Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Understanding The Long Term Cancer Survivor

These are facts. A diagnosis of cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence in most cases. Cancer patients who reach remission, often live longer than five years (a survivor mark established by medicine and hoped for by patients). Treatments used long ago were never fully researched for long term side effects for patients who lived longer than those five years. Once these late effects were discovered, medicine still did not educate doctors, current and future, about late effects leaving millions of cancer survivors to struggle to receive care for mysterious ailments that did not coincide with their age or circumstance.

This is opinion. Once a cancer survivor is recognized with having to deal with late side effects, it is often difficult to convince family members that the effects are real, and irreversible. Employers often look at survivors who complain about their discomforts as simply trying to get out of work. Worse yet, those employers with their own disability management department often argue that an absence, due to those late effects cannot possibly be proven that the two are related in an attempt to reprimand the employee.

These are just a few of the circumstances that I have come across where people just do not get, what it means to be a cancer survivor and have to deal with the treatment side effects that cured us, now hinder, cripple, or kill us. But just when I thought I had dealt with all areas of my life with this issue, another hit came from another direction.

Earlier this week, I had a hearing pertaining to my divorce in regards to support. I am not going into the details of the hearing other than to express yet another example of how society is not yet ready or able to recognize those of us who have been fortunate to beat cancer, and live a long productive life.

During the hearing, the Master (taking the role of the judge for this hearing) was questioning my current absence from work and instead turned it around into why I was leaving my job. There are several circumstances with this issue. For the last many years, I have had several restrictions placed to protect my health in the workplace. And with the backing of the American With Disabilities Act, my employer not only had to, but was willing to meet and honor those restrictions because there was a job assignment that I was able to complete on a daily basis. And I have been doing that job for many years without any issue.

This year however, as many corporations are known to do, my employer decided to close the building that I work in. As this process takes place, work inside my building has dwindled leading to the elimination of the job I have been doing. Instead now, I am placed into a general work assignment pool, where my restrictions now affect my position, leaving me basically unable to do more than 90% of the work. This is not my choice and I had to convince the jurist of this, along with the fact that my medical issues of survival are not only very real, but also severe in nature, and not reversible. My attorney then handed the jurist about ten pages of my medical history as evidence of my health issues. I am not sure how well that will go since many medical practitioners do not understand the health of a long term cancer survivor, how will a jurist? But that is exactly who will decide my fate.

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