Cancer and the Workplace

Debbie Hamilton

CANCER - talk about killing a conversation in one quick second. When you get the diagnosis, at first you think they are wrong. It was someone else’s results. The surgery was supposed to have taken care of everything. I can’t handle this, I have too much to do, my life is in chaos already. And then, what is going to happen at work, can I keep my job? We all know the health care situation right now, being without insurance is not an option.  

As many of you might already know, this has happened to me. Fortunately, I work with the BEST agency in town. They have been more than accommodating with my weekly doctor’s appointments, labs and chemo treatment (followed by radiation and then chemo again). They are allowing for an alternate work schedule of sorts, allowing for a 7-day work week to achieve my required 40 hour week. But my COO has gone one step further and started a fundraiser for my out of pocket medical expenses.This is a beginning of a long fight (journey) that I will be living with for at least the next 5 years.  

Now the challenge for me has been to not let anyone down at work as they have been so wonderful. I am the Media Buying Director at Texas Creative and handle most of the traditional media plans and buying within the agency. It is a job that I love and have a strong passion about. My first priority has always been and will always be my clients. To get the best for your money and making sure that it delivers RESULTS is what I strive for. Some agencies plan the buys, place them and forget them until it comes time for client invoicing. Texas Creative is NOT one of those agencies. We plan, place, track and post everything we do in order to ensure that we exceed client expectations. This is MY JOB and MY PASSION. Now cancer might slow me down (and make me a bit hair-challenged these days) but I will continue to make sure that what you are promised is what is received.

Take it from me, there are many things that are meaningful to a co-worker facing the uncertainty of a serious illness. Here's a starter list for any business looking for ways to support their valued employees:

  1. Help them navigate the medical insurance minefield.
  2. Hold a 'vacation' donation drive where co-workers can offer PTO to stretch the time off WITH pay.
  3. Offer a flexible work schedule to adjust for those 'bad days', that are inevitable.
  4. Start and manage a fundraiser for unmet medical expenses; co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles and premium payments.
  5. Organizing a friend/co-worker home meals delivery schedule is nurturing to the soul, particularly after a surgery.
  6. Put together a chemo care bag with goodies, hand sanitizer, books and magazines, a cozy blanket, skin lotion and snacks.
  7. Teamwork support to help check, verify and correct the chemo brain that sometimes creeps in.
  8. Put together a 'well wishes' box and have the office family and their kids send in notes, cards and pictures that one can dive into when feeling down.
  9. Talk positively about my journey, give me hope, hold back the horror stories and know that I have a great medical team of professionals guiding my treatment plan.
  10. Smile with compassion and ask "is today a good day?" and understand when I say no that I love that you have asked and that I know I will feel better soon. Asking makes me feel cared for.

Please leave a comment regarding this blog or share a memorable experience about your passion and how a health scare has made a difference to you.

Also, please allow me to toot a horn for my immediate medical team during this cancer journey.  Couldn't do it without these extremely talented and caring people. 

Texas Oncology’s staff has to be the most professional, caring, wonderful people I have had the good fortune to meet. Their calm, matter-of-fact demeanor has helped me through more than one of my trying times.  

Thrivewell, (who Texas Creative is fortunate to call a client) is a wonderful non-profit organization here in San Antonio. They offer support, classes, financial aid plus transportation to those facing a cancer diagnosis. Most definitely a “friend” in a time when they are  most needed.

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