British American romance novelist Jackie Collins recently passed away following a six-year battle with breast cancer. According to an article in the Telegraph, her three daughters were the only ones who had been told about her condition.
Similarly, Hollywood writer Nora Ephron kept her leukemia diagnosis a secret, outside of her immediate family. As Ephron’s son explains, “at various points over the years she considered coming clean to her friends and colleagues…but what my mother didn’t want was to have her illness define her, turning every conversation into a series of ‘How are yous.’”
One of the biggest challenges employees with cancer face is deciding whether to share their diagnosis with their employer and/or coworkers — then determining what and whom to tell. Disclosure is an intensely personal decision that each individual must make for him/herself.
However, when doing so, you may want to consider factors such as the treatment side effects you are likely to experience, how the law may work in your favor and what your work environment is like. Thinking through such potential influences can help you anticipate how your news might be received, which in turn can help you decide whether you want to share — and if so, how much and with whom.
If you do want to disclose at work but are worried that then the focus of every conversation might eventually become your diagnosis, try using a technique that we call The Swivel.
The Swivel is a way of acknowledging a person’s comment, then re-directing the conversation. For example, if a coworker makes a cancer-related comment (“My dad had cancer too”) you can swivel the discussion back to the topic of work (“Thanks for sharing that. I’m sure that was very hard. While you’re here, can we review the minutes from yesterday’s meeting?”)
For more information on disclosing at work, as well as tips on whom, when, how and what to tell, read “Sharing the News.”
And for more about the The Swivel and how you can use it, click here.