4 Things to Tell Your Employer About Your Cancer Diagnosis

April 23, 2018 | by City of Hope

After a cancer diagnosis, it can be challenging to try and decide how to approach your employer and your colleagues at work with your new news. While your family and friends will be a tremendous source of support during this time in your life, talking to your employer can prove a little more challenging.
If you decide to share your diagnosis with your employer, here are four things to keep in mind:
Figure Out Your Game Plan
Talk to your doctor first. Share the details of what a typical day at work looks like for you. Find out how you can expect to feel during your treatment, and how those treatments may affect your day-to-day ability to perform at work. Specifically, find out if your course of treatment would require time off from work, so you can initiate the conversation with your boss with a clear plan of attack already in your mind.
Decide Whether You Will Need Special Work Accommodations
Your doctor can help you decide whether special accommodations will need to be made for you at work during your treatment plan. These can be as simple as taking time off, or other special scheduling arrangements. Remember, the federal government has established specific anti-discrimination laws for cancer patients, requiring some employers to make any accommodations necessary for you to receive proper treatment, while continuing to perform to the best of your ability at your job.
Figure Out Who Needs to Know
Sharing your cancer diagnosis with your colleagues at work certainly isn’t a requirement, but your peers may notice a series of missed work days, if your treatment requires them.
Different patients may handle this personal decision differently. If you choose to tell just a few people, including your supervisor and your most trusted associates, you can also use your diagnosis as an opportunity to educate those around you about what you’re going through, and what your illness means.
Having a few trusted allies at the workplace also expands the net of people you can ask for help, should you need it. Generally speaking, it’s healthy to have people that you can turn to at work, if you have days that are particularly challenging emotionally or physically.
Some patients decide that their diagnosis is a deeply personal one, and choose not to share the information with anyone at work. The decision is entirely yours, and comes down to figuring out exactly what you are most comfortable with.
Keep a Record of Everything
We’d all prefer to think that our employers will be accommodating and understanding of our needs as employees during a challenging time in our lives. Most are, but that’s not always the case.
It’s a good idea to keep a record of everything: Notes, including dates and times, with conversations with your employer about your diagnosis, meetings with the human resources department, performance notes or evaluations, and your requests for special accommodations at work. If there’s ever a situation where you need to defend your rights in the workplace, you’ll want to have copies of everything that’s happened at work with regard to your diagnosis.
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