Working During Your Cancer Treatment

Your guide to coping with work-life balance

One of the first things that may come to your mind post a cancer diagnosis is how it may affect your work-life balance. You may have questions like

Will my cancer treatment require long periods off work?

Will the side effects of treatment be manageable if I continue working?

Will my supervisor and peers be supportive?

As a crucial first step, consult with your physician and cancer care team about your plans to work, and how it will impact various aspects of your care. Weigh the pros and cons of how your treatment schedule will affect work and discuss the steps to efficiently manage the side effects. Make an informed decision about whether you want to continue working full time, opt for fewer hours, work remotely, or take a sabbatical.

Make the Choice That is Right for You

Going to work during your cancer treatment journey is largely a personal decision. Your caregiver and family might advise you to rest during your treatment journey. However, you may feel that working will

Give you a much-needed sense of routine

Help you feel good about yourself

Offer an additional source of income

Many cancer patients choose to continue working during treatment, since not all types of cancer treatments hinder your ability to work. Research also states that working during your cancer treatment journey enhances your life management skills and helps you maintain as normal a daily routine as possible. It also promotes an overall sense of well-being and boosts confidence levels. 

Some cancer patients may continue working full-time while they are getting their treatment, while others may choose to work on a part time basis. Some choose to work with a less demanding schedule and take a few sick leaves to cope with the treatment schedules and side effects. 

The most important aspects of sustaining a work-life balance during your cancer treatment journey are:

Your personal feelings and goals

Your family’s situation

The willingness and ability of your employer to accommodate any specific requirements that you may have

No matter who you are, your situation and journey are unique. It is critical to have open discussions with your loved ones and your employer and make sure that the choice you make is right for you.

Talking to your boss and colleagues

It may initially be extremely hard to talk to anyone about your cancer. However, as you gradually ease into your routine of cancer care, you may find that it gets easier to talk about it. Telling people at work about your illness is a personal choice, however talking about it may help you cope with the new situation and help relieve some of your stress. Your behavior and reaction toward the ailment may also influence the way your supervisor and colleagues react and accept your illness. 

Do not let cancer define your worth as a professional. You can choose to speak about it openly and treat the situation in a very matter-of-fact manner. You can decide whom you want to tell about your illness and to what extent. As word gets around, you may find yourself being the center of temporary attention, however you will also notice that most people respond with compassion and exhibit a willingness to help. If you do have co-workers who may seem anxious or fearful about your situation, try to be patient and maintain an open channel of communication. A healthy work environment and support from your supervisor and colleagues makes it easier to promote a good work-life balance. 

There is no obligation to inform your manager about the reason for taking sick leaves, since healthcare is subject to confidentiality. However, it is advisable that your supervisor be informed about your illness and understands any factors which may limit your work capability while receiving treatment. Keeping in touch with your supervisor and colleagues while you are on sick leave makes it easier to return to work and be prepared for any future work commitments or deadlines.

your work

Your ability to work during your cancer treatment will primarily depend on several factors

  • The type of treatment you are undergoing
  • The type and severity of side effects you are experiencing
  • The impact of your cancer on your overall well-being
  • The stage of your cancer
  • The type of work that you do
  • It is advisable to explore options such as

Flexible work hours

  • Working from home on a few days
  • Creating a back-up who will handle things when you are out of office for treatment
  • Creating an effective and compassionate support system at work

Do not hesitate to ask for or accept help from your colleagues. Maintaining open channels of communication with the people you work with will encourage a healthy and trusting relationship during and after your cancer journey. Feel free to talk to your supervisor about your treatment journey and any challenges you may be facing during this time. Your co-workers and supervisor may be able to recommend effective methods to manage your work and time more effectively during treatment.

Above all, make a realistic assessment of your ability to work during your cancer treatment journey. The most important milestones will be Flexible work hours

  • Fulfilling your job duties as per agreed parameters during treatment
  • Keeping your supervisor informed of your sick leave schedule
  • Creating an effective back-up to ensure work continuity during your absence

Be aware of your rights and do not shy away from initiating a conversation with a trusted authority at work, if you feel you are becoming a victim of fears or prejudices at the workplace. Your aim should always be to effectively cope with the changes to life caused by cancer and focus on maintaining a good work-life balance, regardless of the disease.

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