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Navigating Cancer and Job Loss

Talaya Dendy, BCPA

Cancer Thriver, Cancer Doula, Patient Advocate, Podcaster

Cancer patients often face numerous challenges in the workplace, including the risk of job loss and discrimination. I highlighted this in the latest episode of Navigating Cancer TOGETHER, which shares the unfortunate story of Andrena McMayo, a stage four cancer patient who was let go by her employer, Wayfair, while she was on disability. This situation is not unique, as many cancer patients worry about losing their jobs, their identity, and more.

Financial Strain

The financial strain of cancer treatments, along with reduced work hours and potential disability benefits, can create significant burdens and stress. Disability payments are often not equivalent to a person's full income, adding to the financial challenges faced by cancer patients. Furthermore, some workplaces may harbor discrimination or stigma toward cancer survivors, leading to unfair treatment, limited opportunities, or even job loss.

Cancer's Impact on Career and Identity

Cancer can also have a lasting impact on a person's career and identity. Treatment demands, such as appointments, surgeries, and recovery phases, can lead to work disruptions, missed days of work, reduced hours, or changes in schedules. These changes can affect productivity, job performance, and career advancement. Many cancer patients question their identity and may feel like a different person after their diagnosis. The existential questions raised by a life-threatening illness can challenge one's sense of self, strength, worth, faith, and future as a professional.

On the flip side, the cancer experience can also lead to personal growth and a reevaluation of priorities and goals. Many cancer patients develop resilience, adaptability, and new perspectives on work and life. They may reconnect with their core values and desire to align their lives with those values. Some individuals may even make significant career changes, as I did, transitioning from the supply chain industry to becoming a cancer doula, patient advocate, and podcaster.

"A lot of time is wasted when we are not in alignment with our values and we're driven by other things like status, money, material things. You can feel that in your soul that something just isn't right." - Talaya Dendy

Talaya Dendy, BCPA, is a cancer thriver, cancer doula, patient advocate, and podcaster. She is shaping the future of cancer navigation and support.

Cancer Patients Must Protect Themselves

To protect themselves during this stressful time, cancer patients must understand their rights and their company's leave policies. Familiarizing oneself with sick leave, personal leave, or medical leave policies can provide important information and options. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can also offer protection for eligible individuals, allowing them to take unpaid leave for medical reasons while safeguarding their jobs.

Exploring disability benefits and financial assistance programs is another crucial step. Disability benefits can help offset lost income during treatment, and financial support programs may offer assistance to cancer patients facing financial hardship. Connecting with support resources, such as patient advocates, legal aid, employee advocacy groups, and healthcare professionals, can provide guidance and information tailored to the individual's specific situation.

Open and honest communication with employers is essential. While individuals have the choice of how much information to disclose about their diagnosis and treatment, discussing leave options and potential accommodations is crucial. Employers should be made aware of the employee's needs and desires to return to work. Exploring flexible options, such as remote work, reduced hours, or phased return, can help ease the transition back to work.

Prioritize Health and Well-Being

Cancer patients must prioritize their health and well-being above all else. Taking the necessary time off for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care is essential for recovery. Work environments that lack supportive leave policies, accommodations, or understanding of cancer realities can intensify fear, uncertainty, stress, and anxiety. By prioritizing their health and seeking support, cancer patients can navigate the challenges they face and make informed decisions about their careers and lives.

If you or a loved one are struggling to navigate the unpredictable world of cancer, schedule a 30-minute Meet & Greet with me to discuss your challenges and barriers and learn how I can support you.

Listen to the full episode to hear a compassionate and informative discussion about the intersection of cancer and the workplace. Get practical tips, resources, and personal insights that can help cancer patients and their loved ones navigate this challenging aspect of their journey. Click on the episode in the SmartPlayer below. You can also listen on your favorite podcast app.

Don't forget to share this blog and the podcast episode with anyone who may benefit from them.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

Wayfair's Shameful Layoff - Can You Lose Your Job On Disability Leave?:

Other Episodes You'll Enjoy

Social Security Disability: The Importance of Section 13 Disability Listings for Cancer Patients with Spencer Bishins:

How to Share Acts of Love When Cancer Shows Up at Work and In Your Personal Life with Kim Hammer:

Finding Your Balance, Power, and Direction After an Unexpected Hardship Like Cancer with Trish Perry:


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Bookmark my sparkle link.

Visit my website to learn more about how I can support you on your cancer journey.

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