Be the Boss Over Cancer

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If only there were a "sharing" timeline perfect for all cancer patients! Obviously, you'll tell your immediate family, friends and loved ones first -- which is plenty to handle. Give yourself time to answer their questions and process the experience before you share the news at work.

In most cases, the best time to tell is after you and your healthcare provider have discussed and determined a course of treatment. At that point, you'll know how your cancer will affect your job performance and/or your appearance. Then you can decide whether to tell people in advance or only as it becomes necessary. Just remember that the more advanced notice you give people, the more time they have to work with you on solutions and lending their support.

Sometimes circumstances beyond our control dictate when we need to tell. As a unit secretary in a small hospital, Joanne Williams, 38, of Bradford, Ohio, found it necessary to tell her boss immediately upon hearing her diagnosis of breast cancer three years ago: "I told her immediately because I was put on medical leave by the surgeon immediately. I think my surgeon thought that my prognosis would be worse than it was. He wanted me to 'get all my ducks in a row,' so to speak."

Joanne isn't alone. Karen Schulz, 44, of San Jose, California, reveals that her breast cancer diagnosis also necessitated telling her boss immediately: "I was diagnosed on a Friday, and my mastectomy was scheduled for the following Monday, so I had to let him know that I would be off work for about three weeks."

But take heart, even if the "when" is out of your hands, the Who, What and How to Tell is totally up to you.