Living with and Surviving Cancer

Being a survivor of cancer means that you have a lot more to endure than just having had cancer at a point during your life. Apart from everything that is directly associated with cancer, such as the illness itself, its treatment, the physical condition of the patient and the cure, there are also various other important aspects involved. These include the emotional well-being of the patients, the effect of the disease on relationships, social activities, employment and finances. All of these aspects are collectively known as the psycho-social issues associated with surviving cancer[1].

Healthy grandfather and children

Effects of cancer on a person’s life:

Perhaps one of the biggest worries that people have when they are diagnosed with cancer is how the disease will affect their daily routine and employment. Living in the United States of America there are about 3.8 million people of working age who have a history of some kind of cancer.  They have to deal with this issue every day. It is a known fact that cancer has the potential to hinder, obstruct and affect the normal routine of a person and can also restrict their ability to get things done. This can especially place employment in jeopardy. It is even more difficult for patients to work when they start receiving their cancer treatment, or immediately after they have received the treatment therapies.

20% of all people who have been diagnosed with cancer face limitations and difficulties related to work,  for at least three years after they have received their treatment. It is also a fact that there have been many cases of workplace discrimination based on the health of a person especially if there is a history of cancer. Some of the most common problems faced by cancer patients or survivors at workplaces include failure of getting hired, being  denied their rightful promotions, getting dismissed, denial of benefits, hostility and undesirable transfers.

How you can safeguard your rights:

In many countries around the world, and in the United States of America, people now have the advantage of being covered by special laws known as “employment discrimination laws”. The ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensures that all individuals having any kind of disability are protected by the federal law at workplaces in America. Apart from this, each state of the country has a law which to some extent is responsible for the regulation of all disability based discriminations. There is a law by the federal government that was especially created for cancer survivors and their families, and this is known as the FMLA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act. In this law, the employer is responsible for providing up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave ensuring job protection to the members of a family whose children, spouses or parents may be suffering from any health condition or illness.

Insurance issues:

Another complicated issue that comes with being diagnosed with a disease as serious as cancer is acquiring health insurance and taking care of all the medical bills for the treatment and medication required for the cure. While they are being treated for cancer, patients should remain in contact with their insurance providers in order to ensure that they are getting the complete health coverage that their policy entitles them to. All patients who do not have health and life insurance should seek out information about getting a suitable insurance policy that can cover their treatment needs. Health insurance is a good way for patients to make sure that their medical costs are covered so that their families are not over burdened with medical bills.

Who can help?

There are a number of pharmaceutical companies that provide aid in the form of finances and medication to cancer patients. Along with pharmaceutical companies, there are numerous foundations and organizations that have been established especially for the purpose of helping cancer patients in need. These foundations provide patients with the means necessary to get the treatment that they need to get in order to combat the disease. These organizations take care of both the medical and the non-medical needs and requirements of patients, making the financial burden much easier to manage. The patients must be informed about the importance of acquiring health and life insurances during their treatment because it might be difficult to get a good policy once the treatment has been completed. There are a few state and federal laws that protect the rights of cancer patients, but it should be emphasized that these laws may or may not be comprehensive. Therefore, it is particularly valuable to educate cancer patients about insurance policies and why it is essential to obtain one.

People can avoid serious problems associated with insurance and employment if they possess complete knowledge about all the legal rights of people diagnosed with cancer. Apart from acquiring the necessary information about the insurance issues on an individual basis, patients can also get comprehensive information from social workers dedicated to assisting cancer patients with legal issues. The government has several websites that can be accessed to find out more information.


Further Resources:

Coleman, C. Norman. 2006. Understanding Cancer: A Patient’s Guide to  Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Treatment. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

A professor of radiation oncology from Harvard Medical School guides  patients through the decision-making process right after diagnosis and through the illness. Describing and explaining the various diagnostic tests and treatment options available, the book’s purpose is to help patients evaluate risks and benefits and make decisions together with their doctors. Checklists and case studies help to illustrate how cancer patients can play an active role in determining their own treatment plan.

Harpham, Wendy Schlessel. 2003. Diagnosis, Cancer: Your Guide to the First  Months of Hea/thy Survivorship. Exp. and updated ed. NewYork: Norton.

The author, a physician and a cancer survivor, offers advice and guidance  for newly diagnosed patients. The chapters focus on understanding the diagnosis, making the best treatment decisions, managing practical problems,  and using the medical system, as well as information on the emotional adjustment and insights for healthy survivorship. Useful appendixes  include tips for being an effective patient, resources for newly diagnosed patients, and explanations of commonly ordered tests.

Silver, J. K. 2006. After Cancer Treatment: Hea/ Faster, Better, Stronger.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

This is a guidebook for people who completed cancer treatment. The author is a psychiatrist who directs a cancer support program and a breast cancer survivor herself. This book outlines her plan for a post-cancer life, addressing medical and mental issues of survivorship, including nutrition, exercise, fatigue, pain, spirituality, and emotional well-being. The author provides a detailed and specific health plan that helps redefine life after cancer treatment.

Teeley, Peter, and Philip Bashe. 2005. The Complete Cancer Survival Guide: The Most Comprehensive, Up-to-Date Guide for Patients and Their Families; With Advice from Dozens of Leading Cancer Specialists at More than ’30 Major Cancer Centers. Rev. and updated ed. NewYork: Broadway Books.

This comprehensive book offers detailed guidance based on interviews with cancer specialists from top cancer centers. The text covers the 25 most common forms of cancer, including diagnosis and staging, what to expect during treatment, and how to take control of symptoms, side effects, and complications. Suggestions on coping with the emotional impact of cancer; getting help from family, friends, and healthcare professionals; handling insurance; finances; and employment issues also are included. Graphical elements such as tables, lists, illustrations, and sidebars  help readers navigate through the thousand-page volume.



This article was originally published on 7/12/2014 and last revision and update of it was 9/14/2015.