A women looking nervous during a job interview

Job Searching as a Cancer Survivor or Caregiver

Looking for a new job or continuing to work isn’t frequently associated with Stage IV Lung Cancer. Today there are younger people being diagnosed with lung cancer who are still active in the job market. Now with better treatment options, many people are living longer and are able to keep working after their diagnosis. So what happens if you need a job change during a cancer battle?

Changing out of necessity

My husband John needed to look for a new job when his current company was sold and layoffs started. Healthcare coverage was our number one priority because we weren't married yet. We met plenty of survivors living with stage IV NSCLC years after diagnosis so he felt he could comfortably make a move that was good for his career as long as it provided stability in benefits. At the time, we were living between our two jobs and each commuting an hour. When he found a job closer to the city, I had to start looking for a new position while being a cancer caregiver.

When do you mention cancer?

John and I had different approaches to this question and I don’t think one size fits all. As the patient, he wanted to wait until hiring to share his full diagnosis. Of course, you must remember, it’s against the law for anyone to ask, or to not hire you due to a medical condition. However we don’t live in a perfect world, and employers might pass on a candidate with health issues even if they shouldn’t. John mentioned towards the end of the process that he had some health concerns that required doctor’s visits. He went on to ask about the company’s flexibility with hours and working from home. If you don’t want to share right away, asking about work environment, sick days, and flexibility can be a way to figure out if they are a good fit for you.

When I spoke with my recruiters, I chose to share John’s diagnosis from the beginning. I set clear expectations that I had a current job that allowed working from home and were understanding of my situation. I felt this helped me find a company that welcomed me but knew what I was facing from the beginning. My boss was generous with remote work options and never questioned me about John's doctor's appointments.

Making the transition

Before cancer, our biggest decision in accepting a job offer was often the salary level. Yes, we took other things into consideration, but the paycheck was the most important aspect. When we looked at new jobs after John’s diagnosis, his healthcare benefits became our main concern. If you are given an offer, express the importance of healthcare and get as many questions answered as possible. Vacation time, sick time and leave benefits were also something that came to the front burner when cancer entered our lives. You also get to choose when to tell your new coworkers. John waited and I think this allowed him some time to feel as “normal" as possible. He only shared with immediate managers, and later his close team when he started more rigorous treatment.

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