Sarah Donnelly: How work kept me going during my cancer treatment
Sarah Donnelly - Lawyer
Westpac's Sarah Donnelly wants to encourage more open conversations about why and how an individual might continue to work while undergoing treatment for serious illnesses. Full bio
from my doctor's office
in my lunch break, and my doctor said
that I had breast cancer.
and at first, I didn't.
and I needed some evidence.
to where she was sitting
over her shoulder and verify
on the page in front of her.
to believe it, I said,
you're sure that means cancer?"
the urgent things that needed to be done
to see if my cancer had spread.
work wasn't my priority.
to tell my family and friends
and whether I was going to be OK,
to start a family.
how I was going to tell my mother,
when she was pregnant with me.
to have to relive her cancer experience.
a huge role in my treatment and recovery.
otherwise felt like a statistic.
that would give me routine and stability
difficult personal decisions
reconstruction I was going to have.
to my family and friends for support.
in my day-to-day life.
the ones to make me laugh.
of really good in-jokes,
someone ask me
of course, a wig,
in the mornings very easy.
I appreciated what their support meant,
have done without that network.
women in particular,
to have that network
the opportunity to work through treatment.
to overly paternalistic employers.
and focus on yourself.
that they couldn’t or shouldn't work,
and physically can do.
what an employer is required to do
with a cancer diagnosis.
cancer is considered a disability.
your usual work duties,
by the Disability Discrimination Act
to your working arrangements,
adjustments look like for me?
my diagnosis was going to have on work.
during business hours,
to recover from surgical procedures.
on what to expect from treatment.
was through Doctor Google,
and I wouldn't recommend that.
for all the physical side effects,
was this thing called chemo brain.
through memory loss,
my job as a lawyer.
have a discussion with my manager
to my working arrangements
how I was going to be impacted?
a supportive manager
how things went as we went along,
a concrete plan up front.
he may not have even known
of reasonable adjustments,
common sense to everyone.
will learn how it impacts them
that I learned about the treatment itself,
you're really well hydrated
the nurses to find your veins.
any of your favorite food,
throwing that up
want to look at it again.
for managing my workflow.
on a Monday morning.
I left the cancer care unit,
before this fog screen would come down
and make any urgent calls.
within about 48 hours.
into work from home.
and I knew what to expect.
with my business partners
the hesitation in their voices
by a certain time.
of setting a good deadline.
to put any extra pressure on me
within my control
that could stay in my control
things that couldn't.
should be applying this concept
in our current age,
by the age of 85.
longer and longer into older age,
while we're in the workforce
to work anywhere, any time,
are no longer contingent upon
to physically make it
or a comfier chair to sit in,
the flexibility policies and strategies
with family responsibilities.
are even having a conversation
might look like for them
until you're better."
with their employees.
from working through treatment,
to guide these conversations,
colleague of mine, Camilla Gunn,
for those diagnosed,
and their coworkers
and the work support available.
to other organizations
some pretty awkward conversations.
of the toolkit is increasing.
a manager's first response
how it's going to impact their work?
are able, and want to,
an arrangement for you
people with serious illness
pushing them away.
because I want you to know the benefits
going through treatment
were true some of the time,
to push myself at work
because my employer gave me the choice.
obvious choice to give someone,
offered or encouraged.
About the speaker:Sarah Donnelly - Lawyer
Westpac's Sarah Donnelly wants to encourage more open conversations about why and how an individual might continue to work while undergoing treatment for serious illnesses.
Why you should listen
Sarah Donnelly was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30 years of age -- a story all too familiar among young women in her family. She chose to continue full-time employment throughout treatment and is living proof that work can play a crucial role in a person's mental and physical recovery from a serious illness. While her employer backed her decision, Donnelly has learned that the way organizations approach this issue varies greatly. This has sparked a personal mission to encourage more open conversations about why and how an individual might continue to work while undergoing treatment.
A lawyer by trade, Donnelly is currently the Head of Group Secretariat at Westpac. She is an ally for GLOBAL, Westpac Group's Employee Action Group for LGBTIQ employees, a member of Women of Westpac, an advocate of Breast Cancer Network Australia and volunteers with Vinnie’s Van. She is an avid traveler and, when at home in Sydney's Blue Mountains, can usually be found out on a trail.
Sarah Donnelly | Speaker | TED.com