October 01, 2023

How Has Your Employer Handled Your Illness?


Do you have an angelic boss who has made accommodations for your illness?  Or, have you been wedged out of your workplace, or cornered into a position where your job is so miserable you want to quit?

ABC News interviewed me today about asking for sick leave and keeping your job. I offered them lots of tips and advice, but they don’t work unless you follow them.  (Duh.)

Lots of us are pals with our co-workers, bosses, and employers.  Some workplaces can feel like home, family, and the center of our social lives.  Sometime patients assume they don’t need to follow the rules because our bosses are supportive people who care about us.  It’s easy vent to them about our medical woes, lean on co-workers for emotional support, and assume our boss will do everything in their power to accommodate our illness.  Some will. And some want to but cannot.

Illness costs employers money.  No matter how kind your company may be, sometimes it’s hard for them to afford the hike in health insurance rates caused by your illness.  Your sick leave might slow a project down costing them more money.  Or maybe they have to spend extra work hours finding and training your replacement.

I’ve met plenty young adults who are shocked when their chummy employer isn’t able to make friendly accommodations or even lets them go.  That’s why I think it is important to avoid sloppy workplace boundaries.  No matter how friendly the environment, I think it’s always best to play by the rules: Be formal, friendly, honest, prepared, concise and orderly about discussing your illness in the workplace.

Were you nervous about disclosing your illness to an employer? How has your employer responded to your illness? Is it consistent with how they treated  you prior to your illness?  Any surprises along the way from supervisors or co-workers?

Read more about tips for navigating workplace issues in Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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July 27, 2023

Do You Work When You Are Sick?


I’m under the weather today.  Trying to get comfy in bed with a fever on a hot summer day.  Trying to peel myself away from my computer and my workaholic tendencies.  Trying to take catnaps while reading Unaccustomed Earth – Jhumpa Lahiri’s most recent collection of short stories.  Wondering on days like today why I don’t have a TV.  I’d love some Law and Order right about now.

I can hear kids playing in a fountain in the park next to my apartment building.  As a kid, I grew up next to a private elementary school.  When I was home sick, I remember hearing the school kids playing during recess.  I always thought “Ha, I have the day off of school and youuuu doooon’t!”  Maybe I will try to adopt that attitude today.  I’ll think of all my friends slaving away at work while I get to chill in bed reading fiction instead.

If I spent the afternoon working, I’d complete an interview and put some hours into promoting my upcoming book reading.  So instead, I’m going to crank out a little blog post about it and call it a day.

Am I the only one?  Do you guys ever have a hard time prying yourself away from work when you don’t feel well?  Are you addicted to feeling productive?  I’m damn lucky that I am self-employed and can manage my own schedule.  Have you had to work during your illness because you didn’t have sick days or disability leave?

Find out more about Mary Ann and other young adults who decided to collect disability during and after treatment - Read Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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