Did you know there are 600 lymph nodes in the human body—and 35 different lymphomas? “Lymphoma is one word but many diseases,” said Robin Markowitz, CEO of Lymphoma Canada, at this year’s GIPC event. “The patient’s experience will vary accordingly.”

Lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in Canada. But because it mimics other diseases, it can be hard to diagnose, she explained. And although there are many treatment options, relapses are very common.

What to do—and not to do
So how should you react when your employee tells you she has lymphoma? “A newly diagnosed patient, of course, is completely overwhelmed,” said Markowitz.

She suggests setting up a meeting with the patient, perhaps including a patient advocate, to discuss resources and support the patient can access. Also review issues such as caregiving responsibility, childcare, finances and insurance—and write everything down, she added.

Read: Support employees affected by cancer

What shouldn’t you do? Don’t tell her it’s going to be okay—you don’t know it will be—and resist the urge to share others’ cancer success stories, “because not everyone will have a great outcome,” Markowitz advised.

Privacy is also important: some patients want support from their colleagues, but others don’t even tell their families, she said. And while patients may feel guilty about their diagnosis and wonder if they could have prevented it, “with lymphoma, it is completely random,” Markowitz added.

Support from the employer plays a critical role in a patient’s recovery. “We strongly encourage accommodation,” she said. “It is a short-term accommodation, in many instances, for a long-term gain.”

Read: Employers can help workers cope with cancer

James’s story
Markowitz cited James, a 22-year-old engineer, as an example. He went from doctor to doctor before he was correctly diagnosed and was then hospitalized for two weeks. His employer visited him during his hospitalization. “He told us that was a turning point for him because he was so concerned about his career,” said Markowitz.

Although James had to have six weeks of radiation therapy—and often had to come in late as a result—he was able to work through it. “Psychologically, it was a great step up,” added Markowitz.

After nine months, James came back to work full time. “When patients do come back, recognize it is a milestone,” Markowitz encouraged.

Her recommendations: have a return-to-work meeting to ensure the patient is ready, and share access to post-treatment resources and support. Manage colleagues’ expectations about how quickly the employee will be able to get up to speed, and explain the importance of getting the flu vaccine and not coming to work sick.

Finally, don’t underestimate your role in the process. “Your contributions as an employer are invaluable,” she added.

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Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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cliff calverley:

A wee comment on employee cancer — When one of my top service technicians was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumour, ( I have 15 employees ), we brought Jim in and quietly asked him if he had a will. As a long divorced man, and with two daughters in their late 20’s and 30’s; he had not made any will. He had missed one payment recently; ( and yes I will name names ), with Canada Life Insurance. ( Of course he missed it — he was too bloody sick to come to work )!! At any rate, they sent him a registered letter that he was ineligible for any payment ( after paying into it for 15 years ). We promptly got him off to our company lawyer to draft a will, and also presented the letter to the lawyer. Our lawyer had run into exactly this company for the very same thing as her very first case after crossing the bar. ( They lost that case ). Imagine the teeth grinding when they saw her name on the letter telling them that they WOULD be going to court shortly. — They immediately backtracked, said there had been some ” misunderstanding”, and that they would be honoring the file. — Slimeballs
As his condition worsened, we made those last two lousy payments so they had no leg to stand on – ever.
Jim became bed-ridden 6 weeks after the lawyer, but was grateful we had pushed him to get a will. Now his two daughters were able to move forward without THAT headache.
At Jim’s funeral, everyone at our company was at the funeral — and everyone had a new black tie with ” 54″ and our company logo on it — Jim’s van was ” 54″; a number he chose as in the old movie series ” Car 54 – Where are you?” — So ask me about insurance companies and watch me spit. — If you find the comment offensive — just think what I have thought for 15 years. Not all insurance companies are bad to be sure; but where is justice? These jerks should have had their license pulled – period.

Wednesday, April 15 at 2:29 pm | Reply

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