Receiving a cancer diagnosis and dealing with treatment is traumatic enough but when your employer is less than sympathetic, then it can be hard to know where to turn or know what your rights at work are.
That’s where Beatson Cancer Charity’s Specialist Health and Work Service can help. Here Kirsteen, who experienced difficulties at work during her cancer treatment, explains how the advice and support she received from the service helped here resolve her work issues.
“In early 2016 I was experiencing lots of colds and flus which I never usually got. Not long after, in May 2016, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.
I was then referred for treatment to The Beatson where I became an inpatient in ward B7 for five week periods at a time. I would quite often go to the Wellbeing Centre as the ward was right across from it and the centre gave me somewhere to relax and get away from all the beeping of the machines and the clinical environment.
While in hospital, I was having issues with my employer. I was obviously worried about the impact of my treatment on my ability to work but my employer was less than supportive and communications with them became difficult and distressing. I had been working with a bank for about nine months and due to sick leave prior to my diagnosis, I had already been put on half pay by the time I was admitted to the Beatson. A couple of weeks into my treatment they then reduced me to no pay and cut my holiday entitlement to the statutory minimum.
One day following a phone call with my employer I mentioned some of the issues I was having to some of the staff in the Wellbeing Centre and they recommended that I talk to the Specialist Health and Work Service. I met Donna and with her help and advice on the Equality at Work Act I was more confident about my rights and able to contact my employer. The support I received from the service was invaluable. Donna would regularly be in touch to see how I was getting on and provide me with support, considering I wasn’t getting very much from my employer.
When I was nearing the end of my treatment and preparing to return to work, my position was made redundant, and although I was offered some other positions, I decided to go ahead with redundancy. The SHAW service then helped me when I was looking for new jobs and advised what sort of things to consider and to discuss at interviews, because I wasn’t sure if I should discuss my illness or my diagnosis.
The service is just so friendly, it felt like a friend who supported you throughout the journey. A friend who knew the right thing to do.”
Kirsteen received full support from the SHAW service during and after her treatment, which has since led to her return to work, taking up a position with a previous employer, The Student Loans Company.
“SLC have been brilliant since I’ve come back and the support I’ve had has been great. It’s like being back to normal.”
After she completed her treatment she wanted to give back to the charity for the amazing care and support she received. Kirsteen, then started volunteering in Beatson Café which she really enjoyed.
“I found volunteering in the Beatson café so enjoyable not only did it give me a focus, but gave me back my confidence. I enjoyed meeting and helping other people going through a similar experience to me and it made me feel better about myself.”
If you are interested in volunteering or fundraising with the Beatson Cancer Charity then you can get involved here