I’m My Own Advocate: Protecting Yourself at Work Post-Diagnosis

Angela Brandt
Written by
Angela Brandt

It was not so long ago that a multiple sclerosis diagnosis came with ominous advice – to get your affairs in order, spend time with your loved ones, and often, leave your job. But with advances in research and treatments, this no longer has to be the case. We’re more confident in managing our MS, and although the words “you have MS” are still scary, we are the masters of our destiny. We can choose if we want to keep working.

If that is your choice, if you’re choosing to stay a part of the workforce, be sure to protect yourself! Below is what I’ve learned from my professional life, post-MS.

Know Your Protections

Speak to your human resources department and find out what policies your company has in place to provide reasonable accommodations. With an illness like MS, your symptoms may not always be obvious. Because of that, it is important to always speak up for yourself. I have recently had to ask for a modification to my hours and while this is not possible with all lines of work, it is important to always ask. It is in the best interest of your employer to not lose you as the cost of recruiting, onboarding, and training new staff is not minimal.

Be Honest with Your Supervisor

Although this is uncomfortable for many people, it is important to remember that your supervisors are not mind readers. If you miss a lot of days due to your symptoms or treatments, it may be counted against you if you do not have the right paperwork filed. Remember, no one can help you if you do not first help yourself! If you feel you cannot speak to your supervisor, then the job you are in may not be the right one anyway. It is important to know your worth, and also to know that there is a boss out there who will value you.

Do Your Research

If you don’t feel your current job will work for you and your MS long-term, it’s okay to start looking. There are many websites dedicated to helping you find flexible, remote or part time jobs. Check them out! Because many are country specific, consider doing an online search or asking around. If there are certain criteria you need to have met, many of the job search sites also allow you to filter in order to find the perfect fit for you. You should also consider speaking with other MS advocates, disability attorneys, and MS societies or groups where you can get more information.

Although I am guilty of trying to balance too many things, I am finally coming to terms with what will work well for my professional life. I now know that taking time off in an intermittent basis is protected as long as my physician provides documentation. Because of that, I must communicate with both my neurologist and my employer regarding my needs. Remember that for any accommodation, YOU must start the process in order to protect yourself!

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