Breast cancer sufferer in US forced to show chest to stop workplace rumours

The woman sought legal advice online.
The woman sought legal advice online. Photo credit: File / Getty

A woman suffering breast cancer in the United States says she was forced to expose her chest to her boss to prove her illness, after rumours were spread saying she wasn't really sick.

The woman shared her story on Reddit, under the Legal Advice section.

"I had breast cancer about a year and a half ago. I got surgery and took FMLA," she said, referring to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

"Luckily I didn’t have to undergo chemo or radiation. Surgery was able to remove all my tumors. I still have checkups and screenings occasionally and have to miss work."

The woman said she declined construction of her breasts following the operation and was able to return to work less than a month after surgery.

"I have no breast on my left side (just a flat scar - no breast tissue) and I have no nipple and only a smaller amount of breast tissue on my right side (they removed a lot of breast tissue with a lumpectomy but were able to salvage about 55 percent of the breast tissue). I have no nipples," she wrote.

However, after she was forced to miss an important meeting in order to get an MRI and bone scan her colleagues became suspicious she was faking her illness.

"They have been spreading rumors that because I came back to work so soon that I didn’t have breast cancer. I wear a prosthetic at work so no one sees me flat. They are saying everyone they know with any cancer always has to take a lot of time off work and I seem fine."

Despite her manager and the company's HR department knowing the truth, she says her colleagues are spreading rumours she is abusing her sick leave.

"It got to the point where I was scared to even take appointments because I knew coming back to work would be the worst. Again, my manager has always been supportive and HR too. This is just my supervisor and my coworkers."

The woman said the tension reached boiling point when she overheard her co-workers talking about her the office next door.

"They were saying I was scamming everyone and that I didn’t deserve the upcoming raises. About how I didn’t have cancer. I got upset and I walked over and I lifted my shirt and prosthetic bra and showed them the scars on my chest."

She said the incident happened on Friday afternoon (local time) and since then no one has mentioned anything and everyone is acting normal.

"It is now Monday and I am worried. I had time to think over the weekend and realised it was a huge mistake. I should have just gone to HR about the gossip."

The woman asked the online forum for advice, saying she feared she could be fired for the incident.

People responding to the post speculated that firing her could open the company up to a potential lawsuit, adding that her coworkers' behaviour was worse than hers.

"I think you'll be ok," wrote one person. "I think they're not saying anything because you called them out on their bulls**t in the most upfront and brutally honest way.

"It's not right for a cancer patient to be bullied and harassed like that and your managers should've taken care of it before you even had to."