THE BLOG
10/02/2014 01:21 pm ET Updated Dec 02, 2014

Companies 'Doing the Right Thing' -- For Young Employees With Cancer

Today's column will look at two more companies that "did the right thing" for their employees impacted by Cancer. I'll profile the two young women and how their diagnosis was treated.

But, first a shout out to an earlier CEO we interviewed: Adam Goodman, CEO of Goodmans Interior Structures in Phoenix, AZ. The company recently earned the GameChangers 500 designation for the positive impact of its products and services, and how it treats people and the planet in the process of running its business. GameChangers 500 is a list profiling the top-purpose driven companies in the world. In contrast with the Fortune 500 list emphasizing profit, GameChangers 500 focuses on companies that maximize benefits to people and the planet. Adam is very proud of their "culture" and so am I. Adam is a member of the CEOs Against Cancer, and ending cancer is a huge commitment in his world. Thank you ... and congratulations!

And now, two young women and two companies who bravely deal with cancer. By the way, in my interviews with these two amazing women and their company representatives, the conversation about the financial cost to the company never came up. Their commitment was/is to the employee, even when they were unable to work consistently.

First, please meet Kelly Knab.

In August of 2012, Kelly had only worked for Text100, a Global Communications company for a year, in the NYC office. In the Summer of 2013, at age 26, having a variety of symptoms, she was ultimately diagnosed with Neuroendocrine cancer of the Pancreas, a very rare cancer (same as Steve Jobs).

She came to work a few days later to tell her boss and asked her boss to tell everyone else what was going on. She didn't want to be there for fear of being treated differently. She never stopped working. She slowed down a bit, but was allowed the flexibility to work from home, rest as needed, go to doctor visits and put health first. Everyone was supportive. The company told her to "handle what you need to ... and don't worry."

Treatment has been tough, side effects difficult, so Text100 has given her full license over how she uses her time.

Since her office is in NYC, I interviewed Kelly in person, and her boss, Colby Jones, was in the room with us. Colby shared the story about how the entire staff sent her a huge Care Package with magazines, lip gloss, lotions, nail polish, stuffed animals, mugs, tea and chocolate. Of course there was more, but they couldn't remember it all. After that, the San Francisco office sent a similar type package.

Since my interview with Kelly, she's updated me with the following:

"Essentially a few weeks ago I found out that the chemo regimen I was on was no longer working as well and my tumors had started growing again - pretty aggressively, in fact. I'm now on a new chemo treatment. It's intravenous, and I go in every other Wednesday. Because this new treatment directly affects my work schedule, I made the decision with my manager to tell my clients. Of course, they've been more than supportive and Text100 - as usual - gave me full control over how to communicate this news. Text100 is now also activating a team to support my involvement with Cycle for Survival, which raises money toward rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As usual, this company has been amazing even with these latest changes."

My heart and well wishes go out to Kelly.

Second, please meet Mailet Lopez, founder of ihadcancer.com and co-founder of squeaky.com

Mailet was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer when she was 33 years old, while she was a partner at an award-winning web design and development agency, Squeaky Wheel Media. Her business partner, Anthony Del Monte, was one of the first people that she told about her diagnosis. Mailet knew that sharing her diagnosis with the rest of her co-workers would be almost as difficult as sharing it with her parents, since the agency is about 25 people. Instead of telling them directly, she asked Anthony to break the news to their employees on her behalf.

Upon learning the news of Mailet's diagnosis, everyone agreed to NOT feel sorry for her, as she requested. They knew how strong and powerful she was, and decided that the best way to support her would be to start to take control of their own health. People started juicing, performing self-checks and signing up for health insurance if they didn't already have it. Everyone respected the changes that she was making in her life, which helped Mailet feel in control again.

When I had the pleasure of meeting both Mailet and Anthony in person, they emphasized that they built IHadCancer as a way to turn Mailet's negative experience into something that could help others. The website helps anyone who has been affected by cancer connect, learn and share with others who really understand what it's like to have cancer.

Final Thoughts:

When someone at work has a cancer diagnosis how does it impact other workers?

It's obvious that people are impacted with concern for their colleague, but they also become frightened about whether or not such a thing can happen to them.
The workplace that is fully open to conversations, that is empathetic and compassionate and that spurs the person diagnosed on to be a consistent member of the team ... well, that's the sort of companies we are exploring and looking at.

In my professional opinion, and in my heart as a cancer survivor myself ... Thank you to Text100 and to Squeaky for being such amazing companies.

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Ann Fry is the Workplace Cancer and Disease Crisis Coach. She trains managers to engage and support people at work who are impacted by Cancer or a major illness (either their own or that of a loved one.) She's the person to call when the Executive teams needs to "triage" and sort through the crisis when one of their own is impacted. She can facilitate the conversation and help set the strategy for moving forward.