When hearing that you, a friend or family member has cancer, a million questions surface including many financial ones. One very common question, according to The Cancer Support Community, is: “Will I be able to work through treatment or will I need to take time off from work?”
According to the site: “If you or a loved one has cancer, it doesn’t mean that there will be a need to work less or leave the job, although some people do. There is no one right answer about working fulltime, part-time or not at all during treatment.”
Deciding to work during your cancer treatment will depend on the type of treatment(s) you are receiving, your overall health, the severity of your cancer and the kind of work you do.
There are many types of cancer treatment, such as surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The treatment given depends on many things including the type of cancer you have. Some people with cancer will have only one treatment but most have a combination of treatments and cancer treatments can cause all kinds of side effects.
While great strides have been made in reducing the severity of treatment side effects, side effects still occur and vary from person to person, even among those receiving the same treatment. Some people have very few side effects while others have many. Some treatments require a stay in the hospital.
And there are many reasons to continue working during treatment. You may need to work for economic reasons. Working may provide a sense of routine and balance, and your co-workers can offer support. Some people are able to keep their regular schedule; some add special conditions to their work, such as being close to the bathroom so it is easier to handle side effects. You may decide to work part-time, take flex-time, change jobs or take a leave from your current position.
Your physician can offer input on how your cancer treatment may affect your ability to work. Speak with your healthcare team about the work you do and your priorities. This can help you plan ahead so that you can keep a work schedule that works for you, your employer and co-workers plus meets your treatment needs.
The Cancer Support Community lists the following for you to consider when deciding whether to work through treatment:
• Do I enjoy my work?
• What are my career priorities?
• What does my health care team recommend?
• Can I still complete my work functions while in treatment?
• What are the side effects of my treatment and how will they affect work?
• How will time off affect my income?
• How much sick leave do I have?
• Does the Family and Medical Leave Act apply?
• Do I have disability insurance? (Employer/Private/State/ Social Security)
• If I decide to stop work temporarily or permanently, how will this affect me and others?
• If I decide to stop work what will I need to do to keep my health insurance?
There are ways you can plan ahead
to make working through cancer treatment easier.
• Unless there is a reason not to, let your co-workers know about your cancer and treatment. Let your supervisor know your treatment schedule. And provide only the necessary information without revealing more than you want to share.
• Schedule treatment(s) late in the day so you can go home afterwards; or at the end of the week so you have the weekend to recover.
• Investigate working from home some days or telecommuting.
• Ask for help at home leaving more energy for work.
• Have a detailed list of your job duties so things can be delegated when you need to be out.
• Work with your employer to find ways to manage the changes that may affect your ability to do the job.
• Keep a work diary noting when you feel better and when you feel tired, try to schedule projects accordingly.
• Keep stress to a minimum, take breaks and set boundaries.
Remember there is no right or wrong answer about working during cancer treatment. Everyone one is different and you need to consider what will work best for you.
The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute encourages you to talk with your healthcare provider about your specific medical conditions and treatments.
The information contained in this article is meant to be helpful and educational but is not a substitute for medical advice. The above information is from WebMD; The Cancer Support Community; Medline Plus and Live Strong The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute can provide additional information on the above topic. Feel free to visit the Cancer Institute website at www.cancernepa.org, or contact the organization by calling 1-800-424-6724.