update: fielding a job offer when you might be facing a serious health diagnosis

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Back in 2015, I printed a letter from someone who had learned she might have cancer. She was awaiting further tests and trying to decide what to do about a job offer at the same time. Here’s the update.

I sent you this question almost 6 years ago. Your advice was immensely reassuring to me at the time, and I was really moved by all the compassion expressed in the comments, both on the original post and on my follow-up several months later.

I really just wanted to thank you and the commenters again, and to say that I’ve been a regular reader of your site ever since then (and I recommend it to others frequently).

I’ll be 5 years cancer-free in the spring (fingers crossed). As I noted in my first update, after my diagnosis, I ended up not taking the job offer and staying at my organization for a while longer. This turned out to be the right move both personally and professionally. It gave me the time I needed not only to focus on my health with the support of wonderful colleagues, but also to figure out how to exit the 9-5 world altogether. The type of work I do lends itself well to freelance consulting, but I was stuck in a loop of feeling that I needed to have some freelance work lined up before quitting my job, while also feeling like I couldn’t approach most of my professional contacts for potential leads without jeopardizing my job.

I did eventually figure out an exit path and while it was tricky at first, I’m glad to say I’m now firmly established as a consultant. For the last 4 years I’ve been able to work from home part time while having a lot more time with my kids (of course now, like everyone, I’m spending A LOT of time with my kids, yikes). The last year I spent at my job before leaving, I was able to take on a few new tasks that gave me an even broader range of skills–and the fact that I was there for so long (almost a decade) meant that I had lots of connections to draw on when I did leave.

Setting aside the weirdness that has been 2020, I feel immense gratitude to be able to do what I’m doing, to be healthy and well, to have this amazing web of professional connections (many of whom are also friends and mentors). And of course for my spouse who has a full-time job with insurance, which made it all possible. I wish that in the U.S. it were easier for people to launch themselves as independent consultants and I’m curious to see whether anything unfolds in the coming years that makes it more possible.

Anyway, I’m also grateful for your site, which remains a source of work advice for me even though I’m not in a full-time job anymore, and is frankly just a beautiful collection of human stories.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

  1. KuklaRed*

    SO happy to read this! Congratulations on surviving the beast that is cancer and on forging a new career path!

  2. B Wayne*

    Five years is the big plateau so count that down! Things are much easier after that, believe me. Ten years, four months out for me.

  3. Bookworm*

    Thank you for your update, OP! Glad you are cancer-free and things have worked out for the better for you!

  4. GrumpyGnome*

    This update has me cheering! I am so happy that you’re cancer-free (and keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way!) AND that you had a supportive company while undergoing treatment. Awesome too that you were able to successfully move into consulting, this is just the best update!

  5. Another Day Another Dollar*

    I remember your original letter, and I’m so glad to hear you are healthy and that you navigated your professional situation happily. Three cheers for this update!!!

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