Living with cancer blog

Returning to work as a cancer survivor

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. May 12, 2010

As a cancer survivor, you may be dealing with the challenge of returning to your work schedule during and after cancer treatment. You may be working your normal schedule or a reduced schedule depending on your treatment and how you are feeling physically.

Or, you may have needed to stop working during treatment and return later. As you return to work, you may be concerned about continued fatigue, physical changes, and performing your usual job responsibilities.

As you plan to talk to your employer about your situation, here are a few suggestions to assist in your planning.

  • Ask to meet with your manager or supervisor in person to discuss your treatment plan and put in place a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA ) plan to allow flexible time away when needed. FMLA enables you to have up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for serious illness.
  • Let them know early on if you need to schedule time away for medical appointments or tests even as you complete cancer treatment.
  • Ask about a flexible or reduced work schedule during times when you know you will need more rest.
  • Be honest with your employer. It's best to give them as much information as is needed to understand your medical situation. The Americans with Disability Act protects you against discrimination to accommodate your needs during this time.

There are times when physical changes are obvious, such as loss hair loss during and following cancer treatment. You may be concerned about your appearance during this time. Consult with a hair and skin care specialist to put a plan in place to address these concerns early on.

Other concerns include worry about future medical insurance coverage from your employer. It's best to meet with your human resources representative and understand your current and future medical coverage as best you can early on.

With co-workers, be honest and share what you feel comfortable sharing. You may find great support and kindness come back to you during this time. Your work family is important and can be an incredible source of strength.

Feel free to share your experiences, ideas and resources related to this topic with each other through this blog.

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

May 12, 2010