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When to let employer know about cancer?
Old 12-10-2018, 03:46 PM
 
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Regular member, signing out for anonymity . . .

For those of you willing to share, when did you let your admin/supervisor know about your cancer? Only my parents know about my situation and I haven't even told other family members, but I just got contacted today about my absence log because of the numerous days out. What they don't know is that it's been for appointments/testing and I got extremely ill (an effect of my weakened immune system combined with kid germs). I'm a Stage I so very few to no symptoms that are causing me issues like we normally associate with cancer. And I currently am not on treatment (I do have an appt tomorrow, fingers crossed/prayers for positive news). Thanks to our union, they can't technically inquire into *why* we used a sick day, but after a certain number of consecutive absences they can require documentation (which isn't the case for me). But there's nothing to prohibit them from stating that our time off is becoming a concern.

Any doctor's notes have to go on file and would state the doctor's office which would include oncology so that would "give it away".

So when did you "spill the beans"? Were you forced to (which I'm starting to feel like I'm headed down that path)?


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Old 12-10-2018, 04:23 PM
 
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It's hard to hear the word cancer, and I appreciate that some people are much more private than others. I think you have to balance your need for privacy with your school's need to know what's going on when an employee is suddenly and frequently absent. Since they've expressed concern, I'd ask for an appointment with my principal and tell him/her what's going on. I think that is better than leaving them wondering. Certainly, you can tell your administrator that you wish this to be a private matter for the time being. That won't, however, stop everyone in your school from wondering, guessing, and speculating with each other about your situation.

I'm a cancer survivor. My teammates, principal, and colleagues knew very early because I told them. Cancer is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to many, many people. While it can be fatal, it very often is not. Stage 1 is very positive news. I was having surgery, so everyone knew something big was going on. By the way, I told my middle school students too.

I think being private can often work against you. It becomes this big, horrible secret. It doesn't have to be. Support isn't pity. I think people appreciate honesty. I frankly told people that I didn't want to talk about cancer all the time. I was trying to do my job while living with cancer.
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Old 12-10-2018, 04:28 PM
 
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Apply for FMLA and protect your job. That will be one less worry while you work through treatment and regain your health.
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Old 12-10-2018, 04:57 PM
 
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I consider my P one of the most important people in my life...he was literally the first person I told (after my husband). I needed his support and I got it. It sounds like you're not willing to share this information...and it doesn't seem to me you have to since you've not exceeded your allotted sick days.


FYI, regarding chalkdusty's advice to apply for FMLA: your P and the school secretary are likely to made privy to those details. I know they are provided FMLA details about employees at my school, anyway. Just be aware that is very possibly not a way to avoid sharing that info with your P.


I think trying to keep this a secret is adding more stress to your already stressful life. I don't know your relationship with your P, but I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be at the very least outwardly sympathetic.

I'm sending you strength as you navigate this chapter. Best to you. I know how hard and scary it is.
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Old 12-10-2018, 06:31 PM
 
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I am a survivor of this journey as well. Tell your Principal as he/she has the wherewithall to control ramifications as related to your job. Protect your job and believe in your strength to return to it after the work of beating the cancer. Most principals will help you with this side of the fight. Best of luck to you.


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Old 12-10-2018, 07:41 PM
 
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You have to do what will be best for you--and you are the one who knows how your principal will react.

I have a sort of chronic, but treatable, cancer. Retired now and doing very well, but I had some absences during the final two years I was teaching. The first of those years I missed several days for IV treatments and had to leave a little early 8 or 10 times. I talked with the principal and my co-teacher and both were extremely supportive. The message I received was that I was to take care of my health and they would take care of school.

The following year I had to be out at the start of the school year for a little over a week. I started the year on FMLA and the paperwork was filled out by my primary care doctor. Those FMLA papers went directly to HR, not to my school. I did get in touch with the principal, a new one who was also quite supportive.

I think the difference between your situation and mine is that your diagnosis is new and you are still grappling with it yourself. That takes time and is sometimes best done privately, or with a trusted few friends and family. I had known of my diagnosis for about 15 years.

I hope whatever treatments you have will be effective and that the decisions you make are wise ones. You might ask at the oncologist's office if there is anyone there who could give you advice or counseling about handling work issues. There may be a social worker or navigator or...
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Old 12-10-2018, 08:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Those FMLA papers went directly to HR, not to my school.
They do in my district too, but I know HR forwards them to my P and his secretary. I just added that as a caution because it happened literally last week!

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I think the difference between your situation and mine is that your diagnosis is new and you are still grappling with it yourself. That takes time and is sometimes best done privately, or with a trusted few friends and family. I had known of my diagnosis for about 15 years.
That's a good point. And it sucks to be "the one with cancer" at school. I get that too well.
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Old 12-10-2018, 09:47 PM
 
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Thank you all for your kind words and sound advice! This is new for me and I'm privately piecing out how to handle it all right now and then *wham* I'm getting called out on my absences. It's a lot to handle and most days I try to even avoid thinking about it (thank goodness, my symptoms aren't overly impeding--mostly extreme fatigue) and busy myself with work, but I know that there are some things I will have to face which includes letting others (a select few) in on what's happening. I'm not a huge fan of my principal, she's pretty cold and by the books (this is only my 2nd year under her), which I think adds to my hesitation in saying anything, but she may surprise me. I'll look into FMLA in the meantime.
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Old 12-11-2018, 04:33 AM
 
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I hope you read this since you posted a reply already.

Yes, check into FMLA, but hold off, if you can. If you have sick time to use and have dr notes that will suffice, hold off on FMLA. Depending on your results and outcome, you may not need it. I've known many Stage 1 cancer survivors who didn't have a very rough time. Many had surgery and follow-up appointments. Some needed some minimal treatments while others did not.

Knowing your options is great, but don't start FMLA out of fear. It can only be used once in an 18 month period and there may be a time where it becomes more necessary. I'm praying it does not and things will go very well for you.
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Old 12-11-2018, 04:37 AM
 
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I told my principal right away.I didn't want there to be any issues about me taking time off for appointments. It made it easier for me. She never told anyone and I only told my team.


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Old 12-11-2018, 05:17 AM
 
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I'm not a huge fan of my principal, she's pretty cold and by the books (this is only my 2nd year under her), which I think adds to my hesitation in saying anything, but she may surprise me. I'll look into FMLA in the meantime.
I hope she does surprise you. I'm sending you hugs.
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Sick Days
Old 12-11-2018, 01:07 PM
 
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I was diagnosed at the end of the school year and notified my principal as soon as I knew - surgery was immediately scheduled. I used all of my accrued sick days and then was off for the summer. When I realized I could not return in the fall, I applied for FMLA. I was therefore off for an additional two months without pay and returned to a less demanding position which was a blessing! I encourage everyone where I work to get annual screenings for cancer - all types of cancer!

Wishing you the best!
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Old 12-11-2018, 03:33 PM
 
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FMLA can be used intermittently, if that fits your situation. In other words, taking FMLA does not always mean being out for a large number of weeks.

For example, some teachers having cancer treatments might choose to take off the day of the treatment and perhaps the following day. Then return to work until the next treatment.

Or it might be that the teacher follows this plan for 5 months, but then needs to take two weeks for surgery and recovery.

FMLA can be very flexible.
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I told early both times
Old 12-11-2018, 04:51 PM
 
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The first time for breast cancer, I was a sub who worked nearly every day. I told all of my schools right away, partly because my sons were in those schools and partly to let them know I'd not be accepting jobs for awhile. The second time, I told them a few days after I found out. I waited to see the doctor and get a treatment plan. Since I was teaching full time that time, I first told my principal and 8th grade team. I then emailed the rest of the staff. I took three weeks off for a hysterectomy, so I also had a letter for the students' families. This was in a smaller district where I also live, so it wasn't going to stay secret.
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Old 12-14-2018, 03:55 AM
 
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I dealt with this last school year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March. I told my principal right away. She was very supportive.
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Old 12-14-2018, 06:40 AM
 
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While I don't have the cancer experience, I would just add that any time something (health or otherwise) starts impacting my work, I tend to think it's time to share. How much to share with whom is, I also think, a fairly personal decision--and therefore it's not easy to make a recommendation--beyond some of the practical considerations others have mentioned. I would truly be very ambivalent, particularly where the kids are concerned. On the one hand, I wouldn't want to "worry" them but on the other, their uncertainty/not knowing could be a worry. "The devil you know is better to deal with than the one you don't."

My bias is that most people will, at some level, be supportive either actively (by trying to be helpful) or passively (by accepting the explanation for the changes, such as increased absenteeism). I know there have been times when I didn't know someone was "hurting" or experiencing difficulty and I felt a bit cheated of the opportunity to be supportive because no one talked about it.

We are a small, fairly tight-knit school where it's hard to keep secrets--that would be another factor for me. I'd rather be the source of accurate information than have people guessing.

The bottom line might be that it's not something to be too stressed over... there are other things to focus on. I certainly offer my best wishes for positive outcomes at every step along the way.
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