.By Jeffery Runyan; Stage IV NHL cancer survivor, Founder of the Burkitt’s Lymphoma Society.
“Who declared you disabled?” “You’re not disabled.” These are statements that have been said in my direction several times since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. As the Founder of a renowned Cancer Society, I find it my duty to educate people about Cancer’s effects on an individual and when a person has a disability related to cancer.
Cancer patient’s former and present can face challenges in life and one challenge, besides possible physical limitations, possible disfigurement or possible emotional distress a cancer survivor might face is a person’s perception of an individual in remission from cancer or of an individual whom is currently going through treatment for cancer. Don’t get me wrong, some people get it, but some people simply do not out of lack of understanding, or just plain ignorance.
I’m not going to address all the issues a person with cancer might face, but I will state that some people make it through virtually unscathed, some people don’t make it through at all, some people make it through and are left with side effects, it might be one or it might be a dozen. The point is, cancer effects people differently and it greatly depends on the type of cancer, the type of treatment, the stage, age, overall health and more. In fact it can be quite complicated on how someone may or may not be affected by cancer.
What would be my brief description of the world of cancer? Cancer is the uncontrolled division of cells in any part of the body. There are different types of cancer. There are slow growing cancers, there are fast growing cancers, there are intermittent growing cancers, there are skin cancers, lymphatic cancers, bone cancer, blood cancers, there are literally dozens of types of cancers and sub-types of a cancer. There are varying side effects, treatments, stages, outcomes and challenges, but what most cancer patients have, whether they like it or not is a disability. Why do most people with cancer past or present have a disability? For one a person has a disability, because they have or have had abnormal cell growth. The American with Disabilities Act, ADA for short, describes a disability as a “person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”
The ADA breaks this down further in the publication titled. “Questions & Answers about Cancer in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)”
“people who currently have cancer, or have cancer that is in remission, should easily be found to have a disability within the meaning of the first part of the ADA’s definition of disability because they are substantially limited in the major life activity of normal cell growth or would be so limited if cancer currently in remission was to recur. Similarly, individuals with a history of cancer will be covered under the second part of the definition of disability because they will have a record of an impairment that substantially limited a major life activity in the past. Finally, an individual is covered under the third (“regarded as”) prong of the definition of disability if an employer takes a prohibited action (for example, refuses to hire or terminates the individual) because of cancer or because the employer believes the individual has cancer.
You see, no one has to declare a person with such impairment past or present that meets the above definition to be disabled. They simply have a disability and the law has made that clear. These laws have been made, because people with cancer have been discriminated against, are discriminated against and face life challenges that people without cancer, that don’t have a similar disability simply do not face.
1. U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section A Guide to Disability Rights Laws July 2009
2. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ,Questions & Answers about Cancer in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)