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Keeping diagnosis private at work

20 REPLIES 20
dennymac
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

I am just reading this thread and am utterly appalled at how you have been treated! This is ILLEGAL and as people with cancer are covered by the Equality Act.  I am also hoping you are ok as I see you havent been on for a while and people are worried xx

lex
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

hi i to wanted to keep my diagnosis private but my manager asked me what would i say when i lose my hair or couldn,t get to work because of the chemo as i never had tme off think hard before you decide as you are going to need all the support you can get good luck x
Anna_BCC
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi Everyone

 

Thank you for highlighting your concern about another user, Dorsoduro.  We really appreciate the care you are all showing towards each other.

 

As I am sure you can all appreciate we don't discuss individual users with anyone, but rest assured we have listened to your worries.

 

Best wishes
Anna
Digital Community Officer

missmore
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

Thanks gilly, hopefully worried about nowt!x
Butterfly318
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

Dear Sheena

 

Thankyou for this post.  I too have been a bit concerned.  Looking back through the posts Dorsoduro was diagnosed in January this year and hasn't commenced any treatment to date. I know ultimately we are all able to make our own decisions (good and bad) but it doesn't feel like she is doing.

 

Hopefully the BCC Moderators will be able to offer her some support.

 

Take Care Gilly x  

missmore
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi janet (bbc moderator)
I'm quite distressed reading this and wondered if anyone has been able to contact this lady dorsoduro?
The other ladies here had also tried to point her in the right direction but she has just vanished
not sure if anything can be done but it is a worry
thanks
sheena
Butterfly318
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi there Kathleen.

 

Definately concerning the way Dosudora's work are behaving.  I can't see any posts from her since the one on 8/7/2015.  I think in an earlier post she had seen a lawyer.

 

Gilly x  

Kathleen289
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi Gilly
Misread the post was so angry that any employer would treat a staff member in that way . I will check to see if Dorsoduro has been back on the forum
Take care kathleen
Butterfly318
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Dear Kathleen

 

Thankyou for your message but it is Dorsoduro that is truggling to start treatment and hasn't been back on forum since 8/7/72015.  Sounds like she is having a really difficult time and employers are innapropriate and intrusive from what she is saying.  I will keep logging on to see if she has been able to start treatment.

 

Take Care  Gilly x

Kathleen289
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Dear Butterfly 318
I would contact an employment lawyer ,it could construed as a potential case of constructive dismissal . Time is of the essence with regard to starting treatment after initial diagnose ,I can't not believe that it had been 7 months and you have had not treatment yet due to you employer ,
Butterfly318
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Dear Dorsoduro

 

I am still struggling to understand some things.

 

We are in July and you were diagnosed in January.   You need to start treatment.  As Jax has said if you are in the UK and eligible you should be treated on the NHS.

 

Your Employers can not dictate where you are treated,  Why would they say the Surgeon butchers people, yes clearly some surgeons are better than others but all NHS trained staff are competent to some level.

 

It sounds like your work situation is really difficult and cycling 4 hours must be a nightmare but you need to speak with your Oncologist / Surgeon and agree a treatment plan.

 

Good Luck and i hope you are able to get on with treatment soon.  Take Care  Gilly x

Jax2000
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi,
Are you in the UK? If so I would suggest you start treatment under the NHS which is brilliant and 'independent' from your employer (unless you work for them of course!). But regardless they cannot share information without your consent.
Another question, do you currently have income protection policy which you can activate now if necessary?
Dorsoduro
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi,

No I haven't started treatment yet. Initially my employer said they wanted 3 months' notice (i.e. they expected me to resign to get treatment - and my notice period is 1 month only so they really exaggerate). They have also been saying over and over again that I don't have cancer, 'they' must have made a mistake etc. They have also told me over and over again that if I wanted to have treatment, it had to be at the weekend or during my holidays, and that I could not have chemo or radiation as I would have too many absences. I also had to find a treatment centre as the hospital where I was initially diagnosed was too small and the surgeon has a bad record (I didn't know about it at the time but she butchers patients...).

I had planned to start treatment in June and had booked a week off (using my holiday allowance) but my medical cover won't start until 1st August and at the time I was still trying to get on the housing ladder. Now it looks I may have to rent. In the meantime my employers moved to a place which is not commutable by public transport (today left work at 17:30 and only got home at 21:30 - cycling...) so I feel completely washed out. They told me I had to relocate closer to work, but my rent would go up by 66%. The area where they work is very hilly too and I am concerned getting around will be an issue if I develop heart failure. I have really nice neighbours where I live now and I am keen to stay in the area as I may have to depend on them for supermarket shopping, cooking, doing the laundromat run etc.

I don't know how 'independent' doctors are in the UK, but I am starting to get worried that my employers might use their connections to dictate a diagnosis (and treatment) of their choice to the small local hospital where they absolutely want me to go (I have chosen a big cancer centre abroad). My employers insist I have a double mastectomy ('this way you won't have to worry about your breasts any more') and no systemic treatment, but it looks like I may very well need systemic treatment. On top of it, they want me to have an ovarectomy, but my cells are probably ER - !

Anyway I called a lawyer today. Turns out they are the very people who are advising my employers (to help them fire me). I am really, really worried. I think I will have to end up not having any treatment at all: I don't fancy acquiring resistant cancer cells. Looking for another job is not an option as I won't have the time to wait a minimum of 1 year for an income protection policy to come into place, plus another employer might use a provider which uses underwriting, in which case cancer will be an excluded condition. I think it might even be excluded anyway as I already have a diagnosis. I am completely at a loss what to do.

At least I managed to get MRIs done so my doctors will have a little more information to mull over. It really isn't straightforward though: my usual radiologist (who is an alll rounder) told me to go back to the cancer centre for future scans as he feels he doesn't have the necessary expertise, whereas the radiologist there spends his whole day looking at bc as they don't do screening, they only work on patients who have or have had bc.

Thank you for your time and advice, much appreciated.

Butterfly318
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Dear Dorsoduro

 

I am a bit like Jax,   confused.     Surely you must have started treatment by now, have you been refusing treatment so far trying to make a plan with work.....

 

Also  'Work is Work'..... Why have you previously worked until 10 - 11pm far more time than you should have.... lots of the boundaries with staff members are blurred  (It sounds like some of the staff are family and friends with each other) but everybody having too much input into each others lives....

 

Interestingly you talk about seeing a Shrink  (ouch) and being cross with people who have treatment for DCIS and claiming to be Breast Cancer Survivors also about telling some colleagues so they will know you have a genuine illness rather than a Psychiatric one.  Can't work out who it was said you were depressed,  you don't get depressed or stressed for one week but with all you've got going on it is a very real possibility that this may happen.

 

Please do not discuss all your life and your business with these people, i'm not sure if you are trying to be accomodating by consulting them / making a plan etc but the impact of Breast Cancer will be felt by all, (mostly by you) including your work but that is life.  As you say other people have Maternity leave, 4.1/2 months off with a Psychiatric illness.   Your Manager and HR need to know what your current diagnosis and treatment plan and you need to get on with that treatment plan and ask your GP for a Fit Note.  Also please ask the Macmillan Team at your hospital for support.  Jax has given some really clear advise re. Shelter etc who can help support you.

 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but i can't help thinking when you have done with your treatment and feeling strong enough a new job may be a positive thing to aim for.

 

Dorsoduro  please keep posting so we know how you are doing with the treatment.  Please take care of yourself and ask for all the help you can.

 

Take Care   Gilly x   

Jax2000
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi,

No apologies needed for your rant....sometimes it is very necessary!

I am slightly confused

1) Have you had any treatment yet? Your initial posting was back I in Jan so I assume you would have had surgery or started chemo if needed. If so how much time have you had off and how did your employer respond to this

2) Is your employer still disputing your dx? If so can you provide them with a letter from your GP or Oncologist and ask them to write this in plain English?

3) Have you provided your employer with the link to or a copy of the McMillan brochure. Your rights and their responsibilities are clearly documented there

4) I would advise you to contact Shelter re your housing issues. You also have protection under the law under Disability Equality Act 2010.

5) Do you have anyone, ideally, locally who can offer you support during this difficult time?

It is clear that you want (or need) to keep your job. However the current situatio is having a considerate an unnecessary adverse effect on your health and well-being. I would suggest that you get all the advice you need. And perhaps to discuss the impact of this on your health with your GP so you get any additional medical support or time off work that you need.

Good luck.
Dorsoduro
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Thanks Jax.

I have shown my employer the biopsy reports but he keeps insisting 'they must have made a mistake' and 'you do not look like you have cancer', and even: 'it doesn' say cancer here, all it says is you have is a carcinoma'!!!

I had a formal meeting in May when my employer gave me the choice between resignation or a disciplinary procedure:

  • I am using my holiday allowance for scans and consultant appointments (although I still have 6 days left, and some of my colleagues have used all their holiday allowance by June). HR claims my 'absenteeism' is causing disruptions in the office as people wonder why I come and go all the time, and it increases their workload as they have to cover for me (one of the ladies who has been complaining just came back after taking a week off, another one is going away for 2 weeks soon).
  • my colleagues do not like me, and they 'need' to know I have cancer.
  • I have to change my lifestyle, i.e. move to new rental accommodation closer to their new offices (in the middle of the fields... I am actually getting a tent and am going to start staying at camping places nearby a couple of times a week, until I have a driving licence and a car - renting in the town near their offices would cost me at least £200 more each month, so it is not an option), stop going to the gym (already done), stop going to the physio (not an option, especially now that I can no longer go to the gym and the swimming pool and am spending several more hours in transport every day - however I am going to start looking for a physio in the town near their offices, it is just going to cost me £10-£20 more each time) and start eating the same thing as the others (bacon sandwiches, tea with sugar and milk, biscuits etc.). I get diarrhea because of the stress (and because I've stopped going to the gym, so slowed down intestinal transit, constipation, bloating etc.) and HR claims it is because I eat too much vegs.

I was extremely upset after those 2 meetings (2 of them, 2 days running), especially as the day before I had seen a consultant (2nd opinion) who had yelled me that my cancer was probably invasive and had probably already spread to the lymph nodes etc. - he wanted to do a MRI the next day and operate a couple of days later... My GP signed me off for a couple of weeks for stress (which I used to pack my belongings in cartons as my landlady is going to give me notice any time soon). HR told my colleagues I was suffering from depression... So now I have to put up with the jokes about mental heallth issues etc. HR told me that if I insisted on taking several months off for chemo (he won't allow me to work from home), he would have to make up an excuse saying I am undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Anyway, one of my colleagues who is sympathetic (but doesn't want to lose her job) knows I have cancer, I am going to tell another one, and I emailed 2 other people, explaining I had a genuine disease and it was not psychiatric (I guess they can read between the lines and understand it is cancer).

I had another formal meeting with HR last week and at one point he made a lapsus and told me 'we have been having formal meetings for one year now'. Huh, no, first one was one month ago! What happened over one year ago is that I passed a qualification, they had refused to fund it on the grounds it would be too difficult for me, and one of the directors (never mentioned at any of the formal meetings when I know this is coming from him) was absolutely incensed as I was now as qualified as he is, and as they keep promoting people who are less qualified and less experienced than me, it does not make them look very good.

After the meeting last week, HR took a call from what I think is an employment lawyer: his office is right next to my desk and he closed the door so that I could not hear the conversation but I have very good hearing and he was discussing the meeting he just had with me... He was particularly annoyed about the fact that I am keeping a spreadsheet with the time I come in to work and leave work every day (also showing when I leave home and get back home). I do work less hours since the office move: I used to stay until 10pm-11pm and have only been able to stay until 9:20pm as it takes me 2 hours and a half to get home, and the country road where I have to walk then wait for the bus is an accident spot. However I am still doing my contractual hours and a little more. I am going to start making compliments to every single one of my colleagues every day, and keep a spreadsheet of that too. HR actually suggested I go to them and 'have a rant' about life, clients, providers etc. but I am sure this is a trick to  help build a case saying I am an extremely negative person, suffering from depression etc. So I am just going to make up lies about how pretty people's clothes are, or how healthy their sandwiches look like, or how lucky they are to go on holiday etc. Unfortunately, I can't really discuss methylation with them: when I started, I tried to discuss environmental issues (pollution at sea) which I had been reading about, and got flagged for 'trying to impress others with my knowledge'! As if they didn't spend most of their days bragging about themselves...

 

What I am also absolutely fed up about as well is the scores of people who have had DCIS and describe themselves as 'breast cancer survivors', when their DCIS could have remained dormant throughout their lifetime (no reduction to life expectancy). So HR keeps insisting all I need to do is have the breasts removed and then there will be no need for any further treatment or check-ups. There definitely will in my case. I can't get him to understand that 'breast cancer' is an umbrella term and DCIS isn't the only diagnosis! Or rather, as CAB told me: he understands very well, but it is inconvenient for him to let me have treatment, so he is trying to make me resign/build a case to fire me. He also started interviewing people to replace me last month, as he wants to 'be prepared' if I leave! He is offering them permanent contracts... I think the only way I can keep my job is not to have any treatment at all. I don't have the time and energy for a dispute, especially as I already have a family dispute on the go, and because of my pending housemove, I am living in the middle of cartons and suitcases. Don't even have the time to go the laundromat or the supermarket (or cook) because of the commute!

Sorry for the length of the rant, really needed to let off steam!

Jax2000
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi, I don't normally go onto this thread so have just seen your posts. And I am absolutely appalled by the attitude of your employer and by how you have been treated. I do not know how long you have been working at your company but regardless I am sure you have rights under various legislation I so please do ensure your read the suggested links. If any employer shared personal information about me without my consent I would ensure that I obtained legal advice so that they could be brought to task as that is not acceptable, and no doubt not legal hence the reason why we specifically need to give consent for medical information to be shared. Also you say your employer does not believe you have cancer...are you able to provide them with medical evidence from your GP or Oncologist if you have not already done so? Have you begun your treatment? Wishing you all the best and hoping you have friends and family who are able to provide support.
Janet_BCC
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi Dorsoduro

 

I am so sorry to read of your situation and problems with work.  The Macmillan site has lots of useful information about finances, your rights at work etc.  I've attached a link for you:

 

http://be.macmillan.org.uk/be/Funnelback/search.aspx?query=your+rights+at+work

 

I do hope you manage to get some information and support.

 

Very best wishes

 

Janet

BCC Moderator

Dorsoduro
Member

Re: Legal advice - Keeping diagnosis private at work

I have been seeing a shrink for several months now: she specializes in dealing with young people who are terminally ill. I do also read and reread books about death, physical pain, regrets etc. I don't need to spend more time talking about that, especially all the things I never got to do in life (getting married, having children... never even had a boyfriend: the only people who will have seen my breasts are doctors!). I'd rather keep some spare time to get and do some of those things.

I do have more and more issues at work. HR disputes the fact I have cancer and don't want me to go on sickness leave: they insist I have 'treatment' during my holidays and they definitely don't want me to have radiation therapy or chemo as I would be off work for too long!!! I didn't choose to have cancer, and they definitely don't have a say in what treatment I get! They say that if I want to get treatment that takes more than a couple of days I'll have to resign. This at the time when one of my colleagues after another is going on maternity leave etc.

The very idea of using my 'holidays' to have a mastectomy, sentinel node biopsy etc. is also extremely shocking to me: I'm still in pain from the biopsy (including armpit) and the mammogram, which didn't feel like a holiday at all. I was so shell-shocked after spending half a day in hospital that I climbed into the wrong bus, and only came out of my reverie after 20 minutes, when I found myself in a totally unknown town! Had to get off and find another stop with a bus going back (30 minutes wait). How am I going to cope after real surgery? At least, as long as those breasts hurt, I know they're still there, but I don't think I'll get to keep them that long, and that's going to be difficult to adjust to.

Is there any way I can keep my job open while undergoing treatment? I do need the income to pay my PMI as I am going private. Have looked into self-funding and definitely not possible. HR won't even discuss working from home, even though I am not a slacker and they've done it for other people in the past.

Jo_BCC
Member

Re: Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hi Dorsoduro

 

You do seem to be having a lot to deal with at work which I am sure can't be helping you cope with your situation.  Could I suggest that you give our helpline team a ring and talk to them about what is happening, they're here to support you both practically and emotionally through this.  Calls are free from landlines and most mobiles 0808 800 6000 lines open again on Monday morning at 9am - 5pm (weekdays) and 10-2 Saturdays.

 

I have also put you the link to an article in BCC's Vita magazine which you might find helpful

 

http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/news/vita-magazine/going-back-work-after-treatment

 

Take care,

Jo, Moderator

Dorsoduro
Member

Keeping diagnosis private at work

Hello,

I told HR and my line manager about my diagnosis earlier this month, as I will need to take time off for scans, surgery (possibly several rounds: because of my type of cancer I might end up with positive margins, and then resection/mastectomy), and probably radiotherapy.

They were not very pleased and since then have been trying to imply, either that it was a preexisting condition and that I hid from them that I had breast cancer when I was hired, or that I was 'faking' (you know, I just woke up and decided it would be fun to have a mastectomy). I also get comments in the line of 'with all your problems you are not going to be able to concentrate' and 'I think you should take some time off'. Problem is, I am single and renting (and my landlord doesn't accept housing benefits), with no one to support me financially (not even parents or uncles or aunts) so I need to continue earning. I don't want a gap in my CV either.

I have had issues with bullying in that company since I was hired, and although I have complained multiple times, HR have always refused to do anything about it: the people who are doing the bullying are family friends of the directors. When I told HR about my diagnosis I asked them to keep it 'mums' but they are now saying they 'need to' tell it to my colleagues, that if I take time off work to have treatment people will need an explanation (ah! one of the bulliers took 4 1/2 months in 2014 due to mental health issues, her condition was not divulged around the office). They are basically giving me the choice between 1)staying in the company while I get treatment, but they will tell everyone about it; 2)resigning to keep my condition secret. And of course, as far as HR are concerned, there is the 'option' for me to do nothing, but my GP and oncologist stressed most emphatically that I had to get surgery asap.

I suffered from sciatica in 2013 and 2014, for several months at a time, and my colleagues were absolutely gloating. I was even told I was faking it as 1)I didn't go on sickness leave; 2)I didn't want morphine or tramadol; 3)I didn't want an operation. I can just imagine what they would act like with me having a BC diagnosis: I have already had to put up with the gossip that 'women who have large breasts but are thin must have breast implants: they'll get cancer' and 'women who have large breasts may think it's a blessing but they'll end up with breast cancer' (I have large breasts - runs in the family!). On Breast Cancer 'support' day, they all spend the day gossiping about women they know who they didn't like and who got BC etc. So I don't want them to know. I can use the excuse of a back operation to explain my absence during surgery & radiotherapy: they were so keen on me having a back operation anyway!

Is there a law which I can use to ban my employer from disclosing the diagnosis? I really think this is a huge invasion of my privacy and I don't want to be 'used' for their PR stuff, especially considering how little unsupportive they've been so far.

Thanks in advance.