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Working During Treatment

Working during treatmentWhen diagnosed with an illness, such as cancer, a patient must adjust to all sorts of lifestyle changes. New diets, medications, and exercises are just some examples of how a patient’s life will change, and quickly. But what about work? How does one combine a cancer diagnosis with successful employment? First, talk to your doctor, social worker and/or patient navigator to discuss if working during treatment is an option for you.

Last year (2012) Cancer and Careers conducted a survey with Harris Interactive among employed people who had been diagnosed with cancer.  They discovered that most patients chose to continue working during treatment because they felt well enough, they wanted to keep things as normal as they could, and they wanted to remain feeling productive. So, take the time to consider why you would want to continue employment and if your particular illness allows you to do so; in other words, are you feeling well enough to work?

Through a series of blog posts, we’ll walk you through some things to consider, policies to investigate and benefits to look into while relaying some suggestions that Cancer and Careers has found helpful for patients who would like to work during treatment.

If you and your medical provider have reached an agreement and the answer is yes, it’s important to start with the basics when contemplating how and if you’ll convey your diagnosis to your employer.


Should you tell?

Ask yourself how treatment will affect your ability to perform your duties and find out what kind of legal benefits already exist for you.

Contemplate your work environment and culture. Is your office safe and flexible? If so, you may consider telling them early and disclosing your diagnosis fully. Is your office more task-focused with limited personal interaction? In this case, you might consider telling them only what is necessary while sticking to the facts.

Not sure? That’s okay, most people aren’t. Take a step back and observe; do people come in on Monday and chat about their pet hedgehog, the hotel they booked downtown for a stay-cation or the best slice of Chicago-style deep dish? Or do they keep to themselves, nose to the grindstone? Other factors to consider could be your length of employment or past performance reviews. You may even want to think about how your company has supported other employees with medical issues such as maternity/paternity leave. Does your company already have policies that demonstrate flexibility such as donated vacation time?

Then think about you, personally. How would you normally handle big news? If you’re outgoing, it may be natural to tell your employer right away, sparing no details. If you’re more of an introvert, you might feel more comfortable sticking to the facts and only telling those who need to know. Keep in mind, everyone reacts differently and it can change, so do what makes you most comfortable.



Next up in Working During Treatment….

Who should you tell?


Whose world will you change?