While receiving chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber
Cancer Institute in Boston, real estate agent Richard Power often worked on his
laptop with his cellphone and tablet close at hand. After twice-a-month
treatments with Avastin (bevacizumab), leucovorin, fluorouracil and Camptosar
(irinotecan) at Dana-Farber, Power, 63, would leave for his Marshfield,
Massachusetts, home with a portable pump that administered fluorouracil for two
days. Despite feeling fatigued after each treatment, dealing with bowel issues
such as constipation and diarrhea, and having an occasional
chemotherapy-induced stutter, Power managed to balance his demanding job with
Power has been employed steadily since his stage
IV colon cancer diagnosis in 2010. Typically he wakes up at 5:30 a.m., and
after a cup of coffee, he’s ready to sell real estate in Marshfield and
Scituate, coastal towns about 30 miles southeast of Boston. Power says real
estate work never stops: He’s busy seven days a week meeting with clients,
posting listings and showing properties.
Unemployment and Survivorship http://www.cancertodaymag.org/Fall2015/Pages/Unemployment-and-Cancer-Survivorship.aspx)
Unemployment after cancer can make for a difficult transition to survivorship.
Work It Out http://www.cancertodaymag.org/Fall2015/Pages/Work-It-Out.aspx
“It keeps your mind off things,” he says of his
work. “It allows you to feel normal, and it allows you to feel like you have
part of your life back.”
Roughly 40 percent of the 14.5 million cancer
survivors in the U.S. are of working age. Many survivors need to keep their
jobs through treatment and recovery because they can’t afford to take extended
time off without pay or because their health insurance is provided through
their employer. Power is one of many cancer survivors who choose to keep
working during treatment. Going to work can help survivors maintain a sense of
purpose, in addition to offering a support network and a welcome distraction
from their serious illness.
“It can be a way to stay connected to who you are
as a human in terms of what you contribute to the world,” says Rebecca V.
Nellis, chief mission officer of Cancer and Careers, a nonprofit organization
in New York City that helps people with cancer succeed at work.
Even though improvements in cancer treatments and
survival have made it possible for more patients to stay on the job, says
Nellis, not every patient wants to. The decision is personal and influenced by
the patient’s diagnosis and treatment and by the type of work he or she does.
Before arriving at a decision, Nellis says, patients should talk to their
cancer care team about a treatment timeline and possible side effects and
describe to them what their job entails. Patients also should understand their
state and federal employment rights and their company’s policies, and then
decide how much of their diagnosis they want to share with their employer, or
whether they want to share it at all.
As the sole provider for her 11-year-old son,
Ashley Thompson didn’t question whether she would continue working after a
March 2011 diagnosis of stage I kidney cancer. Her difficulties were compounded
when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that led her body’s immune
system to attack healthy cells.
Thompson, 36, who lives just outside San Antonio,
Texas, was able to adjust her hours and work from home during her diagnosis and
treatment. In May 2011, her urologist removed her diseased kidney, and during
recovery, she answered work emails from her hospital bed. A month later, she
went to the Mayo Clinic’s campus in Arizona for nearly two weeks to see
specialists about treating her autoimmune disorder.