In a recent article for MSN, Writer Brijana Prooker detailed how seen and empowered they felt watching Christina Applegate, a Hollywood actress who has been open about her own chronic illness, proudly walk out onto the red carpet with a cane.
“It was the fact that by posing with her cane, Applegate forced the world to look at disability head on, daring anyone to look away.”
For Prooker, Applegate’s appearance that day and transparency about her experiences managing her illness and work were inspiring, not just to her, but to all those with a chronic illness and/or a disability.
Work is a huge part of many people’s identities; it can provide a sense of purpose, pride and normalcy that is essential for one’s overall well-being. However, after a cancer diagnosis, or a serious illness, your ability to work can change and bring up new challenges. For those that decide to continue working during or after treatment, the decision to disclose and advocate for one’s needs at work can be difficult and complex. Laws like The Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA), which may provide protections for those living with a disability, including eligible cancer survivors, from discrimination and requires eligible employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees to function properly on the job, or The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which may give you the right to take time off due to illness or to care for an ill dependent, without losing your job or health insurance, exist for this purpose. But many still struggle to speak out, and understandably so.
Applegate discussed her own reasonable accommodations on set. Scenes were re-blocked so she could lean against a door. Another day, she had someone off-camera elevating her legs. They also removed wide establishing shots that were unnecessary to the story to give her more control over how physical she needed to be, and save her energy for more essential moments in telling the story. All of these required Applegate to advocate for her own needs, and for her employer to understand the changes to her work environment needed to produce a final product that everyone was happy with.
Seeing others, especially those with influence like Applegate, going through similar experiences being vocal about their own needs, can help empower one to do the same.
To read about Christina Applegate’s unique story about advocating for herself at work and beyond, click here.