Be the Boss Over Cancer


Jobs for Reading Teachers and in Education, in general, are very scarce. I HAVE had some interviews lately that I am very grateful for. I was a nontenured teacher when I had my cancer diagnosis in 2009. I lost my job a day after my first surgery. My contract was not going to be renewed. In the meantime, my cancer metasisized to my lymph nodes in my neck area and I had 3 surgeries, radiation, within a year. During the 2011-2012 school year, I was offered a long term substitute reading specialist position without a salary, benefits, etc. My body couldn't handle the workload of working with K-5th grade students, teachers, and a principal that was an interim principal. The principal who hired me was on a medical leave during my time at the school district, and being the compassionate person I am, told her that the recovery time is the hardest. I did NOT tell her my cancer situation during my interview. I told her when I had found out she had a planned medical leave for a hernia surgery. She asked me some questions at the time I told her about when I had cancer, etc. She then, told me that it would be best for me to resign the position and that it wasn't working out for me. She went on to add that the teachers didn't like me, which was not true, and made me feel like I just wasn't doing  a good job.

So I left the position because I was too prideful to be fired. It was suggested I had family circumstances I was facing, which was true, but not really the TRUTH. I did not receive unemployment benefits because of this!

Previously before the cancer diagnosis, I worked as a teacher and special education teacher and had been a product of reduction in force, etc. I am tired of this! I had a passion for working in education, but it really isn't there anymore..... I keep thinking of my talents. I am single at 37 and have no children but I am broke!!!!! I am afraid because I don't know what to do and I will soon run out of money. My family is not understanding and does not support me. They did not support me all through the cancer.

Can I get financial assistance or some type of help with a career change if I am defaulted and/or not able to make Dept of Ed student loan payments?? I feel completely stuck because I am trying to learn how to re-function in life after having cancer. Especially thyroid cancer, since I am on hormone replacement therapy. I want to take care of myself and be kinder to me. I feel like I have always lived paycheck to paycheck in the education field. Please help:) Thank you! 

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  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Nov 1, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:


    You’ve been through a lot and you are still pushing forward.

     It sounds as though your top priority right now is
    financial.   So here are a few approaches
    for you to consider.

    Unemployment – If you did not qualify for
    unemployment, you probably live in a state that denies unemployment for people
    who voluntary resign.  If that’s the case,
    appeal on the basis that you
    were coerced into resigning.  I suggest
    that you go to Legal Services on our website and get their expertise and advice
    on how to proceed.  Another option is
    Free Legal Aid in your community.

    Debt Reduction-negotiation – You may be
    able to change your pay back requirements of your student loan.  Go to At Work, and click on Finding Legal
    Services.  Get that monkey off your back
    for now.  In some states, there is a
    non-profit called Consumer Credit Counseling and they can help negotiate with
    your debtors to hold them off and/or reduce amount due.

    Finding income – For the immediate need,
    you need to put to use your experience and knowledge to get some money.  You could start promoting Tutoring at local
    schools, at libraries, online to pick up some cash.  Network. 
    Have your friends and former colleagues help you find clients.   Get your name in for substitute teaching to
    pick up some per diem work.   Look for
    Adult Training opportunities at Continuing Education courses offered in
    neighboring communities.  These may not
    pay a lot but it will build your bio, help you network and make connections,
    stimulate new ideas and get you some cash.

    Financial Assistance – Again check our
    website  (At Work) for resources for Financial Assistance.  Also check cancer site and check for
    available Financial Assistance.  They

    Career – Once you start to stabilize your
    financial situation, then consider what you want to do going forward.  How can you put your knowledge and experience
    to use in a different setting? Look at adult training opportunities in
    corporations and consulting firms.  Look
    at training/educational opportunities in the Healthcare industry, i.e.
    Hospitals, Cancer Centers, Colleges. Look at Libraries, online publications for
    potential opportunities.  Changing
    careers takes time.  It usually requires
    a lot of networking and you need to revise your resume to direct your expertise
    to the new career opportunities you seek.

    All of this will keep you busy and utilize a lot of
    energy.  You may need help.  This is a good time to engage some of those
    friends, colleagues who have offered to help in the past. They can help you
    network and do some research.  Contact social
    services and non- profit organizations who can help and guide you. The
    important thing is to utilize resources and not to attempt to do this

     Michelene, I hope these ideas are helpful.  Please keep in touch and share your needs and
    successes with us.


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