Chronic Illness, Employment, and Kickstarting Your Career

One question that has come up in several In the Kingdom of the Sick posts—including this great Q&A over at DiabetesMine—is how disability rights have influenced chronic illness, particularly in the work place. Navigating chronic illness as a working professional is something I talk about extensively in my first book, Life Disrupted, and is something I’ve posted about here, too. I am not surprised I’m getting lots of questions about illness disclosure, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and how to balance health demands with professional obligations, since chronic illness can have such a significant impact.

A lot are specific to employment in young adults with chronic illness: how do you begin a career under these conditions? I know how frustrating it can be to feel like everyone around you is moving towards something when you feel like your body is falling apart, and so are your aspirations. There are so many trade-offs, compromises, and sacrifices to sift through.

With this in mind, I am really excited to kick off what will be a three-post series this week all about careers and chronic illness. This coincides nicely with the launch of my friend Rosalind Joffe’s new coaching program, Kickstart Your Career. It’s designed specifically for patients in their twenties and thirties, and comes from someone who’s walked the walk—Rosalind was a younger adult herself when she was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and she’s spent years helping patients with chronic illness stay employed.

So click on over, and then be on the look out—tomorrow, I am posting the first of two posts from a guest blogger who has made these same compromises and sacrifices in her professional career. Several interviewers have asked me how I balance my career, health, and family needs and the short answer, partly in jest, is that lately, I never sleep. The longer answer is that I am able to do what I do because as a writer and an instructor, I have some built-in flexibility. I can write at 1am or 4am if I need to, I can comment on papers electronically from the hospital bed as well as I can from my desk, and I am not on campus five days a week. I make a lot of sacrifices to keep everything on track, but I can choose to do that because I also have a supportive partner and work for an extremely accommodating and encouraging institution.

Not every profession lends itself to flexibility so naturally, and not every institution can be as accommodating with scheduling. As such, I am excited to share Leah Roman’s journey, and know it will resonate with so many of you out there.

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