Tag Archive for: work

Psychosocial and Emotional Impact of Cancer: Change on Career Plans

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As young cancer patients, we have to endure more than our disease, but the life changes that come with it. One of the changes may be a change in career plans, and this can have a varying psychosocial and emotional impact.

For me, personally, having a cancer diagnosis at the age of 27 vastly changed the direction of where my career was headed. I was working in healthcare already and also attending graduate school, but I didn’t know what kind of role I wanted to have in healthcare when I graduated. Getting cancer during this time and going through a very personal, yet somewhat traumatic experience helped me to realize that my purpose in life is to help other cancer patients. However, it’s not always as clear why we got cancer at the age we did, and how that will continually affect us. There are also no clear-cut rules on whether we should continue working even if we’re going through treatment, whom to tell about our diagnosis, and how, or how best to describe a gap in our resume. Luckily, the Cancer and Careers website has all the answers to some of our biggest questions:

  1. Should I tell my employer?
    • Consider the side effects of treatment, the general law about disclosing, and your environment
      • If you think you’ll need to request a reasonable accommodation or medical leave, you may have to disclose a medical condition but not necessarily the diagnosis
      • Is your company big or small? Do people have close-knit relationships?
      • What are your side effects like and will they affect your daily productivity?
  2. If I need to tell my employer, when do I tell them and whom do I go to?
    • It is best to let the people below know when you and your healthcare team have developed a plan for treatment
      • Your boss – generally you are protected by the ADA if you’ve made your employer aware of a medical condition
      • Human resources department
      • Co-workers, if you feel comfortable
  3. What do I tell them?
    • Tell only as much as you want and prepare ahead of time what information you want to share
    • Tell them what to expect, for example, future absences or even changes in appearance
    • Reassure that you’re still a part of the team!
  4. How do I explain a gap in my resume?
    • Remember that you’re not required to disclose your diagnosis during an application process or interview
    • Know that it is prohibited by law for any recruiter to ask about “health issues” should you choose to use that phrase to explain the gap
    • If your resume, list your skills first, and highlight community or volunteer work, as well as part-time and freelance work

More Resources:

The Benefits Of Working At Home If You’re Undergoing Cancer Treatment

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Around 1.8 million people were diagnosed with cancer in the US in 2019, and for those living with cancer, work can be an important part of their life. While providing much-needed financial security, including health benefits, it also offers routine, a sense of normality, and boosts self-esteem. However, for many people undergoing treatment or survivors wanting to return to work after cancer, the standard full-time, in-office nine-to-five job may not be the right fit anymore. Working at home can offer the best of both worlds. You can maintain your career but avoid the complications and rigid structure of being in the office.

Work Is Good For Your Health

It’s widely known that a steady job in safe working conditions is good for both our physical and mental health. There is growing evidence that job loss and unemployment can be detrimental to your health and linked to various negative health effects. That’s why it’s so important that employees are supported to enable them to remain at work or return as soon as possible where appropriate. While the cancer journey can feel like a lonely struggle to many people, maintaining a work pattern can help a person stay mentally active, strengthen their sense of purpose, provide structure, and provide real opportunities to achieve.

Benefits Of Working From Home

Working from home when undergoing treatment or in recovery can often help a person perform their job better than if they came into work. Working remotely can also make a big difference in helping their feelings of anxiety about managing any embarrassing side effects in private. Of course, it also means that they can avoid a long commute, and gives them the ability to work around periods of fatigue. There’s also an added advantage if they own a pet. Extensive research has found that pet therapy can have profound benefits for a person going through chemotherapy. Studies show that working alongside a pet can reduce feelings of loneliness and promote a sense of well-being. It can even help reduce the need for pain medications.

What You Need To Consider

Certain jobs cannot be easily carried out remotely, so you may have to consider whether there’s an alternative role available. Alternatively, your current position might be suitable to do from home, but it may need to be adapted to fit in with your current health and lifestyle. Speak to your employer about whether there’s any special equipment you need to work at home, and anything else that will allow you to work effectively. If you experience fatigue and memory loss due to your cancer or chemotherapy, you may not be able to perform your job to your usual standard and speed. It’s helpful to talk to your employer about how you are affected by your treatment, and what you believe you can reasonably achieve from home.

Many people who are undergoing cancer treatment or are in recovery are perfectly able to continue to carry out at least some aspects of their job. They can still be valuable assets to the business; they may just require extra support. Working from home can help someone living with cancer stay connected with their colleagues, feel less isolated, and provide a welcome sense of normality in a world that can suddenly seem unpredictable and frightening.

Should You Mention That You Are a Cancer Survivor on Your Resume?

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For many cancer survivors, the thought of getting back to work after your treatment is over can be a scary one. There are so many questions that you might have, and the idea of returning to total normality can feel strange and scary. 

This doesn’t have to be the case though and there are plenty of things you can do thrive in life after beating cancer. One of the best ways to do this is to get yourself back in the world of work. One of the biggest questions you will have about doing this, though, is going to be whether or not you should disclose information about your battle, and if so, how much? We’ve compiled a useful guide to help you work your way around some of these issues. 

Getting Back Into Work as a Cancer Survivor

Making a return to work after you have completed your treatment and received the all-clear can feel like a terrifying step. It can also be one of the most positive things you can do as a cancer survivor. 

Not only does returning to work provide you with a return to normality, but it can also remind you that there is a life away from cancer, and it’s one that involves you. You are more than just a cancer survivor; you are a great friend, a hard-working employee, and a valued member of the workforce. 

If you are thinking of returning to work, you should make sure that you have cleared everything up with your doctor or medical advisor first. You will need to make sure that there aren’t tasks that could put you at risk. You should work out the kind of schedule you will be able to work and the effects that it may have on your body. You will also have to make some important decisions about sharing your diagnosis with your colleagues and your employers.

How to Mind the Gap in Your Resume 

One of the biggest concerns for cancer survivors looking to find a new line of work is the gap in their resume. With the modern job market being such a tricky one to navigate, many feel as though having a huge gap in your resume, or applying for a job unemployed, can have a serious impact on your chances of getting employed. 

Thankfully, while a gap on your resume can appear bad to potential employers, there are plenty of different ways that you can get around such an issue. 

Put an Emphasis on Your Skills and Qualifications 

At the top of your resume, list your skills and qualifications instead of your work history. Putting an emphasis on what you can do instead of what you have been able to do is going to help show off your strengths. 

Make a list of examples underneath each of your highlighted skills and, if possible, demonstrate scenarios from previous jobs that can really help shine a positive light on you. 

Don’t Worry About Times 

If you have been out of employment for a while, then you may have some concern that you are going to be unemployable. This is a natural concern, but it is one that can be avoided. When you list your job experience, instead of listing the dates, you should list the amount of time that you worked in a job. 

For example, instead of saying – IT Manager 2016-2018, you could write, IT Manager – 2 years. While this may not prevent questions coming up in the interview concerning the gaps in your resume, it will give the chances of you being provided with a job interview a significant boost.

Mention Volunteer and Community Work

Mentioning any volunteer or community-based work that you have done can really help give your resume a boost. You should list any sort of volunteer or community roles that you have done and talk about the transferable skills that you have gained from them. This can be a great way of highlighting your skills and taking away any attention there may be from a break in employment.

Speak to a Professional

If you are really finding it difficult to navigate the career gap on your resume, then you can always consider speaking to a professional careers advisor or CV writer. These services don’t have to cost money either.

Local councils at unemployment offices may have someone on hand to help, while a lot of universities and colleges will also have career advice sectors that may be happy to lend a helping hand.

What About the Job Interview?

For many cancer survivors, the job interview itself can be the trickiest part of the process. While you are under no obligation to explain your medical history to any potential employer, there is also the possibility that they may have to take certain workplace precautions to help you with your recovery.

Fear not though, an employer can not discriminate against you because of your medical history. Equally, if you do not feel you need to disclose any information, then you shouldn’t. There may be questions that come up regarding your work history and gaps in your employment, and if you do not feel comfortable explaining that you are a cancer survivor, then you can always offer up an alternative explanation or explain that you are not comfortable talking about things.

Remember, Confidentiality is Important

The most important thing to remember is that your confidentiality is essential. If you don’t want to mention that you’re a cancer survivor either on your resume or in person, then you don’t have to.

Your diagnosis is nobody’s business, but your own. If, however, you feel as though it is best that your employer knows about your health for practical reasons, then you should also not feel like you are a burden or being difficult by doing so.


Alex C. Porter is a career advice expert with years of experience in the field. Right now he works at CraftResumes where he writes medical resumes, you can find more info here.