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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.
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.
Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.
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I am almost finished with my cancer treatments and will be returning to work almost full time. I have worked a little here and there (I am a Realtor) so my schedule is flexible. What I want to share is the fact that my work 'family' was so supportive and helped ease my fear of coming back cause during chemo I lost all my hair, nor eye brows and eye lashes.Now I have a short hair style. My co-workers and my family love it. I said if I knew I would get this many compliments I would have cut my hair short years ago. Being around others is something that we all need especially a cancer survivor.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 Colon cancer in 2010 I had surgeon and then 9 months of chemo. The first two were tolerable, but the more I recd the worst I felt. Iwas lucky that I work for a very good canadian bank and I was off from work for a year with pay. I am back at work now, but feeling very tired at the end of each day. I now have chemo induced liver damage and high chloesterol.I am thinking very seriously of going on early retirement. Fortunely if I do, I would still be coverd under the banks medical insurance.
my husband doesnt know im writting this, but he is a survivor of testicular cancer(seminoma stage I).He went through 19 rounds of daily radiation. His boss was very understanding through it all and wanted him back. He has gone back to work and is so exhausted! He does carpentry and this is wearing him down. He is now experiencing late side affects. We love him so much and my 15 & 8 yr old break down @ times afraid that he may get sick again. We reasure them that the doctors have given him clean bill of health. We have no income right now and live with a friend so that we can get through this. On top of this we are raising a 20 mth old new son. God gives us many reasons to live and overcome! I hope each one of you find that reason and dont let go!
Thank you for sharing your stories and comments, both the good and the challenging. You all bring up important issues related to this difficult topic. One of the best things you can do as you face challenges in the workplace as a cancer survivor; is to ask questions, get assistance from your Human Resources department and others (especially for FMLA and disability laws that are meant to help you). Especially if your direct manager is not being supportive. As Marci mentioned, also ask for help from your cancer doctor. Many times, they can write a letter that describes your situation and any restrictions needed for recovery. Most of all, advocate for what is best for you to achieve the best outcome and recovery possible.
I was off work for 8 mths with breastcancer(stage III)surgery,chemo,radiation. Went back to work 1/2 time ended up working to many hours, had to take time off again. My doctor (bless her) told me to appy for Social security disability, cancer is a disabilty. Any of you who are off work for cancer treatment or unable to work after treatment contact social security and file for social security disabilty. There is no age requierment. I had a very stressfull job and less stress is good, cancer free since 2008 and I attribute a lot off this is due to not working! I hope this information helps anyone who needs it. Good luck and bless all of you.:)
I underwent key-hole surgery for prostate cancer in 2006 followed by radiation (IMRT) in 2008. Because I had built up a lot of sick leave, I was able to take off the considerable time needed for this treatment, as well as asociated counselling and physiotheraphy. It is critical that you clearly explain the impacts of cancer to your supervisors. Otherwise they will have little understanding of what cancer survivors go through, and the stresses that result upon their return to the workforce. Although this worked reasonably well, getting back to work was still quite difficult. I retired in late 2009. My health is very good and I am enjoying part time consulting work and the additional rest that it is bringing.
The one thing the article did not cover is the discrimination a cancer surivor or chemo patient must endure in filling out an job app or interview.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer was bad enough, but my boss and company actually made it worse.
I had to work ($) until the day before my mastectomy, so you can imagine the state I was in. The only person I told was my boss. So, I worked for 1 month under extreme stress (I think it worsened my cancer)
Then I told off a co-worker (f-word) and my boss suspended me without pay for 3 days. You know that actually hurt more than the cancer.
Do I dread going back..you betcha...I'll think about it tomorrow...
I worked through chemo and then through radiation and my boss did not accommodate me at all, except for allowing me a day off after chemo to recover. First chance he got after that, he laid me off. As it turned out, he did me a favor, since my cacer returned, and now I have the time to take care of myself without worrying about work and how tired I would be.
My doctor keeps saying only one more chemo and then when I see him there always seems to be another one. I had a reaction to more than one of the cancer drugs and so, with all the changes, the treatment keeps changing according to each drug. Still getting over the last chemo.
My boss is long out of the picture...I harbor no good feelings toward him. My coworkers were angels.
Aside from feeling sick and also GAINing weight, things are looking good. I sleep ALL the time. My little dogs and their needs get me up and running in the morning. I am fortunate to have a retired husband who takes care of me.
I was also very lucky to have an employer who chose to be flexible with my hours plus I had sick leave hours to use during recovery from surgery. I kind of fooled myself by thinking that since I didn't have a physically demanding job that I would make it through the treatments, surgery and recovery with few side and after affects. I missed little work in the grand scheme of things but wow what a toll it took in terms of fatigue. I will never again take for granted the ability to think and make clear headed decisions. As a supervisor of 20+ people and all their individual issues it was sometimes almost overwhelming to help them deal with their situations while I was hanging on by a thread dealing with my own. It has been about 9 months since chemo/radiation combo, then 2 surgeries, and sleep is still a very precious commodity. Strength and stamina recovery seems like it is to be gained back by an ounce or minute at a time. Yet I feel fortunate to be writing this now since I frequently read about folks who have it a lot harder than I.
I have a rare but treatable form of leukemia. Have had 12 treatments chemo first time and 1 treatment , continuous 24/7 second time. Been doing it since 1995. I'm lucky in big scope of things.. For me the recuperation from chemo has gotten harder each time from long term chronic fatigue. That being said, some employers will be understanding others will not. Please be aware that you must pay attention to everything that goes on around you. Yes title VII is supposed to protect people with disabilities of which cancer is one. But, in the past, ( hopefully Obama has fixed)if your company is self -insured they think like an insurance company and now we are a potential liability. Never tell a perspective employeer you have or are in remission from cancer. They donot need to know. You have done nothing wrong. Cancer is private to you just like HIPPA. They odds are against them hiring you if you tell them. Once employeed, be aware of your reviews not being as strong as they had been if HR is aware you have cancer. Remember , insurance companies have legally discriminated against us with a label of "preexisting condition". Self insured companies think the same way. "Preexisting condition" discrimination will go away with the new healthcare laws but not the corporations profit/loss mentality regarding same.If we relapse ,it effects their bottom line. I speak from experience and am fairly knowlegable on the topic.
In Augues of 2008 I was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and was off work for 7 months. I work for a public university and they held my job. I came back to work 1 month after the all clear from my doctor and exhausted wasn't the word for it. But, my boss worked with me and made my return a very positive experience. I made sure that I got lots of sleep and continued with a healthy fruit and vegetable rich diet and had several weeks of physical rehab to build up my muscles from being bedridden for so long. It has been 18 months and I am still recovering and just last week was diagnosed with breast cancer and a recurrence of my lymphoma. So will be taking medical leave again and I am so blessed with a job that allows me that time without the worry of losing my job. Will continue with a healthy diet and exercise and hoping agianst hope that I don't lose my hair again! God Bless!
where were you 3 years ago i really could of used this info on making transition to work
I finished my 9 weeks of radiation treatment and I thought I did pretty good through it. I worked and my company worked with me all the way through it. I was honest with them and told them as much as I could. I have a physical job that my side affects and fatigue kicked in so I`m taking the month of May off. My company backed me up 100% and that makes me feel secure. I do have problems sleeping at night that is my biggest dilemma. Take it day by day, life is good and so is family, so I`ll deal with the side affects as long as I`m breathing..Good luck to everybody.
I just recieved the new news letter and I like reading and learning from it. 3 year lung cancer surviver, I tried going back to work but I could not as my employer put it preform the dutys i was hired for. It is hard to adjust to not working and to ask for help. But you just cant quit liveing, work is only a small part of life set new goals and keep going!!!
For me the trick has been knowing my limits. I have been working from home and putting in 7 hour days. Once chemo was finished, i planned to come back into the office one month later. What a disaster! My plan was to work half days in the office then half days at home but I got dragged into meetings or deadlines and ended up working full days in the office. I was exhausted by Friday. My COO and I worked out that I would come into the offfice only if necessary but that I would continue to work at home. Much better. Thank heavens they are flexible.
This is a good resource for living with cancer: http://www.mesothelioma-aid.org/support.htm
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