Study Finds Many Women Out of Work After Breast Cancer; Are You Prepared to Make Up Lost Income?
To say 2008 wasn’t a good year for Warner and Angela Jamison is an understatement. Warner lost his job at a building supply company in August. A few weeks after the family got caught in the leading edge of the financial crisis, Angela found a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer on October 20th. The diagnosis hit hard. Thirteen years earlier, her mother lost a battle with the same type of aggressive cancer.
Within 10 days, Angela started chemotherapy. “I really went into it thinking ‘I’m gonna be tough, I’m gonna beat this.’ But there were a lot of obstacles and challenges that came up that I really never would have expected,” Angela said.
As she started her chemo, Angela was determined to continue running her public relations business. “With my husband being unemployed, I didn’t even think about not working or giving up my business.”
Angela had no idea how difficult that would be. A study1 published in the journal Cancer this past April tracked women with breast cancer. Of women who were working when they were diagnosed, 30 percent were no longer employed at the time of a follow-up interview four years later.
The number doesn’t surprise Angela. “The fatigue was probably the biggest thing … and I think that for women who face unemployment after breast cancer, it’s probably from the fatigue and the aftereffects of all that treatment,” Angela said.
Despite her drive and desire to work, once she began treatment, Angela was unable to maintain a full schedule. “I was missing a lot of work, really working part time that year that I was undergoing treatment,” Angela said.
To optimize her work time, Angela actually switched doctors at one point so that she could get chemo on Thursdays. That allowed her to take Friday off and recover over the weekend. “If I would have had chemo on Monday or Tuesday, I wouldn’t have had time to recover.”
Even though Angela managed to continue working in a reduced capacity during her treatments, she completely understands how so many women wind up unemployed. “There were days that I could not get out of bed, and I went in later or I didn’t even go in to my office,” Angela said.
Because she was a business owner, working less meant earning fewer dollars at a time when Angela and her husband could hardly afford to take another pay cut.
“At that time our daughter was eight years old, and we really wanted to shelter her from the negative aspects of the cancer and my husband being unemployed,” Angela said. Still, Angela and her husband had to make a lot of changes to make ends meet. Their primary goal was to protect the house they’d built four years earlier.
A Plan Put in Place Years Earlier Provides Needed Help
When Angela started her PR business in North Carolina in 1998, one of her first clients was a regional Northwestern Mutual office in Raleigh, North Carolina. As Angela was working to promote the business, she was learning about the financial planning solutions Northwestern Mutual brings to clients, including life and disability insurance.
Within two years Angela wasn’t just doing work for the Northwestern Mutual office, she and her husband were also clients. Angela and her husband got in touch with Jimbo Huckabee, a wealth management advisor with Northwestern Mutual.
“Her biggest asset was her ability to go to work each day,” Huckabee remembers. “So protecting her income was very important.”
Angela initially had to do a lot of convincing with her husband, especially on the disability insurance. “He would always ask, ‘Why are we spending this much?’”
As the treatments began to take a toll on Angela, another member of the Northwestern Mutual team suggested they look into making a claim on her disability policy. The claim was approved, and the money helped make up the lost income from hours Angela missed due to her cancer treatments.
Back on Their Feet
Angela is now a survivor and has been healthy since completing her treatments in 2009. Warner found a new job. Angela still has her business.
As the Jamisons move forward with their lives, Angela isn’t shy about discussing her experience. She wants to make sure others take the time to think about protecting themselves.
People tend to associate disability insurance with accidents. But the reality is that 70 percent of disabilities are caused by health problems like heart attacks or strokes, cancer, back problems and even maternity.2
“I really didn’t realize the significance of disability insurance … nobody thinks, ‘I’m going to get cancer.’”
People will occasionally ask Angela for advice about starting a small business of their own. “I always ask, ‘Do you have disability insurance?’” Angela is very clear about the benefit. “When facing cancer, you don’t think about what you would do if you can’t work as many hours—because that really shouldn’t be something you’re worried about when you have so many other things on your mind.”
The testimonials presented may not be representative of the experience of other clients and are not a guarantee of future performance or success.
Disability insurance policies contain some contractual features and optional benefits that may not be available in all states. These policies also contain exclusions, limitations and reduction-of-benefits provisions. Eligibility for disability income insurance, additional policy benefits and qualification for benefits is determined on a case-by-case basis. For costs and complete details of coverage, please contact a Northwestern Mutual Financial Representative.
1 Impact of adjuvant chemotherapy on long‐term employment of survivors of early‐stage breast cancer, American Cancer Society, 2014.
2 Northwestern Mutual claim data 2008-2013.