A woman holding her resume out in an interview

Should You Tell an Employer About Your Condition?

Last updated: January 2022

It’s always difficult to know what you should and should not reveal about your blood cancer to prospective employers or even at the job where you’ve been for a while. My experience over the past seven years with chronic myeloid leukemia has been all over the place in this regard.

Several years ago, I had to tell my editor at the newspaper where I worked what was going on in order to take some time off. I was dealing with a lot of tests to see if I had a second cancer, which thankfully I did not. My other employers, or clients (I'm a freelancer) don't know.

Most recently, I find myself once again in job search mode and at a point in the interviews where I am close to receiving an offer. In my particular case, I chose to reveal my condition to an employer where I have been a contractor for part of this year. During my tenure, it has never had to come up because I was “temporary,” and working remotely. I was able to schedule appointments on my day off or in the early morning hours so as not to interfere with my schedule. When I was called upon to attend remote work meetings, I slapped on my “I’m fine,” face and kept calm and carried on, as they say.

Coming clean

A position opened at this company and I applied for it. At the end of one of the interviews, I decided it was time to come clean. With the mobility issues I have, not to mention a nearly 20-year-old car, COVID-19 dangers, and more, I would not be able to commute and commit to being an in-person office employee. The remote option would continue, fingers crossed.

So, I wanted them to understand the full picture in order to make an informed decision. Of course, everyone was surprised and nice about it, but I’m not going to let it interfere with what I’m doing here or at any other workplace I may land in the future. Or at least, that’s the plan. That’s one of many job possibilities I’m looking into. While filling out the standard form, I’ve also decided this year to check off that I have a disability. Because I do. And I’m not ashamed—because why the heck should I be?

Blood cancer, cancer in general, is no joke. It does a number on your mind and body. There are going to be days where it is impossible for you to get out of bed, where you are suffering from terrible fatigue and pain and other side effects. Other days you will have to call out sick and I would hope the employer, whoever and wherever it is, is understanding.

It may not always be the case. I suspect there will come a time, who knows when, when I can no longer work at all. Being a journalist, there are opportunities that have flexible schedules and where you can work remotely.

I understand that is not always the case in other fields.

Questions for you

So, tell me, have you spoken to your boss about your blood cancer? If you are in job search mode like me, when do you think is the time, if ever, when you should reveal that you are living with blood cancer?

For those of you who stopped working, was it a difficult decision? What was the deciding factor for you? And finally, do you check off that “disability,” box when filling out those demographic reports? Why or why not?

I know that’s a lot of questions, but I’d love to hear your feedback.

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