Managing Work While Battling Cancer
- Actor Jeff Bridges' show "The Old Man" has suspended filming due to the ongoing writer's strike impacting many television shows and movies.
- Bridges was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2020 and, shortly after, he contracted COVID-19. His cancer went into remission in 2021 and he says his tumor is now the “size of a marble.”
- Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that affects infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is much more common than Hodgkin lymphoma, and it typically starts later in life.
- Despite his health challenges, the veteran actor has continued working through his cancer battle, with “The Old Man” first premiering last year.
- Federal and state laws require employers to make reasonable accommodations to assist employees with cancer. The accommodations, outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), may include extra paid time off work, reduced work hours during treatment, and offering remote work.
As actor Jeff Bridges, 73, continued to work through his cancer journey, his latest project has been put on hold due to an ongoing writers’ strike.
"The Old Man" television drama that airs on FX is based on the bestselling novel also called "The Old Man." The TV series is about a retired CIA agent hunted by the agency he used to work for and his nightmares when an unknown man visits him after three decades, IMDB describes.Read More
So far, Bridges has not made any public comments regarding the strike on his social media channels.
Jeff Bridges Works Through His Cancer Journey
Jeff Bridges is no stranger to adversity. He publicly shared his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis on his Twitter account in October 2020, drawing tons of support. Bridges revealed he had a "12-by-9-inch tumor," according to an interview with People Magazine.
Lymphoma is different from cancers of specific organs like the lung or breast. It's not one cancer, but an umbrella term that encompasses several different types.
As the Dude would say. New S**T has come to light.
I have been diagnosed with Lymphoma. Although it is a serious disease, I feel fortunate that I have a great team of doctors and the prognosis is good.
I'm starting treatment and will keep you posted on my recovery.
Jeff Bridges (@TheJeffBridges) October 20, 2020
In general, lymphoma is a cancer of your immune system. It starts in the lymphatic system, a network of vessels, ducts, and nodes that runs throughout your body.
The lymphatic system drains excess fluid and waste from your tissues into your bloodstream. It also produces disease-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes that defend your body against infections.
While undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he battled COVID-19 in early 2021. He said his chemotherapy treatments weakened his immune system allowing the COVID-19 virus to impact him harder than he expected.
WATCH: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma types of biopsies.
He spent nearly five months in the hospital while treating his cancer and managing his COVID-19 symptoms.
"I had no defenses. That's what chemo does it strips you of all your immune system. I had nothing to fight it. COVID made my cancer look like nothing," he said.
Luckily the actor was able to fight through and over that ame COVID-19, and his chemo helped shrink the tumor to the “size of a marble.”
In September 2021, Bridges shared that his lymphoma was in remission, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Today, he says his tumor has shrunk to the size of “a marble.”
Despite his health challenges, the veteran actor has continued working through his cancer battle, with “The Old Man” first premiering last year.
Whether to work during or after a cancer diagnosis is a decision many cancer warriors are familiar with.
Some people can continue working during cancer treatment, and some may need to take time away. The decision to work or not largely depends on the person, their cancer, and the treatment.
Doctors and social workers within the oncology field tell SurvivorNet that they recommend working during cancer treatment if you can. Work creates a sense of normalcy in a person's life.
Not only does it provide a needed source of income, but it also reminds you that you have a life apart from cancer.
A work life also encourages regular contact with others. Sometimes cancer can make you feel isolated and lonely, and being around people can be a great comfort.
Whatever path you choose during or after your cancer journey, be sure it is the best choice for you.
Expert Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Resources
Will Choosing to Work as a Cancer Warrior Cost Me My Job?
Federal and state laws require employers to make reasonable accommodations to assist employees with cancer. The accommodations, outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), may include extra paid time off work, reduced work hours during treatment, and offering remote work.
It's important to remember, though, that employers don't have to grant every accommodation request. If the accommodation causes "undue hardship" or results in "significant difficulty or expense," the employer does not have to grant the request.
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible people to take job-protected leave if they have cancer or care for a family member battling cancer.
Other protections include 12 weeks of unpaid leave, continued group health insurance coverage, and protections against retaliation.
Questions for Your Doctor
- Will my diagnosis impact my ability to go to work?
- What limitations should I take into consideration when deciding to return to work or not?
- What type of accommodations should I ask my employer so I can continue working during or after cancer treatment?
- If I must take time away from work, how much time do you expect me to miss?