She’s 31, has stage 4 kidney most cancers — and talked overtly about it in a job interview
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Katie Coleman stood face-to-face with a selection no job seeker ought to ever must make. She might inform her potential employer she had stage 4 kidney most cancers, probably the most life-threatening stage of all.

Or she might keep mum.

She knew she risked shedding any shot on the job by being trustworthy about her analysis — or risked shedding her self-respect by conserving quiet about it.

This might sound just like the plot of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s not. It’s the choice that confronted the 31-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, who has been battling the lethal illness for almost three years.

“The number of ppl advising me to not disclose my [diagnosis] is astounding,” she tweeted in mid-April. The concern was that employers would possibly fear concerning the prices and absenteeism that may end result from such a situation — despite the fact that federal legislation prohibits employers from taking well being points under consideration when hiring.

Yet, whereas interviewing for the high-pressure software program engineering job she desperately needed, Coleman shared her analysis with the CEO of MDisrupt, an Austin-based firm that connects clinicians and scientists with digital well being firms.

Ruby Gadelrab, CEO and founding father of MDisrupt, was unfazed. Moments after interviewing Coleman for a job, she tweeted: “Today I met a candidate who applied for one of our jobs, and she might just be the most inspiring person I have ever met.”

Coleman’s private story is each hair-raising and hope-inducing. It took 18 months to get an correct analysis within the first place, after eight medical doctors insisted she was too younger for most cancers and the true downside should be nervousness. Finally, on New Year’s Eve 2020, an ultrasound carried out in an emergency room helped decide she had metastatic renal oncocytoma, a uncommon type of kidney most cancers, which turned malignant solely after it unfold to her liver. Then she underwent intensive surgical procedure to take away a 12-centimeter tumor from her proper kidney and quite a few tumors from her liver. In a second process, medical doctors burned tiny tumors off her liver that have been too small to see in the course of the first surgical procedure. Coleman requested medical doctors on the National Cancer Institute to carry out the surgical procedure and process as a result of they have been the one ones who she consulted who have been prepared to function. She additionally knew they have been excited about finding out uncommon kidney cancers like hers.

None of this — not the surgical procedure, the prognosis, her honesty — stopped Coleman from snaring her dream, nor MDisrupt from hiring her as a full-time software program developer.

Coleman’s expertise has turn into one thing of social media lore as she shares updates about her most cancers battle and her new job in posts on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. She’s leaving a deep footprint throughout social media that she believes might assist fellow most cancers sufferers for years to come back.

At the identical time, her story has turn into a high-profile reminder to employers and job candidates {that a} potential worker’s medical historical past is their very own enterprise — except they decide to share it.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits asking potential workers something about their medical historical past — or utilizing well being points as a foundation for not hiring them, mentioned Joyce Walker-Jones, senior legal professional and adviser on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Walker-Jones doesn’t suggest sharing medical data with potential employers. “If an applicant knows they have a serious medical condition, they do not have a duty to disclose it — even if they will need reasonable accommodations if they get the job,” she mentioned.

In that regard, Coleman threw warning to the wind.

She utilized for the job at MDisrupt as a result of a recruiter who’d noticed her cancer-be-damned social media posts approached her. Gadelrab mentioned she wasn’t conscious of Coleman’s most cancers battle and by no means requested about her well being. But Coleman opted to steer along with her analysis and shared her story.

“I look at my diagnosis as my greatest strength,” Coleman mentioned. The kind of tumor she has is sort of all the time benign, however in her case, it wasn’t.

Coleman contacted Driven to Cure — a corporation for uncommon kidney cancers — for assist. And Driven to Cure related her to the National Cancer Institute.

Since fall, she has been off therapy and mentioned she is on “active surveillance,” monitoring with scans each three months to maintain an in depth eye on just a few suspicious spots too small to deal with.

She is also on a private mission to destroy her most cancers — partly by conserving digital tabs on all of the twists and turns in her medical journey with an app she constructed. Coleman began engaged on her app idea after her surgical procedure however earlier than her liver process in 2021.

The app permits her to maintain monitor of her medical doctors — and all the pieces else she wants for her care — in a single place. She shared her creation for different sufferers to make use of freed from cost. Gadelrab “really liked that I was building a positive out of a negative,” Coleman mentioned.

Gadelrab mentioned she seeks three vital qualities — none health-related — in new workers: ardour, objective, and potential. She mentioned she discovered all three in Coleman.

“Katie was so passionate. She has a way of communicating her empathy towards providers and patients that’s different from others,” mentioned Gadelrab. “That is exactly the kind of thinking that we need to have as a company: empathy for our users. Katie came in with that.”

Still, Coleman was hesitant about taking the job as soon as she obtained the provide. She was ready for yet one more vital most cancers scan. She was nervous about leaving an organization that had been good to her. And she was anxious about altering insurers. Then, one thing sudden persuaded her to simply accept the provide.

While at house packing her luggage to go to the hospital for the scan — which the parents at MDisrupt knew was coming — she heard a knock at her door. When she answered, she noticed an enormous bouquet of orange roses — the colour that signifies kidney most cancers consciousness. It was from MDisrupt. The notice mentioned: “Good luck on the scans.”

She took the job.

Coleman’s first day was in late April. She works from house more often than not however visits the workplace a couple of times weekly for group gatherings. She would not suggest that every one folks with critical diseases be so open with potential employers.

“My advice is to first do the research on the company that you want to work for and know that they will be supportive,” she mentioned.

Coleman, who has 40,000 TikTok followers and almost 5,000 Twitter followers, continues to doc her most cancers battle on social media — and in a brand new weblog. She pokes enjoyable at herself in her posts as a result of, she mentioned, her self-deprecation usually elicits extra donations to the kidney most cancers analysis she promotes. Perhaps her current tweet says it finest:

“My pet peeves can be summarized by: 1. Cancer. 2. Mansplaining. 3. Missing sauce packets w/takeout.”

This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially impartial information service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan well being care coverage analysis group unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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