The last few weeks have been very busy for me, particularly launching my new partnership with C4C Mobile and the interest that has created from both sponsors and people affected by cancer. From a personal perspective it has refreshed my ‘working’ life with different challenges, and has brought me back to many things that I missed most about my life before cancer. Life is still very difficult with the health issues I face, but I have at last learned to adapt and accept my limitations. No more life in the fast lane but at least I am back on the road! Communicating with more people, and dealing with media and marketing teams frequently, I am seeing the working environment through very different eyes now. I am just doing what I can to help people and have no career or pension scheme to nurture, so the only real pressure I have is what I create for myself. But I have always been the ultimate professional and will only do something if I feel I can do it to the best of my ability, and succeed.
Maybe it is because I am getting older, possibly it is because of my poor health, but I can see most areas of work as very unforgiving places. The Internet means that things move so quickly now and we are able to communicate at the touch of a button. If you can’t adapt quickly you will be left behind, and that is very difficult to do if you have a long term health condition. In some of my recent presentations the audience were particularly interested in work related issues of cancer. A majority were young and had never even considered the issues of finding employment after major illness, then I didn’t at that age either! But I see frequently now, the hurdles that people face as they get older regarding employment, and if you add health to the mix things can become very tricky.
Here in the UK we are being told that soon we won’t be able to retire until the age of 70. I can’t see how my children will be able to afford to retire even assuming that they stay healthy, with affordability of housing being a major issue. But it seems that we as a society do not fully understand the importance of work to us all. With the standard method of recruitment being from a cv initially, how does an older person with long term conditions even get past that process? The financial issue of course is very important, but so is the psycho/social impact on our lives. With more of us being affected by cancer we need to consider how we deal with employment issues. We cannot continue to cast people aside when they appear to be ‘past their best.’
This post was prompted by the below poem which I saw on Twitter this week, thanks to this website. It brought back so many conversations and communications that I have had with people about working with cancer. Yes it is very raw, but I was moved by it and it summed up so many situations I have seen. Of course there are also positive examples of good employers, but my feeling is that they are getting less.
I had cancer, yes cancer, had hardly any hair
I returned to work, but did you care?
You looked at me, a vulnerable pawn
With hospital appointments. It could not be born
I was a costly waste of corporate air
Lost profits, time. And ugly, no hair!
When I decided to raise my concerns with HR
You decided to destroy me, I would not get far
With raising the truth, that was out of order
Whistleblowing where you were the warder
You refused me leave, you refused me care
You refused to acknowledge me, I was not there,
You used a minor matter to attack my work
You failed me in year assessment! You made me look a jerk
Did the others help me. No they just looked on!
They could not believe you were the bullying one
As you smiled in their faces, and tossed your hair
You lured them like a black widow into her lair
Eventually I proved the rubbish you peddled
Did that make a difference? No I had just meddled
In the corporate club to which you had the card
You bullied me more, you tried very hard
Reorganisation came just in time
But not before you had played with my mind
And my body and made me so sick
Worried and frightened. You made me look thick
This competent, clever and sensitive person
Walked away and closed the curtain
I learned you were nothing, but misery and lies
No one liked you, they were scared of your eyes
I help others now and even set up a blog
I took what you did and turned it from smog
Into flowers and rainbows to pursue dreams and magic
While you remain in your lair bullying others and that’s tragic.
Thanks to Belle Marsh for this impactful piece.
Working with long term health conditions is now a big issue in society, and as always these are my thoughts and opinions, please feel free to share yours below.
Very touching heartfelt poem in your latest blog Chris x So true x So wrong, So real x
Yes Lesley I found it very powerful which is why I wanted to share it. Ur right it is now too real and very wrong xxx
How true Chris all I can say is their time may come one day I wonder if they will cope? The poem made me very emotional love to you and your family Georgine xx
Thx Georgine, yes this example is sad but true, and I also found it very moving. So sorry to hear your recent bad news so big hugs to you both xx
Thanks Chris we knew Bill was dying but it still comes as a shock we are unable to go to funeral as we are in Spain then but we will think of him that day like I have said many times before gentlemen get your prostate checked no matter what age you are. Thank you again for your blogs your words help me a lot. I hope I am doing right passing them on to my friends I know they appreciate!
Yes Georgine it is always a shock when someone passes even if we know it is coming. So glad you are still enjoying the blog, and please feel free to share where appropriate, and thx for your support! xxx
Luckily the charities I worked for were very understanding when I was unable to work after my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I was not rushed into returning back and as a consequence have had only 1 or 2 days off sick in 2 and a half years.
Congratulations on the new partnership!
All’s well here: since the beginning of 2016 I’ve been contributing regularly to the Huffington Post as a voice for cancer survivors. You’re mentioned in one of my recent posts:
Stay well and in touch!
So lovely to hear from you and great to see your work with Huffington Post. That’s really good news for all of us affected by cancer to have such an expert writing.
Much appreciate the lovely mention on your recent post, and I will certainly share that with my Community.
Yes the new partnership is exciting as there is a genuine desire to make a difference, from my partners. As you can see we have launched in the UK but the good news is I will be able to bring the offers to the US and Canada very soon!
Stay well yourself and you have given me an extra boost of positivity!
Thank you, and best as always, Chris x
On the money Chris. Took me 2 years and 40+ interviews to find work after chemo
I hear that from all my friends, healthy or not so! Pleased to be completely out of that process now 🙂 Enjoy ur week Freya x
Job hunting is rarely a barrel of laughs – even less so when you’re recovering from a long illness. TY!
I know I’m a bit late to the table on this one, but – as I may have told you on some other occasion – it was a big issue for me and is a huge one for many of my young adult friends who have (had) cancer.
When I was first diagnosed, I’d just finished my undergraduate degree and managed just a couple of months of work before spending the next year and a bit mostly in hospital. When I did get out and started thinking about work again, I quickly realised that a couple of years in hospital compared to my peers’ couple of years of work experience was a very hard sell indeed! I heard from someone that some employers, when they see a blank/missing period on your CV, assume you were in prison…
I was lucky enough that time to be able to pull together the resources to go back to university to study for an MA, which was a good ‘stepping stone’ back to the working world. And I’ve been lucky enough again after relapsing and having my stem cell transplant that I had a solid job at a company willing to take me back on and ease me back into work after treatment.
Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t up to full-time work any more, and I ended up spending far too much of my reduced pot of energy (in vain) on arguing with my managers that with the very smallest of changes to the team (“reasonable adjustments”) I could keep doing the same job on a part-time basis and not have to throw away all my ‘career progress’ to date. That was when I knew I had to get out, and I’m glad to say I’ve now managed to do so!
But I’ve heard stories from people working even in the most humane media organisations that employers are utterly against making any concession to cater for the different needs of people who have already suffered a lot through illness. The 5-day-a-week, 9-5 model is a fundamentally artificial structure, anyway, and the vast majority of organisations could and should be far more flexible in providing opportunities for people who can’t always fit that model, through no fault of their own. It would be so easy for companies to adapt, but they often seem scared of change…
How we can change this? People who have had a cancer diagnosis and been through treatment are among the most determined and insightful potential people I know, and any organisation would be lucky to have the chance to employ them. Unfortunately they often feel they have to push themselves beyond what they should really be doing in order to adapt to what companies demand, when those companies could so easily expend far less effort in showing some compassion and understanding by being flexible themselves.
Anyway. Great blog post as always, Chris.
Hi George, you might be late to the table but always very welcome! Thanks so much for joining the discussion and as always your comments are so eloquently written.
Knowing you as I do, your story is truly shocking because you at least have age on your side to be able to adapt within the workplace. If people like you are struggling then there is not a lot of hope for many of us!
This issue is coming up a lot more often now and I personally believe that discrimination is getting worse. But society as a whole cannot afford to leave us to one side, as the numbers are increasing. As you suggest we need to look at a much more flexible way of working to make the workplace a much more inclusive environment.
Work has a large part to play in all our lives, not just from a financial position but a wellbeing perspective too. It is one of the things I miss most too!
Thanks for sharing your own valuable experience George, and I’m glad that life is treating you well. Chris