Work and Disability: Dealing with Stage 4 Cancer and Ostomy

Tak for alt

I've been a member on this site for a couple of years but have never attempted to ask a question, so here it goes:

In the fall of 2013, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer which caused me to lose all but 8 inches of my colon, causing unending diarrhea, and it caused me to lose my bladder, causing a urostomy.

In February, I will be back to work full-time for 3 years. Recently, I had my 16-year review. The one thing they wanted me to work on was taking fewer sick days. I had taken 10 days in the past year, which was more than I had thought I'd taken but still not THAT much. I had the sick/flex hours to use, and these days included regular days when you have a cold or flu plus days when I was cramping or had other issues or days when I was just so tired I couldn't do it.

My question is, are they even allowed to say something like that to me, with my circumstances? Does anyone know the criteria for disability or how to go about that? I have no idea what my options are. I have mentioned this to a couple of people at work (so they know me and my circumstances), and they think the comment was way out of line and there should be some kind of option that could help me, but they have no idea what that could be either if my employer thinks I take too much time off for medical reasons.

I'm a bit frustrated with this because I have always been a good employee, and the people that need to know know my situation. Any opinions or help with this would be greatly appreciated.



Past Member

I sympathize with you. They recently told me I'm not eligible for disability because my cancer is clear at this time. However, I'm not ready to get back to work. I explained that I cannot wear a uniform, but it didn't matter, and the bag just shuts me down no matter what they say. I'm healthier to go back to work. I'm so confused. I never asked for anything in my life, and now when I need it, no way. Thank God I have Navy retirement and healthcare. Fight them.

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Hello Tak for alt. Thank you for the question and for sharing your story. 

What a sad sad world we live in were commerce seems to be the new religion and the people with power have the morals of the marketplace. 

I have just been offered a new job and their terms and conditions of employment contract state several things which would make it impossible for me to work within their policies and procedures.  There is not much that can be done in this regard because the employers hold the 'trump' cards and could simply say that if I don't like it then I should  not work for them.

I have not yet found a company where the employment conditions have been 'negotiable' in any 'fair' way.   I have written to this company and itemised my concerns to see what they have to say. One of the things I point out, is that their documentation mentions nothing at all about catering for disability or special needs. Of course, they do not have to take this into consideration but the fact that it is a so-called 'caring' industry, might make them have to think carefully about how they reply to my quetions.  

I am quite prepared for a refusal of work but what they will not have taken into consideration is that, if I have spare time on my hands, I tend to 'WRITE'.  In this case it will be in the public domain and will probably cause them a great deal of embarrassment as they are trying to build a reputation for being 'the best' carers. 

My own take on these sorts of things is that we can only remind each individual that there is more to life than commerce, in its various ugly forms. There is a moral code by which we all ought to live and, having a 'go' at the weak, vulnerable and variously disabled people in our society, should not be part of that code.  I believe it is yet another manifestation of 'bullying' and it is our duty to stand up to bullies wherever and whenever we come across them.

I am not sure what organisations you have in the USA to give advice on this sort of issue but here in the UK we have unions who will take up this sort of issue for individual members and there are various citizens advice oganisations who have volunteer lawyers on their books as well as well-informed advocates.

I hope that you can persuade your boss to have a differerent perspective in future to the one they seem to have now. You are right to share your concerns with your colleagues because they can, if they so wish, exert some moral influence over the individuals concerned. 

I have often found that exposing this sort of attitude is often very affective because the 'bullies' eventually have to live in the public domain and, by and large, they do not want adverse publicity for their  less savoury attitudes and deeds. 

Best wishes 



You must be good at your job, Tak, for them to miss you so much!

Past Member

Apply for Social Security Disability. I couldn't hold a job.
I'd be indisposed 3 of 8 hours a day.

Living with Your Ostomy | Hollister

Look up the American Disability Act... When I worked, I would use FMLA, and that would cover my days out, and the job couldn't hold my attendance against me.

To apply for disability, you can't be working, and it takes for some a long time to get approved.

Hope all goes well.


Tak, is Minnesota a "right to work" state? Are you insured for short-term disability or long-term disability through your job benefits? If you are indisposed for too much time at work, it could be a disability case, but this would depend on your specific situation, your job duties, and your doctors. If you have STD available to you, the first step is to speak with your doctors and tell them EVERYTHING about your job duties and your capabilities and incapabilities regarding those duties. That is where any disability determination would begin. If you do not have STD or LTD through your job benefits, then it is a government-involved case, and your best bet is to speak with a disability lawyer, as they would know the specifics and ins and outs of your particular state as well as the federal government. Most disability lawyers offer a free consult to get the feel of your particular case.




Definitely look into FMLA. You should qualify no problem and then you can't be harassed about taking sick days as needed.

And good for you getting over stage 4 colon cancer!!

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