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Content Overview

Post Treatment 6 months +

At work, negotiate if you need a change to allow you to do your work. Learn how to maximize time off and prepare for a recurrence or disability "just in case." Keep track of the facts in case of a discrimination claim.

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At work

As a person with a cancer history, you are likely protected against discrimination in the work place under the Americans With Disabilities Act and similar laws. You are also entitled to an accommodation if necessary to help you do your job.

Negotiate for an accommodation for emotional or physical needs if necessary to help you do your work. Survivorship A to Z provides tips for the negotiation.

Keep track of job evaluations and good comments about your work as well as possibly discriminatory statements or activities in case you ever have a claim of discrimination due to your cancer history.

Learn how to maximize time off combining the employer's benefits such as sick leave and your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Prepare "just in case" by taking such steps as increasing credit and life insurance.

If you had chemotherapy, you may still experience a fogginess and forgetfulness due to what is commonly referred to as "chemo brain." Chemo brain may even start after treatment is complete. The odds are that chemo brain will lessen over time and then disappear. (There are techniques to help deal with chemo brain. They are described in the document in "To Learn More.")

Consider doing something to acknowledge the extra work co-workers do to help you. Even just saying "thank you" will be appreciated.

Start doing what you can at work to make your situation better in case of future need. For instance, if you have a choice of health insurance policies, choose one from the point of view of a person with cancer (Survivorship A to Z shows you how in jour Cancer Health Plan Evaluator). Increase the amount of your life insurance.

If you are just returning to work

  • Coworkers will be concerned about you. Until you return to work, keep them informed about your treatment and progress. Talk to them on the phone, send a text or email, or appoint a trusted friend or family member to do this for you. When you are able, stop in the office. Your return to work or other activities will be easier for you and others if you stay in touch.
  • Before you return to work:
    • If there's a question whether you are physically and mentally able to work, consider volunteering. Disability income won't be affected even if you volunteer from 9 - 5.
    • If you have been out of work awhile, think about what skills may need to be updated. For instance, learning the latest computer program, or the newest version of a program you already know how to use.
    • Think about who you want to tell about your health condition and/or treatment, and how much you want to tell. Be prepared for a variety of responses.
  • Let people know how you want to be treated. For instance, you may still not be able to work a full schedule, or you may need help accomplishing certain tasks, or you may need an accommodation such as being stationed close to a bathroom for a while. People may need to be reminded that cancer is not catching, or that you are not dying.

Keep track of facts needed for a discrimination claim "just in case." Start keeping a diary of conversations or actions that could be discriminatory. Include in the diary good things that happen, such as a good work report, or when someone compliments you for a job well done.

If you run into problems at work: While you may be legally protected against discrimination, a lawsuit is a last resort. Let your employer know you are aware of your rights and negotiate whatever accommodation you need. Survivorship A to Z provides tips on how to determine what accommodation is reasonable and how to negotiate for it.

If your life objectives have changed: It is not unusual for people with a cancer history to reevaluate what is important, including wanting a different kind of satisfaction at work. An underpinning common to long term survivors is the attitude of living each day until you can't. Applied to the work situation, this means: do what you can to find the work that is most satisfying to you and that fits into your work/personal time balance - while doing whatever is necessary to keep or obtain good health insurance coverage.

If you decide to change jobs or careers: Your health history is no longer a block preventing you from changing jobs or from getting health insurance from a new employer. A new employer is allowed to include a waiting period of up to 12 months before its health insurance covers pre-existing health conditions (your cancer) -- but it must offset against that period the amount of time you had your existing coverage as long as you aren't without insurance for more than 2 months.

A prospective employer cannot ask about your health condition. If you will need an accommodation for a while to help you do your job because of continuing effects of your cancer or treatment, it is advisable to tell a new employer about the situation immediately or soon after accepting the job rather than waiting.

Before moving to a new employer, check the employer's benefits. In addition to health insurance, particularly look for disability income insurance and life insurance. Even if you don't need life insurance for a beneficiary, it can become an asset that you can sell if you become sick.

Retraining is available, possibly free.

Disclosure: There is no legal obligation to disclose your health condition and/or treatments to your employer or co-workers unless you could be harmful to co-workers. However, you will need to disclose your health condition if you need an accommodation to help you do your work.

If you are self employed or a small business owner:

  • If you haven't done so, start planning for continuation of your business in the event your cancer returns or in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Decide who you want to tell about your experience, and how much you want to tell. You'll want to balance between your business interests and the stress of keeping a secret.
  • Do planning in case you become unable to run your business temporarily or permanently. While you're at it, consider disaster planning.
  • Consider writing a Business Ethical Will which passes on your business philosophy and guidance for continuing the business.

NOTE: Practical information about all these subjects is in the documents listed in "To Learn More."

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