E! News host Giuliana Rancic recently shocked her fans with news that she has breast cancer. As she recuperates from surgery with plans to get back to work next week, we wish her the best. And we’d like to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a special segment on how a cancer diagnosis can take its toll on not just your health, but your bank account, too.
From Dede Bonner, Ph.D.—a.k.a. “the Question Doctor” and author of The 10 Best Questions for Surviving Breast Cancer: The Script You Need to Take Control of Your Health:
Do I want to take leave from work, or would I be happier if I continued working? What leave, medical benefits, and schedule flexibility can I reasonably expect from my employer? How many days can I afford to be out?
You must decide soon about taking time off from work during your breast cancer treatments. Your diagnosis, treatment plan, and doctors’ advice will largely determine how much time away from work you’ll need (if any).
Beyond your doctors’ recommendations, you are likely to have some options about how you want to spend your time. Some women choose to devote all their energies to healing. Going back to workmay be a difficult step when you contemplate your normal work-related stresses on top of treatment-related side effects and dealing with nosy coworkers. Others prefer to work as a good distraction. Your job may give you something to think about besides your health, make you feel like you have more control over your life, and reconnect you with people who care about you. How the treatments are affecting you will also impact your decision.
For some, the need to keep their incomes drives all else. You may be compelled to work in order not to lose revenue. Another consideration is your partner’s or loved one’s lost income while he or she is caring for you and taking you to treatment appointments.
If you decide to take time off during the course of your treatment, remember that the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act allows most workers twelve weeks of leave each year for a serious illness such as breast cancer. You don’t necessarily have to take all your leave at once, and you may prefer to dole it out to coincide with your scheduled treatments and post-treatment recovery times.
You can’t be discriminated against because of your illness. Most employees are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Cancer is considered a disability for the purposes of this law. This means that your employer can’t treat you any differently from other employees of your company and must make reasonable accommodations if needed. It’s comforting to know that legally you can’t lose your job because of your absence or illness.