Be the Boss Over Cancer

I am in upper-middle management with a medium-sized company. Like a lot of companies, my company has been forced to make tough decisions regarding layoffs in the past year. There is increased focus on being on time to work, putting in many hours and getting work done in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. Last year, I had five CT scans, a PET scan, three bone scans, two bone density tests, two biopsies and a lumpectomy. I also had to take off for some necessary dental work and a heart procedure for my disabled husband. I don't feel that I can explain my situation to eveyone at my large office. Of course it's stressful running out of days off and having no days for my family. Now my treatment plan has been changed to include 5 weeks of daily radiation. When I went to the consult appointment, I made the appointment first in the morning, and the doctor didn't even think about seeing me until over a half-hour after my appointmement time, then didn't have my records. I had to leave because I was under a deadline and others were relying on me at work for their deadlines. So three things are mainly stressing me out. I need to keep my current job and do a good job. I need to appear to others at work to be putting in 110 percent, but don't wish to share my cancer or treatment with everyone at work. I feel that my healthcare professionals have no respect for my time or the fact that if I lose my job I will have no insurance and no money, and pretty much no one will hire me at my age with cancer with comparable salary and benefits in the current economy. I'm considering forgoing the radiation, and combing through websites looking for reasons that it might not be necessary when I know that it is. This says to me that I am not thinking objectively.


Leave a comment
  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on Jan 19, 2010

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Ann,

    I am the Director of Programs for Cancer and Careers. You might be able to use the Family and Medical Leave Act to accommodate your doctor's appointments. Though it is unpaid leave, it allows you to take time in increments as small as an hour. I suggest that you speak with someone at the Cancer Legal Resource Center, they are a nonprofit that provides pro-bono counseling on legal and insurance issues and they might have some advice about what to do about your insurance and benefits. We work very closely with them and their info is below.

    I have alerted our coaches to your question for additional thoughts on the job search element.


    Toll Free: (866) THE-CLRC or (866) 843-2572

    Phone: (213) 736-1455

    TDD: (213) 736-8310

    Fax: (213) 736-1428




  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on Jan 19, 2010

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    And, I highly recommend discussing your scheduling concerns with your doctor and/or nurse rather than planning to give up the treatment altogether. Also, is it possible to find another healthcare team who you might feel is more understanding of your situation and respectful of your time?

  • Julie Jansen

    Julie Jansen on Jan 19, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Ann,

    I am so sorry that you are under such stress. I am glad that you have written to Cancer and Careers because you are right that your perspective is very skewed and understandably so!

    First, your life and health are the most important thing for you to protect and nourish. This said, it is not a reasonable option to forego radiation.

    Second, you don't mention who at work does know about your cancer treatment? Does your boss? Does HR? while I empathize with your deep desire to protect your privacy, I think it's important to let the key stakeholders at work know what is going on once you have a plan. While it seems as if five weeks of daily radiation is forever, it is actually a small chunk of time in the scheme of things. I agree with Rebecca that you should check out FMLA ASAP and see if this is a viable option for you.

    Third, I believe that is is perfectly acceptable to have a reasonable conversation with your healthcare providers about respecting your time. Are they your only option where you live or is there another doctor/healthcare provider that would be more sensitive to your time?

    Fourth, while I realize you don't have much time on your hands, I can sense your helpless feelings around your career. I really think that you might want to consider updating your resume and thinking about other career options for yourself for the future. I am not insinuating that you are going to lose your job, however if you do at some point, it is far better to feel more prepared. Regardless of your age, there are always work options out there for you, especially with your experience and intelligence.

    As for looking as if you are putting in 110 percent, so much of work is acting and half the battle is putting a smile on your face and increasing your enthusiasm in meetings and with your colleagues, not so much the quality of your work (unless it's really poor of course).

    Please write back and let us know how you are doing!

    Take care,


  • Ann O.

    Ann O. on Jan 23, 2010

    Thank you for your sound advice.

    I did discuss my concerns with my doctor and have also found a different facility for radiation that has better hours. It is a little bit farther, but I have confidence in them and know they will be on time.

Post a Comment

Please sign in to post a comment