WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — Finishing treatment and finding out you’re cancer-free is a relief, but there could be another hurdle around the corner.

A survivor from central North Carolina wants people to know that finding a job could be another challenge, and is encouraging others to find resources and not give up.

Verna Boyd when she was getting treatment (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

Verna Boyd, from Wilson, has a passion for people and connecting with them through her job as a registered nurse.

“I actually have in my phone, ‘Beautiful Woman,’. Because my spirit, it brings people to me,” she said.

But in March of 2021, she had to turn that focus on her own health after she and her mother were diagnosed with breast cancer, one week apart.

“Let’s just move forward. That was my whole thing from the beginning,” Boyd said. “Whatever we need to do to get this cancer out of me, let’s do it.”

Both of them are now cancer free, but Boyd had other challenges ahead of her.

Verna Boyd, right, and her mother, left (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)
Boyd’s Mary Eliza Mahoney Award, which is given to nurses or groups of nurses who promote integration within their field. (Credit: Curtis and Verna Boyd)

The award-winning nurse – who has a bachelor’s degree and started the Wilson-Raleigh chapter of the national organization Black Nurses Rock – struggled to get a job.

She said employers were concerned about medical obligations as she recovers.

“Because of my disability, my arm and my legs, they’re weak. All these different things are going on. You can’t see it, but it’s there,” Boyd explained.

Data from the National Library of Medicine shows it’s a common theme for cancer survivors, whose unemployment rate is 40% higher than people who have never been diagnosed.

With perseverance, and help from the Ticket to Work program provided by the Social Security Administration, Boyd is now working at a hospital.

“I’m happy there. I’m very happy there,” Boyd said while smiling.

What is the Ticket to Work program?

In the Ticket to Work program, people with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can work full time without losing their benefits as they transition back into the workforce.

According to SSDI representative Allsup, nearly 70% of the 7.6 million former workers in America receiving SSDI are unaware of the program.

“Initially I was struggling and trying to figure everything out, and when I found out about the service it allowed me to be able to continue to do what I need to do,” Boyd said.

She said the program gives survivors like her another chance at following their passion.

With determination and the right resources, she’s encouraging others there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s just a matter of hanging in there, knowing someone will hire you,” she said. “Even with disabilities, they will hire you.”

Click here to learn more about the Ticket to Work program.