With more than one million new cases of cancer reported in America this year, you are not alone in this battle. Coping with cancer is hard, especially when balancing family, life and a career. In fact, almost half of cancer patients are of working age at the time of their diagnoses. Because people rely on employment to successfully support themselves, balancing a career with cancer can be a critical step.
But how can we manage both a career and cancer treatment?
This article aims to address this question by providing skill sets to overcome obstacles. Take into account that everything is on an individual basis so apply aspects that relate to you. If you can apply some of these ideas into your life, you can develop a pathway towards thriving in the workplace during cancer treatment.
Discussing cancer with your boss and coworkers
Sometimes, one of the hardest tasks can be addressing your health to your boss and coworkers. Keep in mind that you do not have to talk about your health at work. Disclosing your health status is a personal choice and your medical privacy is protected under the HIPPA law. This means that your boss and coworkers do not have access to your personal health information unless you provide authorization. However, choosing to discuss your diagnosis can allow you to access disability protections such as the Family Medical Leave Act and Reasonable Accommodation. What is important is that you feel comfortable. You may tell only your boss, some or all coworkers. If you feel it is right then share your truth.
If you do decide to talk about your health status, here are a few tips to take into consideration:
- Converse with your boss in private. This can make the conversation a little easier.
- Talk to your coworkers in smaller groups. This can allow you to slowly inform more coworkers as you feel comfortable.
- Explain to your coworkers that you may update your health status if needed. You can then stay focused at work and only talk about your health when necessary.
- Discuss possible changes in your work productivity. Your boss and/or coworkers will then be well aware and can adjust your workload accordingly.
Making an action plan
An action plan will help bring more control of your life and allow you to coordinate a treatment plan with your job. An action plan is a list of ideas and questions for you and your doctor to know. Examples would be:
- Inform your doctor about the circumstances of your work. The doctor may be able to adjust some treatments to compensate for the type of work you perform.
- State that you want to make positive decisions for both your health and your career. The doctor will then be informed about your choice of actions.
- Find details about your medication and treatments. Certain medication and treatments may impact your ability to work, so it is important to know all the side effects.
- Ask if there are any treatments that make it easier to work. Treatments can respond differently for each person, so finding the right treatment for both your health and career is essential.
An action plan can help add some balance to your life. When you organize yourself, you can better the results when it comes to the next step.
Maintaining your energy at work
Trying to find balance between work and treatment is vital in sustaining energy throughout the day. Some suggestions for retaining your energy are:
- Talk to your doctor about creative options for scheduling treatment. This might mean scheduling your treatment on weekends or days you do not work.
- Discuss with your family or friends on how they can support you at home. Getting help with daily chores can mean more time to recuperate.
- Record your work schedule and duties. This record can help you see how well you are maintaining your work schedule and if there are any adjustments to be made.
- Converse with your doctor about any changes you experience in your energy level. It is always important for the doctor to know how you are feeling so she/he can personalize your care.
Cancer and your career
Remember that taking care and evaluating your health is essential to balancing work with cancer. Although it can be difficult, many patients share the same determination and prove that working during cancer treatment is possible.
If you are interested in learning more information about this topic, visit the Cancer Education Center located in A Floor West of the Arnold Pavilion. A few additional resources include:
Tips on cancer and careers
Legal rights as an employee with cancer
Triage cancer survivorship tools
The Swedish Cancer Institute is proud to help individuals fight cancer and maintain their daily activities. We hope that you can include these tips into your life and find balance with your career.
This article is from the Winter 2016 issue of Life to the Fullest, the newsletter from the Swedish Cancer Institute dedicated to those with cancer, cancer survivors, and their family members and caregivers.