Skip to main content

Last week I reached a milestone of sorts in my life as a worker: the conclusion of my relationship with my previous employer. This is an occasion about which I feel intensely ambivalent. The dealings I had with them were so unpleasant that I am glad that they are now behind me, and yet I am reluctant to accept that this may be the last full-time job I ever have.

In previous diaries I have mentioned the difficulties that I had with this employer, who basically moved to end my relationship with them when I suffered a complication from my chemotherapy just before my scheduled return to work, six weeks post-surgery. I sought legal counsel to file a grievance, and while I did not succeed in getting my job back, my attorney helped me obtain a reasonable settlement which compensated me for my lost wages as a result of my employer’s precipitous actions. (If anyone in SE Michigan ever needs a referral to an employment attorney, I have a good one for you.)

When I was in the middle of it, I thought that I would be happy to vent about it once it was done. I was angry to have been treated so peremptorily—given their unilateral decision about how to handle my illness, treatment, and recovery, and their refusal to consider making any accommodations. But now that it’s done, I feel a little different than I expected. I am angry, still, but I am also surprised and hurt to have been treated this way, when my former employer is allegedly a very progressive organization.  We had one formal conference with representatives from the organization and their attorney, at their attorney’s office. My attorney, the friend who accompanied me and I all rolled our eyes at the ostentatious displays on the attorney’s office walls of posters and photographs promoting union solidarity. Good for thee, but not for me!

The suddenness of the shift in their attitude was deeply disconcerting to me. I went from receiving messages of appreciation for my work overall—and for delaying my surgery by two full weeks so that an important work meeting could happen before I left on my medical leave—to being told that I could not return to the office or have contact with anyone associated with them, virtually overnight. My boss called me two days after my surgery, one day after my return home, to ask me some questions about locating files (which were clearly labeled on the computer desktop, if she had cared to look), and I answered her politely and thoroughly. I came back to work for a half-day exactly one month after my surgery, still in the middle of my medical leave, to take part in another important meeting that had been scheduled long before my diagnosis. But all of this evident dedication counted for nothing when it came time to making accommodations for an employee facing a serious health crisis.

In the end, of course, I have to feel grateful that it turned out this way. Most importantly, it was far better for me to be completely removed from such a toxic and unsupportive environment. I don’t think that I ever would have been able to count on them keeping their word about accommodations for chemo or any other aspect of my care, and the stress that I would have had to endure as a consequence would not have been good for my recovery. The stress I coped with during the five months of negotiations was also considerable, but at least I did not have to interact with them regularly and appear to be a contented worker!

And as it happened, because of their hasty decision, I was able to apply for SSDI benefits soon after my reduction in hours/wages, which brought me below the income ceiling for so-called substantial gainful activity. My application was approved a mere three weeks after I filed it, in another instance of a complicated outcome incurring no small measure of ambivalence.  Let me elaborate on that statement a little bit. Two months previously, I had gone into surgery to remove a tumor expecting to have minimal follow-up treatment. Instead, the diagnosis was so serious that my condition qualified me automatically for SSDI benefits as a disabled person likely to be out of work for at least twelve months, and quite likely permanently. If, that is, I managed to survive at all.

Last week, when the last transaction with my former employer was concluded—albeit not without additional effort on my part, since they did not adhere to the terms of our settlement agreement in terms of timing and notice—I also felt hugely relieved. I am still here, damn it, and it’s their loss that they didn’t figure out how to keep me during the toughest stretch of my recovery. I am still here, no longer entangled with them at all, and I relish the unexpected feeling of liberation.

I don’t know quite yet what I will do next by way of work.  I plan to start back slowly, by putting out my shingle as an editor and writing coach. In a college town like mine, there should be plenty of prospective clients. It’ll be important for me to learn how to apportion my time and energy appropriately, since I am still not fully recovered, especially from the chemo after-effects. Assuming that my fatigue levels will not interfere unduly, I think that having more non-family, non-cancer related activity will be good for me, too. In other circumstances, I think having that regular distraction/external obligation would indeed have been helpful for me all along.

It’s complicated, isn’t it? At least, that’s been my experience so far. I’d definitely like to open the floor to more discussion, with more focused questions, but first let me share a couple of provocative resources.

Apparently, it’s not unusual for people with cancer to face workplace discrimination. (I know we're all surprised.) I came across one interesting article in a 2009 issue of the JAMA that reported on a meta-analysis of studies of job loss by people with cancer and concluded there was a statistically significant risk of losing one’s job post-diagnosis. Perhaps the most unusual conclusion in that meta-analysis is that women with breast cancer and reproductive organ cancers, and people with gastro-intestinal cancers, were at the highest risk of job loss. Any conjectures why that might be so?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has provided some protection to people with cancer, but of course there too the implicit message is that there has been a NEED for such legal protection. Straight from the EEOC, here’s a page of explanation of the protections the ADA offers. Of course, this is only a bare introduction to an extremely complex legal area. I could not have managed to obtain the settlement I did without having a lawyer able to apply leverage where he could.

Lastly, for those of us who are considering a change in jobs post-cancer, there’s this site: Cancer and Careers. I have only barely begun to investigate this site, but it seems promising. To start, it was created by some executives in the beauty industry who considered the prevalence of cancer among their own ranks and realized that there were many more questions than answers for someone trying to deal with a hostile, or perhaps simply an ignorant workplace environment. I admit, I'm impressed.

Now, for some discussion questions:
How and when did you tell people at work about your diagnosis and treatment? Who, specifically, did you tell? How did they respond?
Have you needed accommodations during treatment? How did you arrange for them?
Did you lose your job or suffer a demotion since your diagnosis? Have you willingly changed jobs post-cancer diagnosis?
What would you suggest to someone newly diagnosed, in terms of sharing this information in the workplace? Pros and cons—obvious and otherwise.
These are only the beginning, of course, so have at it as you will!
I planned to leave a discussion of financial impact of cancer for another diary—but if that’s part of your work story that you’d like to share now, please feel free to do so.

Originally posted to Monday Night Cancer Club on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:19 PM PDT.

Also republished by lundi channel.


How has your cancer diagnosis (or that of someone you're caring for) affected your (or his/her) employment?

29%10 votes
8%3 votes
0%0 votes
14%5 votes
5%2 votes
2%1 votes
5%2 votes
8%3 votes
23%8 votes

| 34 votes | Vote | Results

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Hi, everyone--I'm glad to be here; (42+ / 0-)

    sorry to be a bit late! I think this topic was a little more difficult to approach than I expected.
    Looking forward to hearing about what you have to say--and hoping that your experiences aren't all painful as well.

  •  I had an easy-to-treat cancer (22+ / 0-)

    ... that required weekly IV chemo, and had side effects of fatigue that required me to cut my hours modestly.  Despite that, my employer found a pretext to fire me a few months later, while my chemo was still going on.

    I wrote letters to the Board of Directors of my previous employer, with whom I'd had a good relationship, and the CEO was gone 6 months later -- she was the one who fired me.  I also got 6 months COBRA coverage, which was no small concession.

    Sorry you've had so much trouble, Kate.  I'm 8 years out and fine, so it is possible to have life after cancer.  Best wishes to your recovery, medical and career-wise.

    When Free Speech is outlawed, only outlaws will have Free Speech.

    by Dallasdoc on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:30:56 PM PDT

  •  I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about my situation (18+ / 0-)

    but for very different reasons.

    I'm so sorry, P. Kate, that this situation has added to the trauma and uncertainties you've been under-going. Yikes.

    My former supervisor and her assistant were very supportive, helpful and encouraging, which isn't too surprising, since the supervisor's 21 y.o. daughter was also a recent cancer diagnosis --she's since died.

    After I'd used up my sick-leave and vacation accumulations (nearly a year's worth), the ass't super suggested I apply for disability, which I did, and which was awarded pretty quickly.

    Now, I'm in the unlikely situation of a prolonged treatment hiatus, which means that I could go back to work, since all the complications were really due to chemo. (I'm not in pain for instance, and only the chemo gave me nausea and other problems.)

    I could have checked several of your items on the list above.

    Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

    by murasaki on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:32:02 PM PDT

  •  Hi everyone. (17+ / 0-)

    I don't think I can shed much light on this kind of situation. With my first cancer, I was working for a couple of psychologists and had been for 6 years.  They were totally accommodating.  I was a complete wuss about the chemo and did little work during it.  They waited for me and told me they would wait for as long as necessary.  On the other hand it cost them nothing as I was a contract worker.

    The second time, twelve years later, it was assumed that would just leave.  I hated the job so much I ran as fast as possible.

    Don't think this helps at all.  I'm unfocused lately.

    Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

    by Smoh on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:39:03 PM PDT

  •  OOPS--Apologies for poll options--omissions (12+ / 0-)

    How could I have forgotten to include the possible predicaments of the self-employed?

    So sorry. That's a whole 'nother situation, not any easier and possibly much worse, as I think of it.

    Please do weigh in, whatever worker status you have. Obviously, there will be people among us who have not been working when diagnosed either, for various reasons. That doesn't necessarily mean that the diagnosis was without consequence for you as a (prospective) worker, or in terms of your sense of self as a productive person.


  •  Aahh, the self-employed... (14+ / 0-)

    That has been fun.

    Hubby was basically able to continue running his internet business for the most part - I pitched in much more and helped with shipping and such, and answered the phone on chemo days, and when his voice got really rough for a while from radiation - and I do think it was easier that we could better work the treatment into our own schedule.

    It also helped when the rigors of radiation/chemo began to catch up with him midway into treatment that he could also rest whenever he needed to, without having to take off from "work" - as in having to request time off from a boss.

    And now we're being told that his hoarseness (which seems to come and go) will likely be permanent. He can still speak pretty well, but we were told that radiation "toughens up" the vocal cords, and does change the voice.

    Good thing he had the good sense to have already retired from broadcasting (and was on Medicare) before he acquired cancer...

    Otherwise, that would have changed everything, probably for the worse.

    "In other words, if we bust our butts, there's an even chance things will get better; and if we sit on our butts, there's a major chance things will go completely to hell". --- G2geek

    by Lorinda Pike on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:24:40 PM PDT

  •  OK, Chuckies back... (15+ / 0-)

    and I was among the self employed when diagnosed. (How's that for timing ladyhawk????).
    I of course tagged other in the poll, but if you consider that I was effectively working for the bank (aren't we all?), I guess you could say my "employer" was less than accommodating, as were my suppliers (whom I had a dealer agreement with). In fact, I was served with two subpoenas while in the hospital.... In their defense, I was supposed to be discharged by then, but there were complications. Didn't make it any better.
    While I was in the hospital, I was also denied a farm loan by the USDA, as they didn't believe that we were up to operating a farm. That sucked, but I guess is understandable...incorrect, but understandable.

    One of my biggest pet peeves with the " system" is there is no time to heal. You have a procedure, and as soon as the incision heals, you have to be right back at it. Great way to run a robot, not so good for a human.

    "I took a walk around the world, To ease my troubled mind. I left my body laying somewhere In the sands of time" Kryptonite 3 doors Down

    by farmerchuck on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:34:56 PM PDT

  •  I've had the same bitter experience (20+ / 0-)

    like Kate.  I lost two careers to cancer.  Here's the Reader's Digest Condensed Version:

    When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was finishing my dissertation for my PhD and teaching as an adjunct.  I was diagnosed in November and had already signed contracts to teach a full-time load for the spring semester, which I managed to teach despite being in chemo.

    The next year, however, despite being done with chemo, having finished my degree and having won a bunch of teaching awards, the department had no classes for me.  (Shocking, I know.  They did their best to keep it quiet that they were frantically searching for someone to teach the classes I had been teaching.)

    Adjunct teachers have no rights, no protection, no recourse.  I realized right away that my assiduous job search would yield no result and indeed it did not.  Not a single interview.  

    The only thing I could do to stay employed was to move into staff at the university, so I took a part-time job in IT. I stayed in that job through my first recurrence, more chemo and a bone marrow transplant. After the BMT, an old friend from high school who had risen high in the adminisration offered me a full-time job as an IT security analyst.  Which I kept until my second recurrence.  At that point, my job was eliminated and I was transferred into another department where I was given a position I physically couldn't do.

     Yes, it was illegal and no, my new bosses didn't care. I think the upper admins decided that I was going to die and they didn't want me in a position where I would be hard to replace, so essentially, I was forced to retire on disability.  At the time, we were measuring my life expectancy by the month.  It didn't feel like a good use of the time I had left to fight with the state over what would have been a pyrrhic victory.

    On the bad side, I lost first my vocation and second, my backup job.  On the good side, I was able to retire.  My insurance comes through my husband's employer and, although I've missed the income, I've tried to make my life as productive as I could.  

    Am I bitter?  Somewhat.  Am I still angry?  Yep.  But I'm still alive, my family is intact, and I've spent the years since retiring doing what I always wanted to do--write novels.  But, had I had my choice, I'd still be working.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:36:37 PM PDT

    •  Amazing story, DrLori, (10+ / 0-)

      a real plot line for a novel. But not the one you want to write, I'm sure. And I bet  you can only view the whole situation with great frustration.

      Hope the writing is fulfilling to your mind, as well as getting you some monetary feedback.

      Kudos on keeping yourself and your family together.

      Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

      by murasaki on Mon May 07, 2012 at 06:52:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ouch. Double ouch. (10+ / 0-)

      The other part of the back story to me, though I may be expressing opinions that you yourself have never held, is that somehow--naively--I would have hoped that educational institutions would be better (i.e., more conscientious and responsible) employers.

      Now to channel a little bubbanomics: hahahahahahaha!

      I used to think that way, that is, a long time ago before I myself became involved in university life and politics. As you note, contingent faculty (whether pre- or post-degree) have basically no protections at all. Unless they're unionized, and then still there are no guarantees. It's wrong, and the institutions and their students suffer for it--but I don't see it changing for the better any time soon. Still, I am very sorry that your illness exposed the flaws of the system so dramatically.

      The good thing to take away from it is that you are indeed still alive, still vital, and still enjoying an active life of the mind. That's not dependent on any employer, in the end.

      •  Academic pettiness (10+ / 0-)

        comes from too many talented smart people having too much time on their hands.  

        That said, I've seen academic departments that were incredible places to work--supportive, collegial, engaged....  Those places do exist.  Unlike unicorns and tenure.

        "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

        by DrLori on Mon May 07, 2012 at 07:27:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I am so sorry to hear your story (6+ / 0-)

        Apparently tenured professors don't face the same risks as you did.

        My niece (Hodgkins since age 14 - four times) worked as an adjunct professor first at Carnegy Mellon and then at Univerisity of California, Irvine. When she got hired at UC she mentioned her previous cancer and got some kind of disability insurance in case she would face a relapse and be potentially disabled to work. But she was cancer free and had the luck to become a tenured professor pretty fast.

        After that she was diagnosed with a breast cancer, who had spread into the liver and breast. I think she was quite "foggy" about her treatment schedules etc. and she tried as hard as she could to somehow manage to keep up her teaching schedule without telling everybody exactly about how serious her diagnosis and treatment was. The cancer then was successfully treated and gone.

        For round about one years she was symptom free, before they diagnosed herwith  brain tumor. She disclosed that fully and the department was, as she said, very flexible and supportive, allowing her to work on projects that included little class work, but more internships, she could go to San Francisco and New York on grants and even hip-hopped back and force between NY and LA to teach a minimum of class hours. I don't know the details of how that was managed, but it looked to me like an amazing thing. If she weren't in academica, she would never have had such freedoms and flexibility.

        Only after her brain surgery and continuous radiation and now chemo, she had to stop working and is now officially receiving disability benefits from her insurance and employer. I was amazed, especially after reading here so many horror stories of people underinsured or not insured at all, how well she was taken care off by her insurance and her employer. I assume that is all due to the fact that she was tenured and in California and had that good disability insurance.

        I don't even think she is aware how much better she was covered than the rest of the people in the US. It is unfortunate that I know so little about working conditions at US universities.

        It's the forever stupid, stupid ! - with h/t to weatherdude's ... "but stupid is forever" diary.

        by mimi on Mon May 07, 2012 at 10:24:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hey, tough gal! (10+ / 0-)

    I'm  happy for you that you are away from them. I would be happy to smite them with some bad publicity if it would hit 'em where it hurts.
    My school family was wonderful to me. We didn't have any time to worry about setting up for my sub, as I was never diagnosed, just sliced up. In school Tuesday, sliced Thursday. I missed a month of school recovering from the surgery and I was back full time. I missed one class period per week on the day I got chemo (Mondays). The first week I felt pretty crappy on Thursday, but I was already in school (5:30 AM) so I stayed. After that the kids knew that Thursday was the turning point day, and Friday wasn't so bad. I never missed school again unless I had to go to the hospital for a 'scope.
    I had nothing but support, but that is what schools are supposed to do. I had accumulated 11 million sick days over 27 years, and had not used one for 21 years. I could have stayed home but I couldn't do it. (For the record, I retired with 437.5 sick days, worth a whopping $1200  before taxes. Let me hear about the greedy union thugs some more!)
    But, let me say again, (and over and over for this group) that the women I met at chemo were the toughest fighters I ever met. They wanted to kick some ass, even when chemo was making them sick and weak. They shamed me into never complaining.
    Because PK got such a shit deal from her job I am angered again by those who decry benefits as excessive. What is wrong with having people treat you fairly, or even well? What is the upside of treating people poorly?
    Love you, PK. You rock.

    •  Hey there, joe! (8+ / 0-)

      Good to see you!

      Well, honestly, we thought about that--bad publicity, that is. I didn't mention here in this diary that I was actually working for a UNION. (I've said it elsewhere, though I haven't ever named them.)

      Yes, they're very prominent, and yes, they have a reputation to uphold. On the other hand--recently I spoke with a long-time friend who has been very, very involved with the UAW throughout his career; he started on the line and has now become part of union admin. Because of his professional background he also knows the pres. of the union I used to work for. When I explained to him what went down, he shook his head, laughed ruefully and said he wasn't surprised.

      It was a "business" decision to them, no doubt. Doesn't make me feel any better, of course, and it has been hard, I admit, to feel a lot of solidarity toward this particular crew!

      Your work ethic is truly amazing, joe, and I am sorry that it wasn't better recognized through your paycheck. I'm very glad to hear that your school family was so great.

      And thanks, as always, for your support! You always cheer me up, let me tell you. Love you back.

      Don't forget--I think it's you who said you'd give me some ideas about places to go/restaurants to hit in Providence, no? I have a month to set my itinerary. Whoo-hoo!

  •  Nobody seems to be able to just ignore it. (12+ / 0-)

    I've been really lucky. Unlike some of the other folks here, I left a job I liked, writing appeals for disabled veterans.  I had watched my capabilities slipping in the months prior to diagnosis, and it was scary when I didn't understand the source of the  problem.  Pulled a few all-nighters to stay even, but it became more of a struggle each week.  The reason I quit was that I just couldn't see undertaking to represent folks when I could not guarantee that they would receive my best.  

    I was completely honest with the guy who hired me for the next job, as decent a fellow as you would ever hope to meet, and he took me on.    Despite my diminished capacity, I managed both the state certification exam and a dreaded re-certification a year later.  I hung in for three and a half years, working a month of days and then a month of nights, applying the law as scrupulously as I knew how.  I may not have called them all right, though I think I was damned close.  I pissed off the police a few times by denying warrants when I found insufficient probable cause, and they whined to my boss the chief magistrate every time, but never got  one of my decisions changed.  I am certain I angered citizens a time or two, usually with a bail determination or denying a  citizen's warrant, but I did my level best to apply the rules evenly, under the criteria set by my state.  I did the job for as long as I could, but eventually the only kind of therapy approved by FDA for my sort of cancer was a chemo drug called Cabazitaxel.  After five months of chemo, I couldn't handle nights anymore, and my chief very graciously let me work days only.  After eight months, I just couldn't do the job properly through an entire ten hour shift and went out on disability.  

    It would have been a kick in the teeth when others decide you cannot do a job that you know you can do and take it away, an act of incredible cruelty.  It is an unspeakable cruelty that the "safety net" for folks like us is not enough to keep a dog alive.  I came of age in the late 60's and early 70's and I just cannot understand how we got from there to here.

    Hang in there folks.


    •  I admire your staying power (8+ / 0-)

      And totally agree about the change of awarenesses from the days of the 60s and 70s, when I also came of age.  

      Damn reagan-ism and the greed of the moneyed class.

      Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

      by murasaki on Mon May 07, 2012 at 07:49:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We have lost so much ground, (7+ / 0-)

        financially for sure, and morally/ethically perhaps as well, since 1980.

        I remember those years, when I was a very young adult, realizing that there the class divide was becoming more stark, and that there was more meanness behind the intent to isolate and ostracize the poor. As Avila has said elsewhere, Reagan has so much to answer for. At least one, if not two, generations compromised, prospects blighted, for the sake of enriching the already wealthy. A pox on all of their houses.

    •  My dear Kevin (7+ / 0-)

      I hope that somehow you have a written legacy for your wife and children at least. Perhaps it's enough for each of us to have had a life well-lived, but for some of us, there's enough special and unusual about what we've accomplished that it's worth it to leave something more.
      (Actually, come to think of it, I have to say I believe that such is true about everyone's inner life. Everyone's. Regardless of career or external accomplishments. We are irreducibly unique, and it is a loss to us all if there's no lasting record somehow to share with those who come after.)
      I do know that you never write here with anything but humility and generosity--but damn, Kevin, what also comes across so clearly is your commitment to making a difference. I don't think it's merely 60's idealism either, but an aspect of your character that I deeply respect.

      •  PK, I agree with you - everyone's tale is worth (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peregrine kate

        hearing.  One of the peculiar aspects of being an attorney is that one learns others' stories in a way that only the clergy, the mental health folks, and a few of their intimates ever learn.  There are so many out there bravely fighting lonely battles with demons both internal and external, so many striving to lead a good life, sometimes successfully and too often less so.  It is unfortunate that the successes often receive  little attention, where the failures of the stuff of legend.  I don't mean to imply that I think all folks are good, though I would say that an awful lot more folks are trying to be than are given credit for it.  

        Where I would disagree, I think, is where you say that it is a loss to us if what we have done right is not shared.  In my opinion, we must live our lives for ourselves, and those we love first.  If, by example, we positively influence others with the choices we needed to make to be who we are, then that's good, but listening to "the better angels of our nature," and acting upon what we hear, is, I think, what we should strive to do.  In the end, though, you are absolutely right that all of us are irreducibly unique.

        Be well, PK, and see you here next week.


  •  I kept quiet... and I was fortunate (8+ / 0-)

    that my cancer was uterine, therefore treated primarily with a hysterectomy.  Since I was in my early 50s, that procedure did not raise any eyebrows at all, other than by the suddenness and timing of it.  

    I was also fortunate that I had many more days of sick leave accumulated than I needed for the 8 weeks I was out of work, so there was no financial impact through loss of work.  My boss was great - even though my doc said I could go back to work in 6 weeks, and I felt guilty enough about being gone so suddenly and for so long that I would have probably tried to get back even earlier - but my boss insisted that I take 8 whole weeks to recover.  At the 6 week mark, I really could have returned to work... but I would have been exhausted.  That gift of the extra 2 weeks made an incredible difference.  

    The radiation afterwards was brief (3 weeks) and I fit it in at the end of my leave, so that 2/3 of it was done before I even went back to work.  I had few symptoms from the radiation; just a little fatigue which I could have been imagining just because I was so pathology-oriented at that time in my healing.

    Nobody at work knows the reason behind the hysterectomy.  I work with colleagues and acquaintances, not "friends", and it was important for me to make that distinction.   I chose to get support and comfort from friends and family, not co-workers.  There was some benefit in having a "safe place", too, a refuge of sorts, where the C word would not come up.  A place where my focus could be somewhere else, as much as I could manage that.  

    While I don't consider my diagnosis a "secret", I also recognize that there is some... stigma, for lack of a better word... and I chose not to go into details because firstly, I didn't want to have to discuss my diagnosis and treatment and prognosis with anyone who wanted to hear about it, as I was pretty shaky with it myself, especially in the beginning.  And secondly, I kept it to myself just because one never knows what criteria people might use in tight budget years to make decisions about layoffs, etc., and I didn't want to open myself up to any of that.

    Two and a half years down the road, I feel that I made the right decision for me.  Thanks, PKate, for a great diary and a thought-provoking topic.

    "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization." - United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (Republican) -8.12, -5.18

    by ncarolinagirl on Mon May 07, 2012 at 07:53:56 PM PDT

    •  I wonder if I could have kept things quieter (8+ / 0-)

      at work, and whether that would have made a difference. I doubt it, however, in part because my boss had terrible boundaries--I'd better not get started on that topic!--and there would also have been far too many ways for the reality to leak.

      I'm glad that it worked well for you, and I can certainly appreciate your decision to be discreet.

      Thank you, and thank you more for coming by and sharing your story tonight as well.

      •  It's an issue of trust... when you can't depend on (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peregrine kate, hazey

        your employer to act in YOUR best interests, rather than their own... you have to protect yourself, because they won't.

        Thanks for your diary, PKate - I have really been enjoying this Monday Night Cancer (Survivors) Club.  Once you have heard those words and that diagnosis, your life changes irrevocably.   And as supportive and well-meaning as my friends were, the only ones who can completely understand are those who have also wrestled with that diagnosis.

        "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization." - United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (Republican) -8.12, -5.18

        by ncarolinagirl on Tue May 08, 2012 at 04:12:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hi. My many diaries give an almost complete (10+ / 0-)

    history of my last eight years.

    I now host the Wednesday KosAbility diaries and Nurse Kelley and I are always looking for diarists to write for us.

    Check us out at 2pm Pacific every Wednesday and Sunday



    Some people make you want to change species

    by ulookarmless on Mon May 07, 2012 at 08:33:28 PM PDT

  •  Time for the usual thank yous & diarists requested (10+ / 0-)

    I didn't realize it's been so long since I posted a regular diary. My deep appreciation goes to ZenTrainer, for her thoughtful diary on our sources of support, to ProvokingMeaning, for his inquisitive diary soliciting ideas for me to take to NN, and to DarkHawk98 for his entertaining diary about marinating, and still being himself.

    It's a great experience to write for the MNCC, IMHBTAO, and I would be delighted to have more volunteers for the weeks ahead. Please Kosmail me with a date and topic--they're all open!

    Between now and next week--may we all enjoy seven days and nights of relative peace and comfort. Blessings to everyone. ♥

  •  I think my name is apt in this group, (9+ / 0-)

    as I think I barely belong. It's been over 20 years since I had cancer - seven doctors wrong, saying I had less than a year.

    As far as work goes, at that time I was open about it. I was supposed to die. I went back to half-days initially. I was doing display work in a department store. Other employees avoided me, though one did ask me if I was contagious. I put my hand on her shoulder, leaned in close, and said, "I don't think so." She did not look happy.

    My boss at the time got me transferred to a store closer to my house, where he'd been promoted. What no one else knew was that he had AIDS. Experiencing the ignorance of so many about cancer, I was upset over what he could have been experiencing. Ultimately, that ignorance broke his spirit and he died.

    We still have far to go, but it's better. There are laws available. I don't want anyone to die as my boss/friend died: in a hospital room with a hazard sign on the door and a table beside it with masks and gloves, no one checking on him. I will never forget going in and seeing him shivering and delirious, neglected. I had to ring for a nurse over and over, covering him with blankets and spoon against his body 'til he warmed up. When people turn away and ignore another due to illness, their humanity is lessened. Better to chance physical disease than to have a diseased soul.

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H.L. Mencken, 1925

    by cv lurking gf on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:20:52 PM PDT

  •  I work in a small print shop, (7+ / 0-)

    6 to 8 people, and have been there 17 years. I am considered family. While I had no insurance, it was paid for by Medi-Cal so that was no problem. My bosses were totally understanding and even kept my rent current while I was in the hospital. Very good people.

    My only point in telling you this is that sometimes working for a mom and pop operation works out well.

    That said, we need to work for a single payer system and employment laws to end discrimination against cancer patients.

    Diaries are funny things Sam. Type one letter and you never know where you might end up. My apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.

    by Caddis Fly on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:22:40 PM PDT

  •  I've had nothing but support from my work (7+ / 0-)

    They have been incredible.  First of all, I'm a manufacturing technician.  We build the actual product which the formulators then inject the biochemical compounds.  Also involved with sub-assemblies and final packaging of finished goods.  So, I'm no big shot with the comany at all.

    Back in August of 2010, I was laid off as were about 25% of the total workforce throughout the company.  Our new product had not gotten FDA approval yet. Throughout the fall and early winter I kept feeling worse and worse and finally ended up in the emergency room on Jan. 1, 2011.

    After the immediate complications were taken care of, I ended up with the diagnosis of stage IV non small cell non sqamous lung cancer.  Chemo worked and I rebuilt my body to the point where I thought I could work again.

    IN the meantime, the company got their FDA approval and started hiring back.  Saw an ad for my old job in the paper in June and applied.  Met with the Human Resource manager and explained my situation and condition, NED was visiting.  She had me contact my old managers and they agreed they would like to have me back as well and they would make accomodations for dr visits every 3 weeks, other medical needs as they arose, and any other needs I might have.

    Also, I had medical insurance immediately available, as well as short and long term disability I could sign up for. Which obviously I took advantage of.  I was able to work from late June last year through to April of this year when I had cancer return - primarily attacking my skeletal system and adrenal gland.  Having used up my sick leave/ vacation time, they have filed for short-term disability with me. And they will hod a space open for me when I am well enough to work again.

    I am blessed and wish all of you could have had this positive of an experience.


Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site