"And once the storm is over, you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about."―Haruki Murakami
Cancer And Work
The diagnosis of cancer is life changing. But thanks to advances in medical science, cancer is now more of a chronic condition than a terminal illness. A study by the American Association for Cancer Research estimates that by 2022 there will be 18 million cancer survivors in the United States, a growth of 31 percent from the 2012 figures of 13.7 million cancer survivors. This means more people are likely to be dealing with cancer in the workplace and we need to learn about how to cope with this.
There are multiple facets to dealing with cancer in the workplace. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, the first question that is likely to come to mind is ‘can I work during cancer treatment?’ You might also have inhibitions while returning to work after cancer treatment.
Working with Cancer
As an employed individual, a cancer diagnosis can stymie the best laid career plans. Working during cancer treatment depends on a variety of parameters. These include, but are not limited to:
- Cancer type
- Cancer stage
- Cancer treatment
- Kind of work an individual does
- Overall health of the individual
Going Back to Work After Cancer Treatment or During Treatment
1) Coping with Cancer
It would be a good idea to discuss your condition with your medical practitioner detailing your job responsibilities and the demands of your profession. Factor in the time required for treatment, whether you will be working while on chemo, the estimated duration for recovery etc.
2) Cancer Awareness
Read up and educate yourself. This will give you a fair idea of the side effects you can expect and ways to combat them. People react to chemotherapy differently. But being aware of what to expect will help you tide over the difficult days.
3) Healthy Food
You are what you eat. This maxim holds true during cancer treatment also. Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables in the form of juices, soups and purees, in case you find it difficult to chew. Have leafy greens unless you have been asked to avoid raw food. Sushi and raw/undercooked meats and eggs are avoidable. Increase your whole grain intake, try to reduce sugar, avoid processed food. In a nutshell, eat a balanced and healthy diet.
Having an action plan in place will make you feel more in control of the situation. Having said that, cancer and its treatment can have its ups and downs, so do factor in a large amount of flexibility. Create a to-do list, and whittle it down to smaller lists of tasks that you aim to accomplish every day. This will help restore a sense of calm while making you feel in control of the situation.
5) Cancer And Work Rights
Read up the company policy on cancer, treatment, leave entitlements and whether you are required to inform your employer about your diagnosis. Going through the HR policies of your company will give you a fair idea on how your diagnosis is likely to affect your employability and whether you will be able to manage cancer in the workplace.
If you do choose to tell your employer about your condition, work out what and how much you are willing to share. This will be dependent on the environment of your company and the relationship your share with your employer. Be ready to talk about the leave you will require, working while on chemo, possibility of flexible working hours/options of working from home etc.
7) Talking to Colleagues
If you are part of a large organisation, you can choose to tell only the members of your team about your condition. There are no right or wrong answers. You can choose to share the details of the cancer, the treatment options etc with colleagues you are comfortable with. Think of how people might react. Some might be understanding while others might show discomfort or fear.
Think carefully on how much you share on social media. Whatever you share becomes a part of your digital footprint. In case you have chosen not to inform your employer and colleagues about working during cancer treatment, it might be prudent to keep the news away from social media.
9) Work on Your Looks
Surely you don’t want that unnecessary sympathy from your colleagues and acquaintances! You must maintain your normal appearance by smoothly transitioning to a customised wig at the right time. You can now even get a customised wig home delivered within 3 to 4 working days through Papillon.
Dealing with cancer at the workplace can be difficult. Make your health, both physical and mental a priority while charting out the course on managing cancer in the workplace. Apart from maintaining your moral and physical fitness, certainly make sure that you look normal to yourself as well as to others at the workplace.