Sunday, June 2nd, is National Cancer Survivors Day! A service of the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, this day celebrates those who have survived cancer. Events around the nation will serve as an inspiration for those who have been diagnosed with and who are fighting cancer today. The National Cancer Institute says that over 1.7 million new cases of cancer would be diagnosed in 2018 and the American Cancer Society tells us that there are over 15.5 million Americans with a history of cancer. Chances are cancer has affected you or someone that you know.
Cancer has had a profound affect on my life. My father was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma when I was in the 8th grade. He still lives with this diagnosis today. My husband’s family members have also been diagnosed with different cancers: breast, prostate, and melanoma. Cancer is such an influence in our lives that my husband became an oncology nurse in order to care for those who have been faced with this diagnosis.
Many people aren’t aware that a cancer diagnosis – and survival of cancer – may allow for protections under the ADA. For some, cancer may lead to a disability. Remember, the definition of a disability is a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activity. This impairment could be episodic, meaning that it may only cause these limitations for short periods of time. For example, while you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation. And, if others believe that you have a disability just because of your diagnosis, you may have rights under the ADA.
But what about cancer survivors? Did you know that that because a survivor has had a record of a disability, or others may believe they have a disability, they may be covered too?
This means that current cancer patients, and those who are survivors, are protected against discrimination in the work place, in places of public accommodation, and in state and local governments. In employment situations, survivors may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. This may look like accommodating a work schedule, so a patient can receive treatment, or go to their doctor for follow up visits. In the case of a cancer survivor, an employer would not be able to pass them up for a promotion for which they qualify based on a fear that cancer may come back, and they will be out of work for treatment again.
Even fewer people know that the ADA can also offer protections for individuals who are associated with a person with a disability. This could look like discrimination of a caregiver, spouse, or child of a cancer patient. These caregivers are afforded protection from discrimination under the ADA as well.
If you have questions about your rights as a cancer patient, survivor, or caregiver, please reach out to your regional ADA Center for help! And know that this Sunday, and throughout the year, we are celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day with you!