Women Work and Autoimmune Disease

Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!Rosalind Joffe, MEd. & Joan Friedlander. Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! Demos. Jun. 2008. c.200p. index.
ISBN 978-1-932603-68-2. pap. $18.95. HEALTH

In the book, Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! you’ll meet women who face challenges that are physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

We have changed their names, but the heart of their stories remains unaltered. In each instance, these brave women have found ways to keep a strong sense of quality, satisfaction, and fulfillment in their lives.

While the ways in which they have maintained their forward momentum differ, they share one fundamental decision: to stay in the workforce.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is an Autoimmune Disease, and Why Is It a Women’s Issue?
  2. Why Should You Keep Working?
  3. The Challenges of the Workplace
  4. The Relationship among Diagnosis, Disease Course, and Career Development
  5. Success in the Workplace: When Knowledge and Experience Are Not Enough
  6. Talking about Your Chronic Illness
  7. You’re Fired — By Your Body or Your Boss
  8. Building Your Support Team
  9. Developing Your Warrior Spirit: Hope and Resilience

Book Reviews

“Despite having been diagnosed with chronic illnesses, coauthors Joffe (founder, cicoach.com), who has multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, and Friedlander (founder, LifeWork Business Partners), who has Crohn’s disease, both enjoy successful careers. Here, they offer their expertise to help women with these and other autoimmune conditions (e.g., chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, Graves’ disease) do the same. Thriving at work while living with a chronic illness, they write, will help preserve these women’s independence and senses of self. The authors use first-person accounts to illustrate their advice on coping simultaneously with symptoms and the challenges of the workplace; developing a financial plan; communicating with coworkers, employers, and loved ones; building a support team; and balancing work and family responsibilities. A little book with lots of useful advice; recommended. Visit the authors online at www.keepworkinggirlfriend.com. ”
~ LibraryJournal.com Review


” Chronic Illness can be a problem with the quality of our lives, but it doesn’t mean one has to stop living it. This is the premise of co-authors Rosalind Joffe and Joan Friedlander in “Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!”, a book of encouragement and practical wisdom for those women who are faced with some form of chronic illness on top of dealing with a career. Focusing on how to overcome it for your career and how to excel at it, it’s an optimistic although realistic look, also containing chapters on dealing with job loss from illness. Any woman with a chronic illness needs to read and can substantially benefit from “Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease”.
~ Midwest Book Review/ Book Review Index/ Internet Bookwatch


“MS expert and Crohn’s disease sufferer present a book of inspiration and wisdom for women that live and work with chronic disease… discusses hope and resilience.”
ForeWord Magazine


“The book is frank and honest, and it spoke clearly to me, a creative career woman exhausted by the perplexing unpredictability of my illness. I have read many chronic illness books. This one is very special because of the premise that career is so fundamental to our identity and to our healing. I was inspired to revisit fundamental issues related to my career plan, my outlook on life, and my responsibility to be my own ally and advocate.”

~ Diana Murray, pancreatic and biliary disease, Associate Professor in biological sciences, Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University.


“An essential resource and guide for women living with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis… The final chapter ‘Developing Your Warrior Spirit: Hope and Resilience,’ is a beautiful summation of the tone of the book. The authors include an excellent list of additional reading materials.”

~ InFocus (Autoimmune Diseases Association)


“For the chronically ill, the decision to continue working or not, can be an agonizing one. Optimistic, but realistic, Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease helps the reader carefully weigh the pros and cons of working so that they can make an informed and rational choice. Specific steps are offered to help you make accommodations that may allow you to stay in the workforce longer than you thought possible.”

~ Allison Shadday, author of “MS and Your Feelings: Handling the Ups and Downs of Multiple Sclerosis


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“If ever two things were once considered mutually exclusive, they were career and chronic illness. Add to that being a woman and the whole thing sounded like a joke. Well, we’ve come a long way, Baby. According to Rosalind Joffe of cicoach.com and Joan Friedlander, there are millions of women out there succeeding in the workplace despite living with an autoimmune disease (AD). Specifically, as many as 50 million Americans — 20% of the population — are currently living with one of 63 distinct autoimmune diseases. By some estimates, 75% of those people are women.

Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease — a much needed field guide to navigating the workplace with a chronic illness. I find this book clear, down-to-earth, and extraordinarily helpful. But first, why women? And why working, when you are supposedly so ill? According to the authors, “women are exposed more often than men to possible AD triggers primarily from the biological hormones and functions associated with the reproductive cycle.” Estrogen plays a role, they say, citing evidence that symptoms of certain illnesses may increase just before and during menopause. Ugh! I couldn’t find any stats, but do wonder if LADA diabetes is more common among women than men.

The ladies’ new book walks you through all of these issues, helping you develop a positive strategy for requesting any accommodations you may need, all while positioning yourself as a valuable team player.”

~ Diabetesmine.com


“Experts agree that going back to work is important for self esteem, independence, and for financial freedom. Others say that one should not feel pressure to go back to work and that you can gain a strong sense of self in other ways through hobbies, friendships and more. It is a fine line to walk when your health is at stake. People on both sides of this issue feel strongly on their positions. I am just happy that books like this are out there to help you make a decision that is right for you. I am also happy that many more employers are helping their employees stay at work, or adjust their work arrangements for disability. We have come a long way baby!

Reading other women’s personal experiences was enjoyable and uplifting giving me specific experiences of hope in the work environment. I found the advice in this book, on finding balance in work and life; setting realistic goals for your career and communicating efficiently with your supervisors and co-workers, could be valuable reading for anyone with any chronic health condition, whether you are a man or a woman, whether the condition is autoimmune or not.

I will say that the book’s encouraging, positive nature can possibly be seen as trying to convince the reader to keep working despite illness. I only felt this way at certain points in the book, but I enjoyed the “coaching spirit” behind it.


“Pain + Work = ??? The combination can go well, like a burger with fries. You may be able to accomplish great things despite pain, and work can be a focus away from discomfort.

Or it can feel like trying to whip up a 10-course gourmet dinner… in 5 minutes… with your eyes closed.

But what if you had a short-order chef helping with that burger, or Julia Child behind you all the way? Well, support, advice and wisdom is here for you on the subject of work and chronic disease.

Rosalind Joffe (of cicoach.com) and Joan Friedlander have written Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend, which a great resource.

The book, which is strongly pro-work, reviews:

1. The benefits of working, including money and health coverage, as well as enjoyment and self-esteem.

2. The challenges to working when coping with a chronic illness, such as fatigue and the unpredictability of illness.

What is wonderful about the book is that it doesn’t shy away from tricky subjects such as: should you discuss your illness with your boss or co-workers? And, what do you do when you physically can’t do your job. Instead it gives thoughtful, knowledgeable advice.

Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! is easy to read and practical. I particularly liked the complex, real-life examples. Both authors are experts in this field – Rosalind coaches people through these issues everyday. And both women also understand these issues personally, having dealt with MS, Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. I strongly recommend adding this book to your reading menu!

Work + Pain = You Can Do It! This book shows you how to do the math!

~ ” howtocopewithpain.org/blog


“Any woman who struggles with chronic health problems needs to read this inspiring and empowering book. In a caring, straightforward style, Joan and Rosalind reveal how continuing to work can ultimately be the path to a healthier and happier life. Women, Work and Autoimmune disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! will help you find the courage and strength to reclaim your career and your independence.”

— C.J. Hayden, MCC, Author, Get Clients Now! and Get Hired Now!

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