Cancer and Careers
The impact of cancer on our work lives cannot be overestimated. Many of us have jobs, and we worry about income, insurance, attitudes of our co-workers and managers, time away from work, possible prejudices and discrimination. It has gotten better; there are some legal protections (the ADA and the FMLA are the biggies) and cancer is not the taboo topic that it once was. However, the realities of a cancer diagnosis and, especially, treatment may interfere with our previously smooth careers.
This is always a topic of conversation when I meet with women who are newly diagnosed. Since they often don't yet know what their treatment will be (specifically, whether chemotherapy will be involved), they can't predict what their needs for time off may be. In addition to the obvious absences when you have to be at an appointment or the day after surgery, there are lots of unknowns related to what your individual reaction may be to chemotherapy. Some women feel quite well and, carefully scheduling their treatments, may not need extra time off, while others need days or even weeks away from the office. Certainly, it depends a lot what kind of work you do. In my experience, teachers, for example, often need to take a LOA because they cannot be energetically on their feet every single minute, because intermittent absences feel more disruptive to their classrooms, and because of their legitimate concern about exposure to the germ factories otherwise known as preschools and small children.
If your workplace can be flexible, it is often possible to keep working with the option to come in late, leave early, take an unexpected day off when needed. This depends on the content of the work, the culture of the company, and the goodwill and support of your manager and co-workers. It also, of course, depends very much on your income and benefits. Women who have short-term disability are in a more comfortable spot than women who are paid hourly and only when they work.
This is all an introduction to a wonderful resource: Cancer and Careers. Here is a short excerpt from their recent newsletter and a link. I encourage you to look at their materials (especially their new guide to cancer and working that can be ordered or downloaded) and explore their excellent website.