Profile On Cancer and Careers

In 2001, Carlotta Jacobson, president of an organization called Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW), discovered that five of CEW’s board members had been diagnosed with cancer at the same time. Not surprisingly, each was concerned about what their diagnosis meant for their careers.

Among other things, they wanted to know their legal rights and to understand which details they should (or shouldn’t) disclose about their health to their employer. Jacobson recognized that this was an issue that had not been addressed before, and therefore it was an area where patients lacked information and support. That inspired her to create Cancer and Careers in 2001.

“It was a groundbreaking concept,” says executive director Rebecca Nellis. “Employment is such a fundamental part of everyday life, yet survivors were previously alone with having to navigate the work-related challenges cancer brings,” she says.

“We remain the only cancer organization in the U.S. that focuses solely on employment.”

Their Goal The organization provides cancer survivors and people with cancer with educational tools and advice from experts about the best ways to reintegrate themselves into their workplace. “We help survivors remain vital members of the workforce, and we help their healthcare providers, managers, and companies understand their needs,” Nellis says.

Services They Provide Patients and survivors can connect with a career coach and ask questions about everything from career management to résumé building. You can view their discussion forum and find answers to questions that have been raised by patients and survivors in the past, which are organized by topic.

Cancer and Careers also offers a résumé review service, through which you can upload your résumé and receive feedback from a career coach.

The organization has educational videos ranging from webinars to personal stories to highlights from past conferences, as well as a library of toolkits and workbooks, many of which are available to download for free. You can find all of these resources and more on their website.

“Everything we offer is free of charge for patients and survivors,” Nellis says. “The need is so great. Our audiences span patients, survivors, healthcare providers, human resources professionals, employers, managers, and coworkers.”

Events The organization’s most attended event is its National Conference on Work and Cancer, which is held annually. “It is a virtual, full-day deep dive that brings together experts and a nationwide network of fellow survivors for learning and connections,” Nellis says.

This year, the conference will take place on June 24, and registration is still open.

Along with the nationwide conference, the organization also holds regional conferences, panels, and webinars throughout the year, Nellis says, well as smaller events focused on giving each individual in attendance more attention. You can find more information about all of the upcoming events on the organization’s website.

Core Belief “At its very core, the issues at the intersection of work and cancer are about equity,” Nellis says. “No one should be deprived of their ability to support themselves, to be part of something larger, or to contribute to the workforce because they happened to be diagnosed with cancer.”

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