Surviving Cancer And Making Bank - A How-to Guide

by Lisa Vento

Editor's note: A Guest Blog Post from WhatNexter Lisa Vento - "TimeBetweenIs" on WhatNext. She is a breast cancer survivor and fierce advocate for breast cancer issues and women's issues in the workplace, especially after or during cancer. She helps Women figure out how to get back to work and regain their confidence. 

Lisa Vento Surviving Cancer And Making Bank

Surviving Cancer & Making Bank - a How-To Guide

For those of us who are hit with the beast of cancer, without warning or planning because who in the world plans for an illness, then we are left to pick up the pieces to get back to “normal” when it is all “over”. As a species, we are planners - we can basically plan for any disaster out there except those that hit us in the body and mind like cancer does.

I used to work downtown NYC and I worked there during and after 9/11 and at one point, after things settled down a bit, our building (of which I worked on the 42nd floor facing the harbor) created “to go bags " and did emergency drills far more frequently than we could handle or wrap our heads around. We walked around for years after 9/11 with one eye towards the windows, watching every plane as it went through the sky to be sure none were coming in our direction.

This is kind of like what our lives are like after cancer. We are constantly looking and waiting for something to happen, for a pain that won’t go away, for a bad scan, for the hope/fear of what your doctor says next. Years can go by and yet we still remember what it was like to have our bodies fail us, to have our jobs become impossible to accomplish and to realize who was really in our corner and who we just pray for karma to someday show them how much they wronged us.

Now, though, treatment is “done” our doctor's visits are less and less, our minds, though cloudy or slightly less so (though chemo brain could last for years) and it is time for us to get back to this thing called “living”... but how to do it.

It is hard to focus on professional development when your veins are getting pumped full of chemo or your skin is being radiated a lovely shade of puce. And now, the after-effects of treatments and our new bodies, new hairstyles, and other changes means we are not quite who we used to be. This is hard. But for most of us, it is part of the new normal - this need to get interview ready, to have our resume dusted off and updated and to get back out there to find our next step.

A recent statistic I read said that 58% of cancer patients have lost their jobs, were forced to switch careers or demoted (source: The Pink Fund, courtesy of USA Today).

Many of us could not afford to not work but we found ourselves with no choice in the matter or we could not work to our full potential, or we had to cut our own hours. Some of us were fired or let go. And now, it is time to pick up the pieces… or try to.

I am working on this for myself and I am trying to help others because, you see, before cancer came and shook me to my core, I was a career expert. I even wrote books on how to be entrepreneurial in your job search and how to be “career ready” (check it out here -> Now, though, I struggled with everything involved with job hunting from what to wear to how to calm my hair to what to say in an interview. I thought to myself that if I am struggling too hard that everyone who has gone through this and now needs to get back on the horse must be having an even harder time so I decided to try to help others as I help myself get my #careeraftercancer. I set up an upcoming FREE webinar (sign up here ) and began to share some tips and information via my blog

Watch Lisa's Free Webinar HERE

Here are my quick go-to tips on getting back to interviewing after cancer:

1- Do not tell your interviewer you were sick. It is illegal for them to ask about your health. I cannot explain to you how many people I am helping with resumes and such that have told me they bring it up on interviews the fact that they had cancer. NO. Do not do it. This is hard, though, as cancer has become our constant companion but leave it at home for the interview.

2- Managing those “blank spaces” on the resume - I once wrote a blog post about this for my small business before I got cancer and I can tell you with my experience as cancer patient that I was an absolute jerk to even think I could help people who took time off because of an illness with this issue. Now I know how hard it is to leave these blank spaces but you can try to fill it with something volunteer-like or an education course or maybe a freelance gig you did even for your brother or something, anything you can. Do not fall into the trap here to say, “I was home dealing with chemo….” it is so hard to remember to not bring up the treatments and the effects but do your best to practice your small talk so you will not accidentally slip up. There is nothing to be ashamed about with having been sick but an employer might NOT want to hire you because of the fact that you were sick and you won’t be able to complain about it because they do not have to admit that was why you did not get the job.


3- Ask friends and family to look at your resume and put your resume into jobs they know of - even though your network might all know you were sick, they do not have to tell their hiring managers about it and you can go in and knock their socks off and get the job.

4-Be true to yourself - I know we all have bills (trust me, my transmission on my minivan went, I have two kids, a dog and a husband who all like to eat a lot but I digress…) so the point is the bills will always be there and the stress it causes can be deadly but also the stress of taking a position, any position and then being miserable and feeling “stuck” is also not a good thing. If there is one thing cancer taught me is that stress and I had to break up. It is “easier,” said I guess as I am luckily covered under my husband’s health insurance and aside from the transmission bill, we have been able to squeak by but just know that nothing is worth sacrificing your health, not even the transmission of my van.

These are just some quick things - also, think about how you look and make sure your interview clothing fits and/or “hides” anything that is different about you - for instance, I only have one breast as cancer took the right one and I did not reconstruct when I go on an interview, I wear a shirt and a blazer, which makes it harder to notice I am missing one. Style your hair and rock it like you paid for it and that it didn’t come courtesy of Mr. Chemo. Smile and be open to all opportunities and let me know if any of this was helpful or if you want to join my upcoming webinar! Good luck out there! You survived cancer, you can survive anything!

Lisa Vento Surviving Cancer

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 Previous Guest Post by Lisa

After Cancer Treatment, How Do I Get Back to Being Me? 

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