I am going to venture into virgin territory for this blog — issues of prostate cancer and the workplace.

A couple of days ago I got a letter from Steve L,. 54, a personable guy with a good sense of humor who lives in the suburbs of New York City and works in sales. When I first heard from him a few weeks ago he was reeling from the shock of a new diagnosis of prostate cancer. I tried to reassure him. Now I got an update. Steve wrote that he had found a doctor he clicked with right away and that he and his wife had decided on a course of treatment — robotic surgery Just making the decision lifted a burden, he said, made him feel a little better. *But,* Steve reported, he had another nagging problem. I’m going to share it with all of you. Maybe you will come up with some ideas.

In Steve’s words:

“Other issues that I’ve dealt with lately: Who in my work world do I tell about this? How do I tell them? I’m a contracted worker for a number of firms. Who will decide to work with my reduced work schedule? Who won’t? I’m not an employee so I have no rights. As someone who lives on commissions when I don’t work, I don’t make money.”

Sounds familiar. Dear husband, who is 56, worked as a freelancer in recent years and had to deal with all of these issues. So before I address Steve’s question I want to take a detour and tell you a bit about DH’s experiences.

DH started a new career as a technical writer at 53. But three weeks after he got his first break, a long-term assignment at Citicorp, he was diagnosed with PC (Aug. ’05). I was afraid of only one thing — and it wasn’t the cancer. It was that the folks at Citicorp would show DH the door. As a te