Saturday, 17 May 2008

Earning a living with cancer

Breast Cancer Care's latest policy campaign, relating to employment and breast cancer, got me thinking about my own employment history with the disease. 

Strictly speaking, I wasn't technically employed when I was diagnosed, but I was self-employed and thus reliant on a number of part-time and short term contracts to keep me going - a tall order, always, for a lone parent with zero maintenance and a dependent child to support. Thanks to clever investment planning - not my cleverness, it has to be said, because I am a disaster when it comes to money, I had the right sort of insurance policy (thank you, Chris Davies of Newquay Investment Services who directed me to lifecare with Axa Equity and Law) which paid out within three weeks of my consultant sending in all the gory confirmations. This meant that I could jettison most of my jobs and pay off my house and still remain life-insured at a comfortable premium of thirteen pounds a month. At that time (three years ago), I thought I might not last long and I wanted both to see the colour of the insurance money and spend what I thought may be my last few years taking it VERY easy and enjoying myself.

But I survived, and this year, I have had to address the question that I might, just might, still have ten or more employment years ahead of me. I've never concealed the fact I have breast cancer, and it's been good to see that previous contractors are still willing to recontract me. This could, of course, be because the contracts are short term or part time - or that I have managed somehow, over the years, to make myself a sought-after commodity in certain education circles!  I have no idea what it is like for those seeking full time work in my position. But I suspect it can be tricky, which is why the Breast Cancer employment campaign is worth supporting. This issue doesn't just affect women (and men) with breast cancer - it affects anyone experiencing a chronic or life limiting/threatening condition. We need to stand up and be counted. WE AREN'T DEAD YET! We can still count!



Breast Cancer Care are launching a new campaign in May and June relating to best practice in the workplace for employees with breast cancer. The link is at