When cancer becomes a topic of conversation during a job interview.
Ryan Hamner is a four-time survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, a musician, and an award-winning author. In 2011, he wrote and recorded, "Where Hope Lives" for the American Cancer Society and the song for survivors, "Survivors Survive" used in 2015 for #WorldCancerDay. Recently, he published his book, This is Remission: A Four-Time Cancer Survivor's Memories of Treatment, Struggle, and Life, available on Amazon. His website is www.ryanhamner.com
"We saw your website on your resume and checked it out. I know I probably shouldn't ask you this, but did you really have cancer four times," the lady said, during my interview. Normally I wouldn't have a problem talking about my experience with cancer - heck, I'm the one that ended our relationship. Yeah, we were kind of back and forth there for a while, but in the end, I just put my foot down and said you gotta' go.
Back to this asking about cancer thing, during an interview, really? Oh yeah, and just for the record, asking probably wasn't the smartest decision you've ever made. Then again, me putting anything on my resume that could lead to you finding out about me having cancer four times probably wasn't the best idea either.
Look, I know cancer is somewhat fascinating, a bit mysterious and people want to ask questions about it sometimes - great - ask away. Most people do ask out of genuine concern for my health. However, don't ask about my cancer during an interview for a job. It's the second time this has happened. Although last time, the guy was so clever he asked what my medical bills were like.
"You know, just a rough estimate," he said while sitting in his leather office chair.
"Nunya' business," I thought to myself.
Look, I'm not wearing my big lymph nodes on my sleeve, but regardless of laws, and several attorneys have backed me on this, many employers have an issue with hiring people who have had cancer or have chronic illnesses. It's just a fact, unfortunately.
It's cool for companies to do the little fundraiser thingies each year, or tweet a hashtag for someone to be strong, but who actively steps up to the plate and takes a chance with long-term survivors of cancer? I mean, I know, your company donated that one month to that one really large charity, or maybe tweeted some pics and it all looked really good. However, there are still cancer survivors and those who have chronic medical conditions who want to work – people who can perform, but only if companies give them the opportunity.
Is it possible that I haven't been good enough for around 100 jobs? Well, sure it is. But when a company ignores all of my emails after specifically asking me about the number of times I have had cancer, during an interview, you know, I have to wonder what's going on.
Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at identifying symptoms of specific health issues. In this case, I think someone might have been concerned with the health of one thing only: their bottom line.