Job Hunting With Cancer
As a young adult with bladder cancer, one of the biggest hurdles has been balancing my career and my cancer. I needed to continue working out of necessity as I didn't have the option to retire (no retirement income at 28 years old). There was no way we could survive on my husband's pay alone.
I also had big professional goals at the time I was diagnosed and those goals have persisted in the years since. But my cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment really put a pause on everything.
Pursuing professional goals despite cancer
Initially, I had no desire to climb the ladder. My focus was to survive and continue to be able to pay my bills.
But as my health improved, I found that my treatment and ostomy did not hold me back. Very quickly I realized my professional aspirations were just as important as ever.
If cancer teaches you anything, it is that your future is fluid and there is no time like the present. So, I brushed the dust off my resume and stuck my toes in the water to see if I could find an opportunity to continue the career growth I had to put on the back burner.
Health insurance logistics matter
Job hunting as a cancer patient brings about new considerations and worries.
Before my diagnosis, I would not have researched a company's health insurance as astutely. Yes, health insurance is always important, but now I have to ensure it covers my specific treatments and is accepted at my medical center.
I also needed to know what kind of waiting period there would be for coverage to begin to make sure no treatments were scheduled in a dead period.
I had to balance coverage costs along with pay and leave time policies. I made sure I felt very confident in these aspects of a job posting as well as the actual job itself.
Broaching the topic of my diagnosis
Then came the anxiety of how and when to broach the topic of my diagnosis. Now, this is not necessary at all. You can most certainly decide to tell no one about your diagnosis or treatments, it is by no means a requirement of employment.
For me, I have a large social media presence and my diagnosis is a big part of my identity. It was important that any prospective employer knew the gist of my situation, ie. I have cancer, I am in treatment, I am able to balance treatment and work without issue, and have done so for two years. More details could be brought up if I was offered a position.
Reading the room
As I went through the interview process I would treat each situation differently and read the room. Most often I said nothing and determined I would speak up in a second interview or during the offer.
In my last interview that was with a hiring manager, I gave my prepared cancer overview as I knew they were leaning towards an offer.
Pursuing professional goals despite bladder cancer
As I have accepted my new role I can say that my new manager is accepting and supportive of my cancer status and it has had no impact on my onboarding process. It was important that I not have to hide my diagnosis and as I have discovered over the last two years, bladder cancer does not hold me back in any way.
Changing careers can be absolutely nerve-wracking as a cancer patient. There are so many things to consider and it can be difficult to decide how much to share about your diagnosis and when. For me, the few months of anxious applying and interviewing have been worth it.
I now have an opportunity to reclaim my professional goals prove to myself that I can continue to have a full life with bladder cancer.