 2014). However, since I am a teacher, I am not paid through the summer months. I am wondering if I can find myself a job of some easy variety to supplement my income without compromising my disability income. I feel like there are days I could work--certain hours and certain jobs. But I fear flagging myself as "able to work" and loosing my income for the long haul. How much am I allowed to work while on long term disability?

Also, I would love to go to school. That is something I could easily do from home and at my own pace, but again, I am afraid of compromising my disability income. Is that an unreasonable fear? 

Do you know how long long term disability lasts? 

I have metastasized breast cancer to the bones and some soft tissue. Am doing "ok" right now, though am being recommended for new treatment.  bla bla bla Always something, right?

Thank you for considering my questions, and taking time to address them. 


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  • Sarah Goodell

    Sarah Goodell on May 12, 2014

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for writing to us. I have sent your post over to our career and legal experts, so they will be in touch with their advice soon. In the meantime, I would recommend checking out a website called Flexjobs ( for some ideas of alternative work options that might work during the summer months. Flexjobs offers a 50% discount on membership fees for Cancer and Careers constituents, just type "CANCER" into the promo code field during payment.


    Sarah, Cancer and Careers Associate Manager of Programs

  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on May 12, 2014

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Michelle,

    You are wise to ask these questions before you do anything work-related as you wouldn't want to compromise your long term disability. I know Sarah said she would be sending your question to a legal expert but I am quite certain that the response will be that you need to review your actual policy with a professional since they are all different.  I recommend you check out the National Cancer Legal Services Network ( or and find someone you can speak with directly about your policy to make sure you understand all the fine print and options you may have.

    Good luck!

    Rebecca V. Nellis
    VP, Programs & Strategy

  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on May 12, 2014

    Career Coach Comment:


     Our legal experts will address your questions about long
    term disability, I can make a few suggestions.

    You may want to ask your Human Resource department at your
    school district, to provide you with a Fact
    Sheet of the terms of your Long Term disability
    . They should have done that
    at the time you were approved for disability benefits.  The benefit may be tied only to your inability
    to work at the job at you are currently trained for.  Terms of LTD plans vary based on the program
    your employer secured. You are wise to be cautious about abiding by their

     Based on the terms of your LTD, you may be able to do some
    work from home that might not impact your benefits.  For instance, while I am on Social Security
    disability, as a stage 4 lung cancer patient, I am still able to earn a certain
    amount per month/year without jeopardizing my disability payments.  The amount refers to net earnings, after
    related expenses.  I am able to volunteer
    as a coach and an advocate for other patients.

     I doubt that your Long Term disability program would restrict
    your ability to pursue training or education, particularly from home.  That should be no different than any physical
    exercise that might benefit your health or attending a support group.

     If you are seeking to remain engaged and stimulated, participating
    in online training and webinars is a great idea.  You can also volunteer, perhaps to do some
    tutoring, or for a Literacy organization. 
    If you are able, you could volunteer at your local hospital , library or
    church.  In most of these circumstances, there
    is flexibility to fit with your schedule and energy level. 

    I hope this is helpful.  Let us know if you need further ideas or information.


  • Michelle R.

    Michelle R. on May 12, 2014

    Thank you, already!  You ladies are fast!

  • Roberta C.

    Roberta C. on Jan 18, 2015

    Hi. I start back to work part time as a meat manager on Tuesday January 20th. I've been off work for six months.  I had a radical hysterectomy, and six rounds of chemotherapy. I've been using my eliptical trainer daily and doing planks.  However I'm still apprehensive about going back.  I'm glad I found this support.  I do tire easily and I'm forgetful at times. It is a physically challenging job.  As a manager, I hope I'm able to retain the information needed to do this job.  I'm seeking support or advise if I don't do well.  Thank you

  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Jan 18, 2015

    Career Coach Comment:


    I am glad to hear that you are feeling better and will tackle a part time job.

    What you need most right now is Confidence.  It's understandable that you are hesitant and uncertain about your skills since you have been away from work.  You are experienced and everything will come back to you.  On one hand you may be stimulated getting back into the familiar; you will also become tired at the end of your work hours because of the fatigue.  You are changing your routine and environment again but there will be familiarity.  It might take a little time to re-adjust.  You may find that you are slower at remembering process.  Just do your best and don't beat yourself up.  You've just been through a tough time and made it. I bet the job will be a breeze compared to cancer.

    Plan your day well. Find a time for a nap. You can do it.  That said, if you  find that you don't like the work any more and that you want to do something else. And that's OK. We can help you think through another path. 

    Think of this as a temporary step. Try it out. Enjoy the opportunity. And if it doesn't work out, you will move on. 


  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Jul 15, 2015

    Career Coach Comment:


    Because you are referring to a Long Term Disability provided by your employer, you need to read through the benefits and restrictions. 

    For instance,  Social Security Disability program allows you to earn a certain monthly amount and that information is usually well spelled out.  The same must apply to your plan.You are right to be careful about working until you know this.  

    If you don't need the $ badly, don't take a chance.  You can expand your knowledge through schooling as you suggested.  I don't suspect any limitation on that.  You could also volunteer, within reason , or perhaps tutor.  It should be something easy and flexible that is in line with your limitations.

    Again read through your LTC plan, highlight the areas of questions and have your Benefits person in HR help you interpret the restrictions in question.

    I hope this helps.  


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