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Topic: Looking For Work Post-Cancer

Forum: Employment, Insurance, and Other Financial Issues —

Employment, insurance, and financial concerns are common. Meet others here to discuss and for support.

Posted on: Jan 30, 2019 04:52PM

AnxietyGirl85 wrote:

I'm hoping this is the right place for this post.

I'm six months out from treatment and ready to go back to work. It's actually a very pressing matter right now, because I had no paid leave from work, my medical EI ran out in July (over six months ago, ugh), my insurance company is doing their very best to deny my STD claim (still fighting that battle), and I'm flat broke and indebted now (having liquidated my meagre life savings to support myself since my EI ran out), and need a full-time paycheck desperately.

The thing is, I'm a contract worker, and my contract at my latest company ran out in December and, after what they considered to be "performance issues" before I went on leave last year due to my diagnosis and treatment (I worked through my first 4 rounds of chemo before HR forced me out because I couldn't keep up with the workload), I wasn't offered a new contract, so I'm officially unemployed now, not just on medical leave. Which means job-hunting, sending out applications, and interviewing for new positions at new companies with new people.

My big question/concern is, what should I tell them, if anything, about my diagnosis?? I look normal-ish again now, I have my eyelashes and eyebrows back and my hair is about three inches long finally, so anyone who didn't know me before, likely wouldn't think there was anything amiss. I do fret about my ability to keep up with a full 40-hour work week right now, given that my energy levels are not back to 100% just yet (they're pretty good, much much better than they were and getting better every day, but I also haven't worked a full day plus commute since last spring, so who knows how that will go), and I'm concerned about communicating that with a new employer. I get that technically, they can't discriminate against me for being ill if I can perform my job with reasonable accommodations, but that's not always how it is in practice, and excuses can always be made to cover up that sort of discrimination. I also worry about all the appointments that I'll have in the future, having to start a brand new job and then having to take time off for appointments (and any tests and whatever that might come from those) - I mean, I'd have to tell the boss something, if I had several appointments coming up close together, and I wouldn't want them to think that I'd misled them during the hiring process.

These are the things I worry about, given the precariousness of my line of work anyway and my personal situation, I need to get back to work ASAP and it has to stick or I don't know what will happen to me. It's just adding a whole layer of complication to my job-hunt, which is already going very poorly (my industry is slow right now, which is totally normal, but terrible timing for me), and I don't know what to do or how I should handle it.

Does anyone here have any advice for looking for a new job post-treatment??

Dx 11/22/2017, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/14/2017 Lumpectomy: Right Chemotherapy 2/14/2018 AC + T (Taxol) Radiation Therapy 6/12/2018 Whole-breast: Breast
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Jan 30, 2019 09:10PM vlnrph wrote:

I’m thinking that I would probably not disclose any health info or requests for accommodation until I had a firm offer in hand. Present yourself as confident/energetic and, by the time you actually start work, you will be...

Have you looked at the website Cancer and Careers? (may not be the exact name but it covers those concepts)

Also, Canadian law may be different than US in terms of job protection - we have FMLA which you can use for appointments, etc however you must be employed for several months prior to claiming that benefit. Hope you come back here soon with a resounding success story to encourage others!

IDC too! 🎻💊👪🐩 🇫🇮 🌹🦋 Rt MX+DIEP 4-2011; ALND 5-2011 d/t micromets; TC X 4; tamoxifen; lymphedema 9-2011; switch to letrozole 3-2014 for 1 yr; bone mets 8-2018: Zometa, rads to spine, Faslodex/Versenio Dx 3/7/2011, ILC, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 1/25 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jan 30, 2019 11:45PM beeline wrote:

I wouldn’t say anything in the hiring process. You’re right that discrimination is often just covered up despite being illegal. You might find that you get a job and they are a nice and understanding bunch and you feel comfortable telling them, or it might feel safer or easier not to say anything. You could always tell them later it was a new diagnosis, or even just that you need some medical treatment. I don’t think your employer needs to know specifics, especially as a contractor.

I say all this having just started a new job mid-chemo. I was a contractor at my old job and worried about the lack of security. I interviewed right before AC #2 with a fresh buzz cut. I kept waiting for the right time to tell them but contact was very minimal (just offer and negotiations by emai) before I started. I stressed about it, but I shouldn’t have as it turns out to be quite a flexible workplace. It still hasn’t come up despite my lack of hair and now eyebrows and eyelashes. I will need to tell them something when I start a clinical trial in a few months as there will be travel involved, but I’ll worry about it when I get closer.

Look after yourself — it’s what a company would do. Good luck on the job hunt!

American in NZ. Dx’d at 42. Had to stop Taxol after #6 due to neuropathy. Randomised to control group in MonarcheE trial 😩 Dx 7/17/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 8/2/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right Dx 8/21/2018, DCIS/IDC/Paget's, Right, 2cm, Stage IIIC, Grade 2, 10/22 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Chemotherapy 9/17/2018 AC + T (Taxol) Hormonal Therapy 2/12/2019 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Radiation Therapy 2/24/2019 Whole-breast: Lymph nodes, Chest wall Hormonal Therapy 1/21/2020 Arimidex (anastrozole), Femara (letrozole)
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Jan 31, 2019 05:43AM NotVeryBrave wrote:

I had a somewhat different situation where I had been working for many years in a PRN position and was on an unpaid LOA during active treatment. When I felt ready to start working again after recovery from surgery - I started thinking about making some changes in my life and looking for a full time job.

I interviewed with my wig on and didn't disclose my situation. However, after I was offered the job and went in to sign paperwork before orientation started, I went with just my tiny amount of hair. I was pretty self conscious about it and knew they must be wondering so I did disclose what was up with my hair. They were super nice about it.

For me - that job did not work out. It was not flexible and I was still receiving Herceptin every three weeks and having lots of appointments as well as lots of post treatment issues. I think I was just not ready (on many levels) for so many changes. I returned to my previous job and realized that it just works better with my life and my family responsibilities.

So ... I don't think I'd say anything while applying or interviewing, but feel them out for flexibility. You don't want to waste their time or yours with something that's not a good fit or causes more stress. Good luck!

TCHP x 6 with pCR. One year of Herceptin. DTI pre-pec surgery. Quit Tamoxifen after 3 months. Dx 11/21/2016, DCIS/IDC, Left, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ (IHC) Targeted Therapy 12/19/2016 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 12/19/2016 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Targeted Therapy 12/19/2016 Perjeta (pertuzumab) Surgery 5/9/2017 Lymph node removal: Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (left): Silicone implant; Reconstruction (right): Silicone implant Hormonal Therapy 9/9/2017 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Hormonal Therapy 6/26/2020 Evista (raloxifene)
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Jan 31, 2019 01:40PM AnxietyGirl85 wrote:

Thanks, ladies, I'm certainly not looking to bring it up unless absolutely necessary, but the concern is there. I'm triple-negative, it could literally come back at any time now, so I worry about how to continue my career and keep supporting myself when everything feels so tenuous. I have my six-month-post-treatment checkup next week (which terrifies me), and then I'm told it's every three months after that for the first year or so, so that would mean appointments within three months of starting a new job and having to ask for that time off, which could turn into more appointments if they find anything, it's just a whole thing. I'm less concerned about the financial impact, I haven't had paid time off from work in years, I'm more concerned with starting a new job and then seeming flaky and unreliable because I keep needing time off. I may also be seriously overthinking it, I've just had really unreasonable and overly demanding employers in the past, I have yet to work anywhere that treats employees like actual humans with lives and needs, so I don't expect any leeway or understanding at work, ever, so maybe I'm just spiraling here, I dunno.

Ugh, like being a 30-something in an overpriced city isn't hard enough already.

(I'm also struggling to find positions that don't make me cringe - so many of these paper-pushing jobs with terrible salaries - and often long commutes, too - just seem so mind-numbingly boring and pointless to me, it's hard to want to apply for them when I feel like it would be such a huge waste of my life to sit in a cubicle staring at a screen most of the time. Just this week, I had an interview for a corporate data management position that made me want to vomit, I stopped halfway through the three-part interview process because it just felt so wrong for me, especially with the huge pay cut it would've been. I've always hated desk work, offices are hellscapes to me, but it's worse now that I've had to deal with cancer and I'm trying to put my life back together after treatment, knowing that, while I'm told it's all gone and has been since surgery, it could come back to get me and then I'll have wasted the time I had left being so completely unhappy with my work, ya know??)

Dx 11/22/2017, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/14/2017 Lumpectomy: Right Chemotherapy 2/14/2018 AC + T (Taxol) Radiation Therapy 6/12/2018 Whole-breast: Breast
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Feb 2, 2019 08:46PM rdeesides wrote:


I am in the exact same position.  I am Triple Negative and was laid off from my job of 14 years.  I don’t have the financial means to take a break, so I have to find a position.  I am not disclosing that Inhave had cancer.  If I find a position where I develop a level of trust with the team, I may eventually tell them, but not in the beginning.

If I get to a position where I start needing lots of appointments, I will just tell them something came up and I am having some health issues.  They don’t new to know it was pre-existing or that it was cancer.

While this makes me nervous, there is really no other choice.  I need a job and have to plow forward.  

I hope everything works out for you!


Dx 6/24/2017, IDC: Medullary, Right, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- (IHC) Dx 7/3/2017, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IIA, 0/2 nodes Chemotherapy 8/15/2017 AC Chemotherapy 10/11/2017 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxol (paclitaxel) Surgery 1/15/2018 Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Radiation Therapy 2/20/2018 Whole-breast: Breast, Chest wall Chemotherapy 5/4/2018 Xeloda (capecitabine) Surgery 12/11/2018 Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap
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Feb 7, 2019 12:54PM AnxietyGirl85 wrote:

Hey rdeesides, it's helpful to me know that I'm not the only one trying to navigate this sort of situation right now. <3 I was at my last company (on several contracts) for over three years (which is pretty long in this line of work, it's common to hop between companies to follow contracts, it's the nature of the industry), and they had zero problems with casting me aside when I got sick, so like a lot of other folks on these boards, I don't have the luxury of going back to my old job. I'm actively looking, but still not having any luck, I'm so tired of writing and rewriting resumes and cover letters, ugh, I really hope something comes up soon. My finances are in shambles (after I worked so hard for so many years to get them in order, all that hard work, poof, gone, it's so disheartening), my career may very well be over now (it's a fickle industry, mine), it's a tough situation to be in, but it's reassuring to know it's not just me that's struggling, I'm not the odd man out.

I just had my six-month check-up and mammogram, and it's all clear, so hopefully, aside from the usual checkups, my appointments will be minimal, at least for now, and I won't have to bring it up much with whoever my next employer is. After how my previous employer treated me for being upfront and honest with them (I was forced to go on leave because they refused to accommodate my needs and chose to see my inability to work 50+ hours a week as a "performance issue"), I'm hesitant to give any indication to any other employer that I have anything going on, health-wise, that might impact my ability to work. Like I said before, they can't legally discriminate if I can perform a job with reasonable accommodations (and I wouldn't need any now, really, I'm almost back to 100% again), but they can certainly make up excuses to hide discrimination.

I feel ya - I need a job ASAP, so it's all about self-preservation now, everything is on a need-to-know basis, and nobody really needs to know about this right now.

Fingers crossed that you get sorted soon, too!!

-Rebecca ;)

Dx 11/22/2017, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/14/2017 Lumpectomy: Right Chemotherapy 2/14/2018 AC + T (Taxol) Radiation Therapy 6/12/2018 Whole-breast: Breast
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Feb 12, 2019 08:07PM edwards750 wrote:

I wouldn’t tell them either unless you absolutely have to. If they know and you don’t get hired they will claim you didn’t get hired for some other reason but let’s be real your health issues would be the determining factor. It’s outrageous but it’s also reality. How many times and ways do we have to keep paying the price for something we don’t want and surely didn’t ask for?

Good luck on your job search ladies.


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Feb 12, 2019 10:37PM AnxietyGirl85 wrote:

Unfortunately, my industry is small, I fully expect that my next gig will be with people I know and have worked with before. It makes me nervous that they'll talk to my previous boss, who will likely tell them that I was off on medical leave for half of my contract, or that I'll end up at the company where my former HR manager now works, the one that misled me during my medical leave and then quit that job for another one and left me hanging, she knows what's up with me and would likely out me to her colleagues. It's fraught, and like I said before, it's so easy to hide discrimination in the hiring process, I'm not feeling too optimistic right now, but all I can do is keep trying, and we'll see what happens.

I hate having this whole cancer thing hanging over my head all the time. My doctor told me months ago that I can get back to my normal life now, and I really want to, but that's easier said than done when everything, EVERYTHING, is tainted now, it's like there's no escape. I hope it gets better in time.

Dx 11/22/2017, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/14/2017 Lumpectomy: Right Chemotherapy 2/14/2018 AC + T (Taxol) Radiation Therapy 6/12/2018 Whole-breast: Breast
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Mar 7, 2019 09:09AM 333Silvergirl wrote:

AnxG85, hope your search for a new job is moving forward and I hope well? And, have you considered a change of job type of industry? You may have skill sets that would be viable in another trade. Any chance of accessing someone like a job counselor? They may be able to help you find other options.

My situation is similar to yours......I was laid off right before my official diagnosis of breast cancer. I was not at that job long enough to qualify for unemployment insurance, so no $$$ coming in. I need to find another job soonest. I had an interview last Friday, and I too am afraid about how much to share of explain. Like you, I don't want to come off as some slacker who doesn't carry their weight.

Knowing that I'm not the only one with cancer looking for a job does help. Stay strong!

Dale Ann

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May 22, 2019 12:01PM Les123 wrote:

hi Rebekah, I hope this message finds you well. I know we had communicated back-and-forth a couple years ago when we were about first diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Just checking to see how things are going with you? Also, I’ve been going to my oncologist every few months and getting my tumor marker checked. I have no signs of recurrence but my tumor marker did go from the mid 30s now up to 47.7. Do you have your tumor markers checked?

Dx 12/14/2016, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/1 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 1/23/2017 Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Chemotherapy 2/24/2017 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel)

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