Issues at work

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Sam Benton
Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 35
   Posted 4/12/2009 5:46 AM (GMT -6)   
Anyone out there ever feel you may be treated a little different at work, since your surgery? I am a retail manager and we are required to keep a lot of balls bouncing at the same time, so whenever anything gets a little off track, I get the feeling that my boss thinks that it is due to my PCa, and an inability to do what I have always done.  The comments of concern could be genuine, but I get the feeling that they're not.  I am interested in finding out what legal rights I have. I am 6 month out from DaVinci and am feeling fine, maybe a little tired and still working on the ED but fine, and I can't seen to shake the stigma of cancer.  First question is: do any of you feel that stigma? and if so, have any of you had an issue at work? ( how did you handle it?)
Sam Benton 

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Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 3149
   Posted 4/12/2009 6:30 AM (GMT -6)   

In this current work/employment (financial mess) perhaps a family member would even look for reasons to fire their own family member and so even a person with a hair out of place may get a closer look. (that is the economic theory of relativity- hah-lol)

You might try an educational approach (since likely everyone there has heard of your PCa?), write up or copy something that shows that it is: not contagious, can be lived with and very common and even comparitive to breast cancer patients (level the playing field and thereby making it genderless types of cancers...more people can relate to such). Put some famous names or faces on it so others might find identity with it better or realize 'hey-this can happen to anybody' (as fact and not fiction).

You could also play the non-sympathy card and joke about it,  hey I had a defective part (like a gall bladder or such), so we decided to get rid of it and move on. Can't let some of lifes obstacles get in your way.

Next you could look for a reply from someone who has better answers than this (lol). My boss and a few workers near me know of my journey (to some degree, not the details). My boss's father had it so he could relate perfectly to it and I cannot say I felt uncomfortable or given the 'eye' after mentioning such.  Usually the 'c' word has alot of nasty connotations to it and alot of fear, some people cannot deal with fear well and wish to remove themselves from the unknowns and unpleasantries of life and will take that to even possible extremes. (we can be vain, self centered...yada..yada..yada...we should be more of humility, compassion and love....which reflects exactly what todays date is all about...and exactly what people should be all about).


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Date Joined Apr 2008
Total Posts : 1382
   Posted 4/12/2009 8:01 AM (GMT -6)   

Good morning Sam sorry to hear about your issues at work. Cancer of any type does have an emotional element to it, so when you think others are treating you a little different they very well maybe because you are a little different. The Sam of old is gone and the Sam of new has arrived. I know for me it took me over a year to get back mentally to where I could work with the same quality that I had prior to PCa. Due to my own struggles I hosted an event last year called Champions of Hope and the intent was to have a fun day and give people with cancer a chance to have fun and let go of the stigma. I do not know the dynamics of your work place, so my wisdom would be to do your best as I am sure you do, like Zufus said make jokes about your condition in an effort to lighten up those around you. Get involved in community events, read positive spiritual material. One last point Sam is consider the fact that a slight amount of depression could be creeping up on you which in effect does make your work different. Look at al angles and consider what others see in you. You are a good person my friend so take care of yourself. As for the legal issue if at all possible I would set that aside or use it as a last resort. Stay in touch Sam and please know I care.

peace and much love


My PSA at diagnosis was 16.3
age 46 (current)
My gleason score from prostate was 4+5=9 and from the lymph nodes was 4+4=8
I had 44 IMRT's
Currently on Lupron
I go to The Cancer Treatment Center of America
Married with two kids
latest PSA 5-27-08 0.11
PSA July 24th, 2008 is 0.04
PSA Dec 16th, 2008 is .016
PSA Mar 30th, 2009 is .02
Testosterone keeps rising, the current number is 156, up from 57 in May
T level dropped to 37 Mar 30th, 2009
cancer in 4 of 6 cores

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Sep 2008
Total Posts : 4274
   Posted 4/12/2009 8:41 AM (GMT -6)   

Dear Sam:

OK...I'm gonna give you a little different take on this and I hope it does not come off sounding insensitive.  Maybe if I had Dale's condition I would give the same advice that he did, i.e. "the Sam of old is gone...".  But, if you are 6 months out and "feeling fine" as you say, there is no reason that people should treat you any differently unless you are ACTING differently.

Yes, you are a cancer survivor but you need to reflect on how YOU are acting/reacting re the cancer, whether YOU are feeling sorry for yourself and whether or not YOU are acting like a "new Sam" or or relating and performing like you always did.

After my diagnosis I found it was easy to accept sympathy from people about my condition.  However, as time went on and especially post treatment, I discovered that if I dwelled on that sympathy people would treat me differently.  I didn't like that.  I have found that if I respond in an honest, matter of fact way, I don't get treated any differently than before.  When someone asks, "How are you feeling?", my response is truthfully, "Fine, everything is ok". Then we usually go on to talk about something else...unless the individual wants PCa info in which case I am happy to discuss and help them infinitely but without seeming to be a victim myself.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you don't act in a strange way then 99% of people will not treat you any differently than they treated you before.  At least that has been my experience.  So, if you are really "feeling fine" then just act like it, don't dwell on your misfortune and don't act like a are a survivor, not a victim.

Respectfully submitted,


Age 62
Gleason 4 +3 = 7
PSA 4.2
2 of 16 cores cancerous
Brachytherapy December 9, 2008.  73 Iodine-125 seeds.  Procedure went great, catheter out before I went home, only minor discomfort.  Regular activities resumed, everything continues to function normally as of 4/1/09.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2008
Total Posts : 1132
   Posted 4/12/2009 10:06 AM (GMT -6)   
I think people treated me the same. I was going to start a post and see if people were as concerned about work after diagnosis as before. I am back working the same hours as before. Sometimes I catch myself saying is this worth it... As zufus says in his post we are living in trying I keep on going.
Age 49
occupation accountant
PSA increased from 2.6 to 3.5 in one year
biopsy march 2008 - cancer present gleason 7
decision - surgery (robotic)
Surgery May 9, 2008 - houston, tx
Pathology report -gleason 8
margins clear
9 month  PSA <.04 (low as the machine will go)
continent at 10 weeks (no pads!)
ED is still an issue

Elite Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 25393
   Posted 4/12/2009 10:35 AM (GMT -6)   
The stigma of cancer and having cancer is foremost in the mind of the person with cancer. As we all know, no one would know we have/had cancer unless we told them. Can't be seen, can't be felt in most cases, but it's there.

As far as work, it all depends how much you told your superiors at work. Under HIPPA laws, you don't have to really say much, if any at all. That's the medical privacy portion of the law in your favor.

As far as losing your job, what state do you live in? Here in South Carolina, it's an "at will" state, which means you can be fired without reason or cause "at will" of the employer. That sucks from an employee point of view, most people here I know that were unjustly fired lose all their appeals. Also, like many states, SC is a "right to work" state, which means that unions aren't worth a pinch of salt, and have no arbitration value.

A short story in reality. After my 3rd bout of porocarcinoma which was dx. at the end of 1999, my employer, a large 84 million $ firm, had had enough of my medical problems, plus they were "self insured" and my surgeries and treatments were costing them an arm and a leg. I was very good at my job, so they had no easy way of getting rid of me. I was the top IT guy (Yes, I do that aside from accounting/finance) and ran a 6 state operation that I designed and set up. My 3rd bout, involved 3 surgeries, 36 days of radiation, and 6 months of physical therapy.

Unknownst to me, during the physical therapy time, the company set out an outsourced solution for my entire department. One Friday I came in to work, and was told my entire department was eliminated and was being outsourced. Beside my job, it cost the jobs of two innocent staff members that had the misfortunte to work for me.

I talked it over with lawyers, and because of the "at will" and the "right to work" laws in this state, there was no way I could prove that I was let go for medical reasons. But it was too obvious, my last cancer bout cost the company over a quarter of a million dollars at the time. My 7 years of loyal services didn't offset what I was doing to their bottom line.

In the end, I took a pretty geneorus severance package and walked away. My laid-off staff members got nothing but their final pay.

Morale of the story, becareful of what your tell your employer about your PC, it dx, your treatments, and the aftermath, get more familiar with your rights under HIPPA, doctor's and employer's are afraid of those laws, because patients have been winning some good law suits when their rights are being violated.

My best to you.

David in SC
Age 56, 56 at DX, PSA 7/7 5.8, 7/8 12.3,9/8 14.5
3rd Biopsy Sept 08: Positive 7 of 7 cores, 40-90%, Gleason 7, 4+3
Open RP surgery 11/14/8, Right nerves spared, 4 days hospital, staples out 11/24/8, 5th cath out on 1/19/9
Post-surgery Pathlogy Report:Gleason 3+4=7, pT2c, 42 grm, tumor 20%, Contained in capsular, clear margins, clear lymph nodes 
First PSA Post Surgery   2/9 .05, 6 month on 5/9

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2006
Total Posts : 1732
   Posted 4/12/2009 11:22 AM (GMT -6)   

You may not be imagining anything. Please sit down with your employer and, how am I doing? Let the man (or woman) answer the question. Maybe there's nothing, maybe something but,
you'll never know until you have a talk. In the mean time, educate yourself.

The American's with Disabilities Act provides some protections for American's. If you need to, look it up. Short version....Unless and until a person is physically or otherwise incapable of safely performing his/her job duties it is against Federal law to fire, demote or otherwise harass any employee enduring an illness or disability. It is unfortunate that some employers start looking at their insurance liabilities as well as potentials for whatever their ignornat minds dream up! Paul's chief has treated him like the plague since his first diagnosis. He (Paul) doesn't need to do anything to protect his job (them union firefighters are such lucky ducks) so he chooses not to but, it never stopped me from getting a little jab in there on occasion..LOL! "I" don't work for the man!! The day the chief asked Paul to " get your wife under control" I realized my true calling :>) I'm waiting for him to ask me directly. When he does and I say my peace, I'll consider forgiveness. PS: Do NOT do this at home!

Good luck and please, be sure there's a problem before you take any steps.


John T
Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 4269
   Posted 4/12/2009 12:15 PM (GMT -6)   
Being a boss most of my life I think cancer patients do get treated differently, MUCH BETTER THAN REGULAR EMPLOYEES. Years ago we had a guy with PC, his supervisor went out of the way without being asked to assign him to jobs near a restroom because of his urgency. Others always got paid time off to go to doctors appointments, worked at home or received less strenous assignments.
Most people are very compassionate and will do little things to help out a co worker.
Being around cancer is also uncomfortable for some people as in this politically correct enviornment they don't know what to say in fear of offending the person.
People get critized for job performance all the time, the wise people take it for what is is and take corrective action. Others rationalize it and any disability becomes a good excuse.
Sam, you have to decide what type your are. You can continue to blame your condition for everything bad that happens in your life or you can excell regardless of your adversity.
I know what I'm talking about because I've been on both sides of the equation. I was severyly disabled when I was 24 in Viet Nam and rose to the highest position in a Fortune 500 company dispite of it. If you percieve yourself as less because of your condition so will others.

64 years old.

I had an initial PSA test in 1999 of 4.4. PSA increased every 6 months reaching 40 in 5-08. PSA free ranged from 16% to 10%. Over this time period I had a total of 13 biopsies and an endorectal MRIS all negative and have seen doctors at Long Beach, UCLA, UCSF and UCI. DX has always been BPH and continue to get biopsies every year.

In 10-08 I had a 25 core biopsy that showed 2 cores positive, gleason 6 at less than 5%. Surgery was recommended and I was in the process of interviewing surgeons when my wife's oncologist recommended I get a 2nd opinion from a prostate oncologist.

I saw Dr Sholtz, in Marina Del Rey, and he said that the path reports indicated no tumor, but indolant cancer clusters that didn't need any treatment. He was concerned that my PSA history indicated that I had a large amount of PC somewhere that had yet to be uncovered and put me through several more tests.

A color doppler targeted biopsy in 11-08 found a large tumor in the transition zone, gleason 6 and 7. Because of my high PSA Dr. suspected lymph node involvement, 30% chance, and sent me to Holland for a Combidex MRI, even though bone and CT scans were clear.

Combidex MRI showed clear lymph nodes and a 2,5 cm tumor in the anterior. I was his 1st patient to come up clear on the Combidex which has a 96% accuracy,

I've been on a no meat and dairy diet since 12-08 and PSA reduce to 30 while I awaited the Combidex MRI.

The location of the tumor in the anterior apex next to the urethea makes a good surgical margin very unlikely. Currently on Casodex and Proscar for 8 weeks to shrink my 60 mm prostate. Treatment will be seeds followed by 5 weeks of IMRT while continuing on Casodex and Proscar. So far no side affects from the Casodex.


Elite Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 25393
   Posted 4/12/2009 2:04 PM (GMT -6)   
Well JohnT, someone in biz that I still look up to, told me many years ago, you can either let things happen to you, or make things happen for yourself.
Age 56, 56 at DX, PSA 7/7 5.8, 7/8 12.3,9/8 14.5
3rd Biopsy Sept 08: Positive 7 of 7 cores, 40-90%, Gleason 7, 4+3
Open RP surgery 11/14/8, Right nerves spared, 4 days hospital, staples out 11/24/8, 5th cath out on 1/19/9
Post-surgery Pathlogy Report:Gleason 3+4=7, pT2c, 42 grm, tumor 20%, Contained in capsular, clear margins, clear lymph nodes 
First PSA Post Surgery   2/9 .05, 6 month on 5/9

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 260
   Posted 4/12/2009 2:53 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Sam,

I returned to work in early January. For a time it seemed that my peers treated me differently. I made it clear I was not looking for sympathy or any form of special treatment. I would joke about it saying there was documented proof I was not all there anymore. It's now about 4 months out and I feel just as I did before surgery. My peers and management treat me exactly as before.

I discovered there are others in my work place that have also had surgery for prostate cancer. We get together on occasion and discuss it. It really feels good for all of us to do that. I told them about the HW web site but I don't think any others have signed up yet. There's a wealth of information here that I don't think could be found anywhere else.

Age 69, First ever PSA 7.8 taken June 2008, Biopsy July 2008, 10 of 12 cores positive, Gleason 3+3=6
da Vinci surgery December 10, 2008, catheter removed December 29 2008
St. Lukes Hospital, Bethlehem, Pa.
Dr. Frank Tamarkin

Prostate weight 73.0 grams, Gleason 3+3=6, stage pT3a
Tumor locations: right anterior apex, right posterior apex to mid
left anterior mid to base, left posterior apex to mid
extensive perineural invasion in right anterior apex, right and left posterior apex to mid
seminal vesicles negative

First post PSA < .1 Jan 16 2009

Sam Benton
Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 35
   Posted 4/12/2009 4:31 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for the feedback. :-) I appreciate it. I'm pretty honest and I took a few minutes to think about it and I gotta say I don't feel sorry for myself and I can't think of anything that I'm doing differently to make anyone treat me  differrently,but I'll keep looking for answers to the issue. The best approach for me now is to just ignore the comments and keep on doin' my job! If there's a problem it will surface soon enough.

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 377
   Posted 4/14/2009 11:35 PM (GMT -6)   
I was straight up honest with my employer when I told her that I needed 2 weeks off for prostate cancer surgery. She gave me a hug around the shoulders and was very supportive. As a health care professional (physical therapist) I deal with lots of people with cancer and try to share my experience with them as a support device. Amazingly to me NOBODY wants to talk about prostate cancer, not the male patients I have for unrelated issues (stroke, MI, esophageal cancer, colon cancer,  other cancers, rheumatoid arthritis) nor their wives. I guess prostate cancer is just a dirty word because of the sexual connotation it brings up. I've accepted that, I don't bring up the issue much anymore, it doesn't seem to matter much to my employer as long as I do my job. I feel I could give some good advice to guys who would want it but I guess they are all getting it here on this healingwell forum, the best place for info.......... turn
my age=52 when all this happened,
PSA went from 1.9 to 2.85 in one year, urologist ordered biopsy,
First biopsy on 03/08, "suspicious for cancer but not diagnostic"
Second biopsy on 08/14/08, 2/12 cores positive for Prostate Cancer on R side, 1 core=5% Ca, other core = 25% Ca, Gleason Score= 3+3=6 both cores,
Clinical Stage T1C
Bilateral nerve sparing Robotic Surgery on 09/11/08, pathological stage T2A at surgery,
No signs of spread, organ contained,
First post-op PSA=.01 on 10/15/08,
Second post-op PSA <.01 on 01/15/09,
Incontinence gone in early December '08,
ED remains, using daily Viagra and 2x/wk bimix/trimix injections for penile rehab

Steve n Dallas
Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 4849
   Posted 4/15/2009 5:55 AM (GMT -6)   

As I used to say about my DWI arrest – “The only difference between me and pretty much everyone I know is-> They haven’t been caught YET.”


And odds are, if your co-workers are smart, they're thinking: "There but for the grace of God go I."

Age 54   - 5'11"   205lbs
Overall Heath Condition - Good
PSA - July 2007 & Jan 2008 -> 1.3
Biopsy - 03/04/08 -> Gleason 6 
06/25/08 - Da Vinci robotic laparoscopy
Catheter in for five weeks.
Dry after 3 months.
10/03/08 - 1st Quarter PSA -> less then .01
01/16/09 - 2nd Quarter PSA -> less then .01
Surgeon - Keith A. Waguespack, M.D.

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