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Work and Career

Returning to Work after Cancer Treatment

silbchris January 23, 2023
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Firstly, congratulations on beating cancer! You’ve been through the works, and you deserve to feel proud.

After all your treatments and time in hospital, you’re probably ready to settle back into normal life. Normality will feel comforting, and part of this could be the return to work.

While returning to the workplace isn’t for all cancer survivors, it could be a great source of comfort for many. However, there are many things you need to consider before taking this step. Here are five things to keep in mind before returning to the workplace.

Don’t rush

Before you make any decisions, it’s important not to rush healing. While returning to everyday life might seem appealing, it can make you feel worse if you jump back in too soon. Make sure you take plenty of time to recover and slowly ease back into everyday life.

Ultimately the decision of when you return to work is up to you. Don’t feel pressured by family members, employers, or colleagues. Take your time and feel ready – only you will know the right time.

Talk to your doctors

When you feel ready, your doctor or consultant is the next person you need to talk to. Their insight into your health is key. By evaluating your workplace and responsibilities, plus the type of treatment you received (such as chemotherapy), they’ll give you professional advice on returning to work. If your job is more physically demanding, they’ll suggest adaptions.

If you’re worried, you can ask your doctor to write a letter to your employer. This can detail anything from your cancer treatment to suggested adjustments.

Contact your employer

After your doctor agrees you’re ready to work, it’s time to chat with your employer. Some people are reluctant to tell their employers about their cancer treatment. While it’s ultimately your decision, not telling your employer means they have no legal responsibility to cater to your needs.

Before returning to work, set up a meeting with your manager and HR. Treat it as a catch-up but make sure to discuss your needs going forward. If you’re hesitant to do this by yourself, ask a union rep or trusted colleague to sit in with you.

Make adjustments

Together with your employer, create reasonable adjustments. The first of these adjustments could be a phased return to work. This allows you to return to work on limited hours, so you can slowly acclimate to working again.

Other adjustments you can make include taking regular breaks, reducing responsibility, and having a lighter workload. Remember, your employer has a legal obligation to make these adjustments for you, so don’t ever feel pressured to do more than you’re capable of.

Be honest

Lastly, it’s vital to stay honest. If you’re struggling at all, don’t feel embarrassed. You’ve used a lot of energy to get better, so don’t waste more on unnecessary stress.

The key is to ensure you’re taking plenty of breaks. Fatigue after treatment is very common for cancer survivors. Be sure to be kind to yourself and take your time.

Back to work

While returning to work might seem like a great idea, you must put your health first. Consider all the points raised in the article before committing to working again.

Don’t forget you’re a cancer survivor. You deserve a period of recovery before jumping back into everyday life. So, take a breath, put up your feet, and relax.


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