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Submitted by whitebert on


My teenage child was diagnosed with cancer in the spring, resulting in intense treatment and hospitalization periods that will continue. The initial treatment will take over a year even if as successful as it can be, so our horizon for any type of normalcy is now measured in years.

My job, which is in middle management, is stressful and the company is going through a period of significant transition. I have been considering a position change to reduce stress and even have pursued opportunities that I put on hold when this diagnosis happened. My husband, who is not he primary bread winner, has recently become a stay-at-home dad in order to meet the demands of care.

I'd appreciate your opinion on how/whether I can pursue alternative employment while my child is being treated. I have questions such as:
--what are my obligations/expectations to disclose this information? (not legally but rather ethically, professionally, or what have you)
--when would I discuss this?
--How do you navigate (US) health insurance in this situation to ensure you don't have a gap?
--Is it silly to even consider a job change while treatment is ongoing?

Please note climbing a ladder is of no importance to me. I want enough money to pay my bills and obviously must have health insurance. I need to work for that reason and continue to work hard (albeit with some adjustments) despite my personal challenges.

Thanks in advance.

jrb3's picture
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Sorry to hear you've got such a heavy mix of pressures going on right now.  Enjoy the time you can spend with your child.

You're not obligated to tell anyone ahead of time that you might switch positions, or employers.  (I think there's a 'cast for that.)  These are two different choices, by the way.  Going for an internal transfer to lower your own stress, well, your manager would likely be a good resource for that.

Should you switch employers, you'd have to work with the new HR to make transition for the health insurance.  If you get an offer, you might negotiate extra around health-care concerns.

Silly to consider an employer change?  No, but it might be unwise.  It does add yet another set of stressors, so I've leaned away from it in the past when all else was pretty much equal.  Internal transfers are often less stressful, so you might want to try for an internal move rather than external.

An alternative might be to get some big duty off your plate for now, to lower your stress -- with or without a leave or temporarily reduced hours.  This needs an understanding boss, contact with a well-informed benefits person in your HR office, and a reasonably accepting culture.  Can you bring in two of your directs to start acting as deputies for you, delegating to them and training them up to help cover for rough weeks and sudden absences?

On the home front, you and/or hubby can start stocking the freezer with home-cooked meals.  Those made life easier when my wife was on bed-rest (to prevent early labor) on our last daughter.

whitebert's picture
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First, thank you to the public and private response I received. I am posting an update to my situation in case it benefits anyone in the future.

I did change jobs and took a more senior position in a smaller organization. Interviews were from the hospital parking lot or in between work and hospital. I was offered and accepted and have had much reduced (work) stress since as the fit is ideal.

I did not inform the company of my situation; rather, after I had an offer I let the recruiter know of a serious family health issue before I accepted. They wanted to know if I could still do the job and I said yes. I worked very hard (and still do), and have taken only a half-day off in the last three months despite having my child hospitalized intermittently for 60 days out of that period. 

My teen was instrumental in my decision. They knew that I would have to work very consistently as I would lose my reputation and have to rebuild it, knew I would lose FMLA, vacation accrual, etc. 

On the insurance front (US), I learned a few things: one is that companies of size have gap insurance. I did not accept the offer until I had verified that as I was concerned about "breaking" their self-insured healthcare plan. Further, I learned that all major health plans cannot exclude pre-existing conditions. We have had few issues with the transition. 

I have spent my entire life saving for a rainy day. This cancer is unaffordable - I do recommend having savings as I didn't expect this to happen to us, either, and I'd be in a blind panic without that cushion.

P.S. if you have a friend or colleague in need, I suggest you freeze dinners ahead, as suggested above, and tell them you will drop them off when their freezer isn't full. Our care is so intense that we never know if we're throwing away food because we left quickly or need to buy food because we're suddenly home. Tell them you're coming to do laundry, run errands, execise the dog, or clean - it's very hard for formerly independent people to be so reliant on help. If you ask, they may decline. I am writing from the hospital.