Navigating Work And Cancer
- Publicis Groupe, a major ad and PR company, has launched the Working With Cancer pledge, which aims to erase the stigma of cancer and other serious chronic diseases in the workplace and provide tangible help to employees.
- The initiative aims to help and protect employees who are diagnosed with cancer as well as those who are acting as caregivers for family members. The company hopes it will be a model for other firms.
- While it is illegal to discriminate against an employee for getting sick, some survivors have told us they’ve been fired for getting sick.
- If you are diagnosed with cancer and worried about how it will affect your job, there is legislation in place that may be able to protect you.
The initiative, which aims to erase the stigma of cancer in the workplace, was launched on Tuesday, January 17, at the 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.Read More
“It is a tough reality, but whether directly or indirectly, every one of us will have to confront cancer in our lives and in our workplaces. Companies have a key role to play in that,” Sadoun said in a press release. “Working with Cancer is an increasingly important initiative, on a front that many businesses are already invested in.”
“By making their existing efforts more accessible and visible, together we can reduce the anxiety and stigma of cancer in the workplace and positively impact our people’s health,” he continued. “Through a truly collaborative approach, a light lift from everyone becomes deep and lasting impact for cancer patients at work.”
According to the official website for Working With Cancer, Sadoun’s cancer experience “saw firsthand just how hard it can be to talk about cancer in the workplace.”
“Upon sharing his story publicly with our teams and partners, he received an outpouring of emails from people sharing stories about themselves and their family members impacted by cancer. He learned that, after being scared for their health, cancer patients are too often scared for their jobs and feel the need to hide their illness,” the website explains. “He promised himself that, the moment he recovered, he would take a big initiative to start to erase this fear — and Working With Cancer was born.”
- Secure the job, salary level and benefits of any Publicis Groupe employees diagnosed with cancer for at least 1 year, so they can stay focused on their health treatment as the priority.
- Ensure all Publicis Groupe employees with cancer will be individually accompanied when they return to work through personalized career support.
- Ensure all affected Publicis Groupe employees have access to an internal community of volunteers (peers) who are properly trained to provide support, through the Marcel platform.
- Ensure all Publicis Groupe employees in a primary caregiver role for a patient in their immediate family receive custom personal and professional support to navigate the flexibility and time arrangements needed to maintain their energy at work and as a caregiver.
Anyone interested in showing support for Working With Cancer can:
- Post that you’ve signed the pledge with a story on why. Link to the pledge site or use the hashtag #workingwithcancer
- Generate a new LinkedIn profile picture with the red half circle using Working With Cancer’s social media photo generator
- Share one of their campaign films with a story/message of support and the #workingwithcancer hashtag
Working During a Cancer Journey
A cancer battle can change your life. But how you proceed to go about your days as you face the disease is entirely up to you. For some people like Sadoun, it’s really important to keep working.
Whether it be for financial reasons, a sense of normalcy, or simply because you like what you do, it’s important to try to make a work schedule that suits you during your cancer journey if you want to continue working. It’s also important for you to know there are people out there to help you navigate the process of not working if that’s your preferred option.
Laurie Ostacher, a social worker at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, previously spoke to SurvivorNet about how she helps people figure out their working situation after a cancer diagnosis.
“Some women choose to continue working [through cancer] because working is a significant part of their identity, they enjoy the job, and there’s flexibility built in,” she explained. “I help folks think about whether it makes sense to work … If you really don’t want to but are worried you’re not going to be able to make ends meet, then I’ll sit down and help them figure out, you know, with your disability insurance, would this be possible?”
Ostacher also shared the questions she might pose to people in order to help them think about how their work life might look while fighting cancer.
“For women who choose to work, I help them think about what types of conversations do you need to have with their employer? How much information do you want to share with him or her? What type of work schedule seems like it might work for you? Where might you need more flexibility?” she said.
No matter what, it’s important to do what’s right for you and seek out valuable resources like Ostacher if you need help deciding on the right course of action when it comes to working during a cancer battle.
Know Your Rights as an Employee
Some people with job problems related to cancer are protected by the Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Others may also benefit from the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a law that allows many people with serious illnesses to take unpaid leave to get medical care or manage their symptoms. Talk to someone in your human resources department or another workplace expert to find out what your options are.
In some situations, employers must accommodate a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show it would be an undue hardship to do so. This could mean making changes to work schedules, equipment, or policies. Find out more about job accommodations and employment of people with limitations from the Job Accommodation Network.
Navigating the Cost of Cancer
Resources are essential to a successful cancer battle, but, unfortunately, resources can bear a heavy cost. Thankfully, there are places to turn when the bills start piling up. Some people look to various crowdfunding methods with online platforms such as GoFundMe, and others actually turn to spaces like the cryptocurrency world — though the price of cryptocurrencies is generally erratic, meaning that price stability can be an issue.
But crowdfunding, in general, can be a tough way to raise funds during a loved one’s cancer battle. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, GoFundMe efforts often fall short. The study found that the average “goal” for patients on their GoFundMe pages is $10,000, but the average amount raised is less than a quarter of the goal at $2,125. Some people find great success with crowdfunding, but the success stories can be few and far between.
Speaking with social workers affiliated with your cancer center can be an option for people who don’t like the unpredictability of crowdfunding efforts. And as we’ve seen in the cases of many cancer warriors, they can be a huge help. Oftentimes, they can help guide patients to resources when the financial burden of cancer becomes too great. Patient assistance programs, for example, can be beneficial. Your social worker might point you to one of these programs when it comes to specific, expensive drugs because some pharmaceutical companies offer to help patients cover the cost.
Reaching out to various foundations can also be a viable option for cancer patients. There are many nonprofit and advocacy organizations that offer programs to help financially support a patient’s cost of care. The Lazarex Cancer Foundation, for example, helps patients cover costs associated with clinical trials and other organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Cancer Support Community may help with travel costs for treatment.
Regardless, it’s always a great idea to explore your options and talk to people who might be able to help. Dr. Allyson Ocean, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center, recommends finding an advocate within the medical field when dealing with costly medical bills. Speaking from experience, Dr. Ocean knows having a medical advocate in your corner can make all the difference. She calls insurance companies all the time to help her patients get the treatment they need covered by insurance.
“My best advice to work around the system of whether or not drugs or tests can be covered for cancer is to make sure you have an advocate in your field working for you,” Dr. Ocean says. “The frustrating part for me is that sometimes we even have to educate the insurance companies and say, ‘There’s a reason why I want to use this medicine.’”
Having Support from a Partner During a Health Battle
It’s no secret that facing any sort of health battle can be extremely overwhelming. So, having physical and emotional support during your battle is crucial. That being said, it’s very important to know your limits on what you can handle — including relationships — as you undergo treatment and recover from your health issue.
“Going through [cancer] treatment is a very vulnerable and emotionally exhausting experience,” licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin wrote in a column for SurvivorNet. “Noticing what you have strength for and what is feeling like too much… [is] extremely important to pay attention to as you navigate treatment.”
Dr. Strongin does note, however, that having people by your side during this “arduous chapter” of your life can be hugely beneficial.
“Studies have found consistently that loneliness is a significant risk factor for physical and mental illnesses and the trajectory of recovery,” she wrote. “Therefore, it will be important that you surround yourself with individuals who care and support you throughout your treatment.”
Tips for Caregivers
Being a caregiver is not easy. Sometimes the dynamic of a relationship can change when a partner fills that role, but it’s important to acknowledge the complexities of that role and do what you can — as the person needing care or the caregiver — to communicate needs on both ends.
“Caregiving is the most important job in the universe, because you are there through the highs and lows,” Julie Bulger, manager of patient and family-centered care at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, TN, tells SurvivorNet. “You are there to support your loved one, to manage all of the daily tasks as everything is changing in your life.”
Bulger’s advice is to try to prevent or reduce the risk of caregiver burnout, or the stress, anger, fatigue and illness that can result from putting another person’s needs above your own.
“It is important to have some things that you can do outside of the focus of caring for somebody that you love with cancer,” she said.
According to Bulger, doing so can look as simple as taking a walk or getting a massage, but it can also mean visiting a support group for cancer caregivers and/or seeing a therapist if you’re struggling to cope with all of the weighty responsibilities. Regardless of how you chose to prioritize your own health, it’s important to understand that research shows that caregivers who take good care of themselves provide the best quality of care. So, by taking care of yourself, you are “helping your loved one in more ways than you know.”
“There’s so much evidence that outcomes are better when somebody has an incredible caregiver by their side,” Bulger said.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff