Help for cancer patients with Gilda's Club Westchester

June 28, 2009 7:25:17 AM PDT
Cancer is often a disease that lasts a long time and people may be treated for it for many years. During that time, it takes a toll both emotionally and physically on the patient and their loved ones. Donna Fishman, the Chief Executive Officer at Gilda's Club Westchester, joined us with the help available for those living with cancer. What is the philosophy at Gilda's Club Westchester about whether to work following a cancer diagnosis?
Similar to our overall Gilda's Club philosophy of "live one's life." We always emphasize the importance of continuing to do what you enjoy, what challenges and interests you, as well as to surround yourself with people who are supportive and who care.

When would it be advisable to talk to your employer and co-workers about your illness?
Telling your boss is not mandatory and is completely your choice. However, telling your boss may actually protect you in the long-run as one-in-four cancer survivors say they had been confronted with discriminatory behavior in the workplace, and that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects you only if you've made your employer aware of your disease.

Is it advisable to work during treatment or is rest more beneficial?
It is very positive to continue to live your life normally, but don't forget to take care of yourself. You may need to plan to take small breaks during the day to help you maintain your energy level.

What is the most important advice you can give someone who is planning to return to work while treating their illness?
Don't try to hide or be at all ashamed of your illness! According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, "you are entitled to reasonable accommodations, as long as you are able to do your job. As a cancer survivor, your most important job is a healthy recovery. With the right information and support, returning to the workplace can be an important and positive step in that recovery."

Where can people go to get more information?
There is no better resource than listening to someone who has been through the same situation to give you a way to approach a new challenge. Our members themselves, often have the best advice based upon their own experiences. In addition to the workshops, the support programs and activities at Gilda's Club Westchester are specifically designed to develop a balance that makes going back to work a very positive step. You can call 914-644-8844, or visit our website at