Working During Colorectal Cancer
- Erik Jensen, known for playing Dr. Steven Edwards in AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” is battling stage four colorectal cancer, but he’s not letting the disease stop him from doing what he loves. He will continue directing and writing amid treatment and is open to more work despite receiving a metastatic cancer diagnosis.
- As the 53-year-old is undergoing chemotherapy in his fight against cancer, his loving wife Jessica Blank, has set up a GoFundMe throughout this financial tough time.
- Staying positive during cancer treatment can help you achieve better health outcomes. So, whether that means continuing to work, taking up a new hobby or making time for friends, it’s important to prioritize your mental health.
- Some cancer patients can continue to work during cancer treatment, while others may need to take some time away. Doctors recommend returning to work if possible, as it helps cancer patients regain a sense of normalcy.
- Cancer patients choosing to work but needing some accommodations on the job may be protected by the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The 53-year-old actor, playwright, screenwriter, and director, who shares his 13-year-old daughter Sadie, 48, with his beloved wife Jessica Blank, is now undergoing chemotherapy in his fight against cancer, just 18 months after surviving a brain aneurysm.Read More
View this post on Instagram
Jessica continued, explaining how her husband will continue to work amid his treatment, “The only way things really work is through mutual aid. All we want to do is stick around as long as we can to make and love and create and help.
“Send him your prayers and love (and UNION JOBS! He has all his hair and is working through this as a writer director actor- This is a man who survives by creating & always has).”
After politely asking for donations, she concluded with, “Life is precious. Love is precious. I will never take anything for granted again.”
Loved ones and fans took the posts comments section to offer endless support, with one writing, “My lovely friends…I’m thinking of you and holding you in my heart but also remembering constantly how much you’re both beacons of strength and light and I cannot countenance a world without you both.
“Love you. Will do whatever is necessary to keep you both on this spinning ball.”
Actress Emma Kinney, who played Beth Greene on “The Walking Dead,” also took to her Instagram page to inspire others to donate if possible.
She wrote, “One of The Walking Dead fam needs our help!! I was lucky enough to share so many scenes with Erik Jensen on my final season of the Walking Dead.
“He’s an incredible performer, writer, and artist and I was saddened to hear that he was recently diagnosed with cancer. Let’s send him and his family all the healing vibes, prayers, and money! I put a link in my bio and stories. Please help anyway you can.”
View this post on Instagram
As for the GoFundMe page Jessica created for her husband, titled, “Help Erik & family make it through Stage 4 cancer,” it has since raised more than $81,000.
Jessica, who describes herself as Erik’s “partner in art and life for the last 23 years,” dubbed her man “a profoundly hardworking, generous artist who has spent decades committed to creating work in service of healing, justice, and making the world a better place.”
Managing Your Finances Amid Cancer
- How to Get Help With the Cancer Bills
- Navigating the Cruel Cost of Cancer: American Cancer Patients Spent More than $21 Billion on Their Cancer Care in 2019, Findings Show
- ‘How Much Will It Cost?’: A Guide to Coping With the Cost of Cancer Treatment
- Great News for Those Struggling With Unpaid Medical Bills: Repaid Health Debt No Longer Affects Credit Scores
- Guide to Financial Planning After a Cancer Diagnosis: Planning Is So Important For Peace of Mind
In an effort to help raise funds for her “hardworking, loving, truthful” husband, she explained, “The cancer has metastasized to his liver, but Erik is young and strong (cutting a film during chemo, working full-time as a director and writer throughout) and his doctors think they have a shot at shrinking the tumors enough to do two very major surgeries and get them all out.
“He can make it through this. But Erik and his family are in for the fight of their lives, and they need your support.”
Jessica also pointed out that both her and Erik have previously obtained health insurance through SAG and sometimes WGA, but due to the recent strikes, they are at risk of losing their SAG health insurance for 2025.
“It goes without saying that continued cancer treatment without insurance would bring financial ruin,” the GoFundMe explains further.
“IF YOU ARE IN A POSITION TO HIRE JESS, OR JESS AND ERIK, FOR A WGA JOB THIS YEAR- please reach out. They are incredibly hardworking, versatile writers with enormous skill and a long track record, and would need just a single hourlong episode (story and teleplay) to qualify for WGA insurance for next year.]”
Jessica finished up her emotional post by insisting “Stage IV is not a death sentence.”
She urged anyone reaching out to her family to share stories of hope and positivity.
Understanding Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer happens when polyps are not removed and become cancerous. It can take up to 10 years for a colon polyp to become cancerous, according to SurvivorNet experts.
Fortunately, most colorectal cancers can be prevented if you are regularly screened. SurvivorNet experts recommend a colonoscopy for colon screening.
A colonoscopy involves a long, thin tube attached to a camera to examine the colon and rectum. If polyps are discovered, they can be removed during the procedure. If no polyps are found, your next screening will not be needed for ten years.
The American Gastrointestinal Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend colon cancer screening begin at age 45. However, it would be best to talk with your doctor to determine the best time to screen for you.
WATCH: Colon Cancer Screening.
Colorectal cancer is staged depending on how advanced it is and if it has spread to other body parts.
- Stage 1 cancers are those in which the tumor has only penetrated the superficial layers of the colon and hasn’t gotten into the deeper layers.
- Stage 2 cancers involve the deeper layers of the colon wall
- Stage 3 cancers have spread to the lymph nodes around the colon
- Stage 4 cancers have spread to other organs, such as the liver, lungs, or peritoneal cavity (the space in your abdomen that holds your intestines, stomach, and liver)
As for treatment, your doctor has many ways to treat colon cancer, including:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
Working Through Cancer
A cancer diagnosis can change your world. But some people, like Erik Jensen, try to maintain a sense of normalcy by working. Even though his cancer has metastasized to is liver, he will continue working full-time as a direct and writer amid treatment.
Whether continuing to work during cancer is something you’d like to do or not, you should know there are people out there to guide you.
Laurie Ostacher, a social worker at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, spoke to SurvivorNet about how she aids people with cancer in figuring out their work situation after a diagnosis.
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?”
Not all people with cancer will need accommodations, but some people might need help when returning to work.
In regards to employees with cancer, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] “requires employers to provide adjustments or modifications, called reasonable accommodations, to enable applicants and employees with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities unless doing so would be an undue hardship (that is, a significant difficulty or expense).”
One way Ostacher helps people with cancer is by suggesting questions they should be asking their employer.
“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 you decide to do, know there are valuable resources out there like Ostacher who can help you decide on the right course of action when it comes to working (or not working) during a cancer battle.
It’s important to remember, 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.
Your human resources department should be able to share with you your options.
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.
Living with Cancer
Life doesn’t slow down for a cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Like we’ve seen in the case of Erik Jensen, it’s important to remember that a cancer diagnosis does not mean the end of your life. In fact, our experts say that prioritizing your overall wellbeing and continuing to do the things that you love can be very beneficial because studies have shown that patients who are able to stay upbeat and positive often have better treatment outcomes.
According to Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecological oncologist at Arizona Center for Cancer Care, it doesn’t even really matter what you do as long as it makes you happy. So, if that means continuing direct and write like Jensen, then that’s exactly what you should do.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Chase previously told SurvivorNet.
“So working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival. If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities.”
Questions for Your Doctor
If you are battling cancer and are feeling open to working during treatment, consider the following questions for your doctor first.
- What’s the current prognosis of my cancer?
- What are the potential side effects of my recommended treatment?
- Will the side effects affect my ability to travel to my job or will remote work be more optimal?
- How long is my treatment expected to last?
- If I cannot return to work as normal, what financial resources are available while I take a leave of absence?
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff