Finding a new job with a chronic illness - any advice appreciated

Hi All
It’s almost a year since I found out I had an MPN and chronic blood condition. In that time my work were amazing and supported me, but made it clear they wanted me back full-time. This illness was a real life-defining moment and I still struggle - mostly with tiredness. So I decided to leave my job in tech and just be me: find my way, work out what I wanted in life and possibly change career completely.

That all happened before COVID. Now I’m self-distancing and full of self-doubt; I am worried there isn’t a job out there for me, particularly if I open up about my blood condition! Anyone had this issue? What did you do? Do you apply for jobs and tell employers you have an illness or not? Does it impact how employers view you as a suitable candidate, compared to someone ‘healthy’?

Anyone on here been there and done that? Any insights, positive or negative?

Thanks all
Lou

Thanks
Lou

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Hi Lou
Hope this finds you keeping well at this strange time.
I write as both the wife of someone living with an active blood cancer and as someone involved in recruitment at times.
Firstly, my hubby was working at the time he became seriously ill and his work have been incredibly supportive. We appreciate how very lucky we are in that regard but his company took their professional responsibilities very seriously and involved their occupational health in all illness related conversations. My hubby returned to a new job better suited to his ongoing health issues part time and had been able to (just about) maintain this. I tell you this so you know that those companies are out there. And it could be one of those companies you apply to next. Secondly, as someone who is involved in recruitment - it’s important to know that when you apply for a job, you do have a choice to disclose or not. Any health related info is usually only seen by the HR/Occ Health section of a firm so they the co can’t be accused of not hiring a person for that reason. This info should only be passed on if the decision was made to appoint that person and there is an obligation on the company to make reasonable adjustments. you’ll perhaps also know you are now covered, after your cancer diagnosis, by the Equality Act 2010 (I think) and could, if you wish, tick the ‘do you consider yourself to have a disability?’ box which puts a legislative responsibility, once again on the company. This applies to any person who has had a cancer diagnosis so also applies to a person in remission.
I can appreciate there is quite a lot to think about but having recently dealt with a candidate who had a chronic health problem which would have required adaptations to be made, I know the other folk on the interview panel were as keen to talk with her to get an idea as to what we needed to do as I was. It did not affect how she was perceived nor did it make her seem less appealing or suitable. Perhaps in smaller cos this works differently but UK legislation still applies to protect people like those with blood cancer.
I would always prefer to be upfront about an issue but understand why others would not make the same choice. For me, it depends on how much your health affects your ability to work and how much you need a job that can take that into account. I do understand it’s not simple or easy. Wishing you well Lou and wish I could be of some better help. Glad you found the forum and hope you get something out of it

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I have no experience of this, but have shared with our Ambassador group and I am sure they will be able to help. Good luck, Louise

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Hi Lou,

Getting back into work can I know from my own experience seem like a big hurdle, especially after having had the knock back from being diagnosed.

I had spent 15 months being treated for leukaemia, with a transplant, and although tired was eventually feeling well enough to get back to work. The question was - how? Like you, I was wondering what I could do. I was fortunate and got some one-to-one employment counselling advice through the cancer centre at the hospital. This basically helped me realise that I was still me and employable. It also gave good advice around the fact that you are not obliged to disclose anything around your diagnosis, and that in addition there are rights against discrimination for those with our conditions.

I applied for a great job and got it. At interview I was asked about the gap in my employment, I chose to explain the full story, the employer decided to go ahead and employ me and have as a result benefited from a really engaged employee who was pleased to be back in work. As to any concerns about whether I would be healthy - I have had no days off sick in over three years working for them!

You are at a stage where you have choices - you are still you, but things have changed slightly, so as a starting point I would think about what you would like to do, taking into account working hours etc., and then look for the position. Ahead of interview you might want to meet with a career advisor or HR professional to get guidance on what to say, and on other areas around this; for example there could be scope to request that an adjustment be made to working hours in order to adapt to the needs around your condition.

Jude’s advice is particularly good and has some good pointers too.

I am sure you will do well - treat it as an opportunity to find what you want to do :+1:

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I also have no experience of getting a job after I was diagnosed. Others have replied with far more experience on the subject. What I would say is that I expect the employment market is quite static during the Covid-19 virus. This gives you the opportunity of deciding what you want to do and what you want from your new employment. What I might say from experience is that I struggled with fatigue working full time and it could come immediately after I had overdone it emotionally, physically or practically or up to 48 hrs later and I did not deal with what personally stresses me well. Yes, my diagnosis rocked my world, but I was the same me and employable. I can tell by the way you write your posts that any employer would be really lucky to have you. Your last employer must have been impressed by you as they wanted you as a full time employee. Personally I think that obviously you have to be truthful on your application and in interview questions, but you do not have to offer information. If the subject of your diagnosis was to come up perhaps it is answering briefly and if you do not act as if it were an issue, then the potential employer won’t either. You go for your dreams and keep us posted.

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@Lou Hi Lou, I hope you’re well?
Thank you so much for posting on here, I can only imagine there maybe some of our other forum members facing a similar situation, and will be so grateful that this topic has been started.

Some very wise words from @judesadventures @Erica @Pisces56 @Brett and I echo words, from your posts on here, I can hear how thoughtful and dedicated you are as an individual, anyone would be incredibly lucky to have you :smiley:

Lou, you may find some information on our webpage here about blood cancer and work: https://bloodcancer.org.uk/support-for-you/living-well/money-work/ helpful. Some of it does apply more to people who are currently working or looking for financial support, but there are some sections such as ways to help improve confidence and helpful signposts which you may find useful to have a look at. Hope this helps too?

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Wow thanks to everyone for replying, It’s nice to get some positive feedback on an issue that I find hard to get my head around and why I do love the forum. @judesadventures your insights were really useful and gave me a lot of great pointers. I did know about Equality at Work, but wasn’t sure how new employers would view it. Was also glad to hear a positve story from :slight_smile: @Brett too. Hearing that the CV gap doesn’t have to be an issue and that honesty does pay off was great… @SuBloodcancerUK I will have a look at the link you sent.

Enjoy what remains of the weekend everyone.
Lou

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Hi Lou

I am a career coach, as well as someone with lymphoma. If you wanted to chat re career options, free, I am at home with lots of time on my hands. I specialise in any kind of career change. If you already know what you want to do next, that’s fine. You can contact me at catherinegilbertcareers@gmail.com.
BW Catherine

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@catherineg - oh my goodness, yes I will. I have a couple of options so any insights would be greatly received. Not a bad time to be without a job as stuck in doors so spending is limited, although my son seems to have hollow legs, never seen someone eat so much food. I’ll drop you a note and thanks again for the offer. Lou

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hi @Lou we just thought we would check in, hope you’ve been doing okay since your last post? how are you feeling about work now?

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Thanks @SuBloodcancerUK, I’m good. The forum is a godsend as @catherineg is helping me out. I feel so lucky that she picked up on my post. It really is worth putting your issues up online as the support will follow. We’re going to keep chatting over next few weeks so I can work out what’s next for me. Thanks for checking in too.
Best
Lou

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@Lou I’m so glad to hear you’ve been well Lou! and equally glad to hear you feel so well supported on here :smiley: As you say Lou, we want to the forum to be a safe space where people can share their experiences, concerns and questions with others. Wishing you all the very best with everything work wise! do let us know how you get on!

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