Coping when your child has cancer

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Future planning

It can be helpful for survivors of childhood cancer to develop a plan for their education, career, future goals and finances as an adult. Find out if your follow-up program has a counselling service to help childhood cancer survivors with education and employment. This may be called vocational counselling. It can help to smooth the transition from high school to appropriate further education or employment and help with employment goals.

Some types of treatments can affect your ability to learn, such as radiation therapy to the brain, brain surgery and certain types of chemotherapy. Your ability to learn can also be affected by other things. Find out more about learning problems after cancer treatment.

Completing high school

In order to complete high school (grade 12), some students may need to have changes to the graduation requirements. For some it may just be a simple change in course or subject requirements, such as substituting one type of class for another. Some childhood cancer survivors may need extra help in some areas such as study skills. This help also benefits higher education and future employment down the road.

Many children will be able to achieve a regular high school diploma the same as their classmates. Some may need adjustments to their program and require an individualized education plan or individualized program plan (IEP/IPP) toward their diploma, and others a GED (high school equivalency certificate).

Going on to post-secondary education

Many careers in Canada require going through a trade or apprentice program or graduating from a college or university program. It is important to know ahead of time which high school classes you need for entrance into trade school, college or university. You may want to consider summer school or online classes if you are unable to complete the required classes necessary to go into the program of your choice.

When visiting post-secondary schools, consider any special needs you may have. Talk to admissions or staff people about these special needs and any other help you may need. Some examples are untimed tests, tutoring and note takers.

Getting a job

Most employers treat cancer survivors fairly and legally. Your cancer history should not affect your ability to get a job. It is against the law to discriminate against someone who has cancer or a physical disability. You can protect yourself from employment discrimination by learning about your rights in the workplace. For example, as long as you are qualified for the job, an employer cannot treat you differently from other workers in job-related activities because of a cancer history.

Cancer, its treatment or late effects of treatment may affect the type of work that you are able to do. Some survivors choose to share their medical history with their employers, while others don’t. It’s up to you to tell your employer about your cancer history. If you choose to tell your employer, they must keep any information that you share about your cancer history confidential. If you choose to share your history, a letter from your doctor about your current health status and work ability may be helpful.

Some things that may affect work include fatigue, chronic pain or problems with attention, thinking or memory. Your employer may be able to make changes to help you to better perform your job. These changes may include adjusted work hours, ability to work from home, time off for doctor appointments and work breaks to take medicines. You don’t need to have requested any of these accommodations during your interview or when first hired. You can make the request at any time. Your doctor can also make the request for you.

If you have questions or want help, talk with a career counsellor or social worker about applying for or getting a job. They can help you with your resume and also interviewing skills.

For more information on getting a job as a cancer survivor, see Working it Out from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivors.

Insurance

It is easiest for cancer survivors to get life insurance through their jobs, especially if you or your spouse works for a large corporation, organization or government agency. These plans often do not require individual medical evaluations of employees or their dependants. They often provide good coverage at reasonable rates and have no waiting period for pre-existing conditions.

In some cases, buying individual coverage can be harder for a cancer survivor. Some private life insurance companies will insure cancer survivors, but at a higher rate. Others may insure cancer survivors after a number of years of being disease-free.

As a cancer survivor, it may be harder or more expensive for you to get travel health or trip cancellation insurance. Read the details of any policy you buy and make sure you understand its terms. When you’re applying, ask lots of questions and be open about the fact you’ve had cancer and any other health conditions you have. If you don’t tell the insurance company about an illness or health concern, they may not cover your claims.

A social worker or financial advisor may be able to tell you which companies provide extended health benefits, critical illness, travel or life insurance and what they have to offer cancer survivors.

For more information on group and individual life and health insurance plans in Canada, go to Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) or OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance.

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