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Cancer and Work Video

What is your experience with cancer and work?
What tips would you tell others?
7 Replies
Runner Girl
2321 Posts
Lacey_Moderator‍ ,

I worked throughout my cancer treatment so I did not have to transition back to work. I told my boss first then called everyone into the boardroom and told everyone else at once. I laid down the rules, if you're sick you need to stay home. If you can't stay home then you need to let me know and I will stay home. Everyone was extremely supportive. I only had once incident with a new female employee who when sick stood over my desk, sniffling and coughing. I plainly told her to get the hell away from me, that her cold could potentially kill me - I was mad! I then put on a mask. She claimed allergies. Shortly thereafter she left the office and stayed home till she was over it. It was a small office, with only 12 of us, 10 men, 2 women.

My advice to others who may choose to continue to work, don't hide it. It's not contagious and it's better that everyone knows than whispers behind your back. I was going to loose my hair, that would be pretty obvious so I was open with everyone. The support you get is really so nice to have and it's so relaxing and easy not trying to hide something.

Runner Girl
230 Posts
Cancer 1.0 I worked pretty much full time - just taking a few says off around treatment until the nausea passed but usually checking in from home. In IT it is easy to work remotely. Working kept my mind from going down the cancer rabbit hole. We also discussed as a family because working was going to take energy away from things like making dinner or other chores. I didn't have fatigue with those treatments so it made it more manageable. I also work in healthcare so people are pretty understanding. I remember showing up to one meeting and taking my summer hat off, one fellow asked about my bald head "that isn't a fashion statement is it?" ... nope. courtesy of chemo. Nurses and doctors I worked with always asked how I was feeling and what my counts were. I was wearing a mask at work long before it was fashionable and everyone knew NOT to come to the office if they were sick and to dial into meetings rather than attend in person if they weren't well. One fellow at a meeting had a cold and I said I could put on a mask to protect me or he could put on a mask to protect everyone - he put on the mask. Despite my compromised immune system and working - I never got sick with cancer 1.0.

Cancer 2.0 I had more intense weekly treatments and a lot of fatigue. I was much sicker so only checked email once a day and answered questions that people needed to follow up on work without me. As the cancer started to respond to treatment and I started to recover energy I worked more - still from home. I started going back into the office a few short days a week after treatment ended again wearing a mask before it was fashionable. I was just getting back to almost full days when the pandemic hit. I have been working remotely every since and more than full time hours. People know I have ongoing treatment and I block off treatment days and time in my calendar to rest for a few days following treatment. I do have to remind people that I get tired.

Work is a big part of my life and I am thankful I could keep connected to them.
2149 Posts
Such an important topic.

I worked in a small office, where colleagues were very much like friends. I felt safe and comfortable sharing with them as I knew, it would mean allocating my workload to them. The hard part was knowing - how long - I would be off. Initially i was under the impression that I would return after my lumpectomy - 4 to 6 wks. LOL...that turned to bilateral mastectomy, chemo, radiation. I was off for a total of 1 1/2 yr.

I was driven to return to work - to return to "normal" - to return to my colleagues. I did underestimate the fatigue and brain fog and how that affected me. I was exhausted after my first day. I highly recommend a gradual return to work, even if you feel capable of doing more. Much better to ease in if you can.

Great video. I also found the website : https://www.cancerandwork.ca/. Really helpful . Kim
2198 Posts
I never made it back to work. At first - I was not given much of a prognosis. And then, that changed for the better. Late 2016's chemo, burred into 2017's major surgery, then recovery, then radiation. I started to feel much better, talking about going back to work in accommodation due to the now irreversible physical challenges. Then I walked into Oct 2017's confirmation of a recurrence. Then months of testing, clinical trial immunotherapy - that failed, and into surgery #4 in June of 2018. And a long recovery / healing of the area they didn't want to cut me open on - again. I have never felt the same since. I am not complaining, just stating the facts. My endurance and many other facets have never returned, and I've kind of gotten used to the days where I feel mentally and physically that I am functioning like I am in a "brown out" situation.

Returning to work is what most of us are able to do, strive for and hope to give us back that normalcy balance of work / pleasure / rest. I retired in 2019, and it still have not settled with what is - yet.

I agree with what is said and thought in these posts. Work or return to work at your own pace and ability. Be honest with both yourself and your boss and coworkers. And remember - healing and recovery is your #1 Job during and after cancer treatments. Everyone at their own pace - and ability.

2032 Posts
One of the wisest words I read on this topic were from a member on this site. They said to take the length of time you were doing treatments (eg 6 months, 9 months, 1 year) and double that as the time to take off work in order to FULLY recover.
So that would be my tip: don't underestimate the time required to heal both physically and emotuonally/psychologically from this crazy experience.
I was lucky in that I had a wonderful LTD plan that allowed me to take this time. I realize not everyone has access to such a financial safety net.

Like others, I had nothing but a good experience in telling my colleagues, boss, etc. They were so supportive and caring and kind.
That website mentioned by Kims1961‍ was incredibly helpful as well!
577 Posts
I was diagnosed with my breast cancer WHERE I work! ugh, that was terrible - having folks I know and have worked with for 15(ish) years have to give me such difficult information & then perform some pretty personal procedures.....I didn't cry, but my mammographer did! love these guys 😍

initially I had no plans to take any time away, and then COVID happened and I knew I did not want to be in a medical setting with open wounds from surgery so I went on short term disability....that progressed to long term disability....and I returned approx 9 months after my initial diagnosis. I called my leave my COVID CANCER BABY leave.

-even tho I wouldn't believe it - time away was good. in retrospect I know I would have been too exhausted and unfocused to do a good job while I was in the thick of it.....not to say its not the right decision for others, but I really learned a lot about myself during this whole thing
-I am very lucky - my employers were super supportive to a slow return to work plan that worked just great. I would not suggest going from 0 to 100 all at once....a slow transition back into the fray is the kindest
-keep in touch with the team if possible - makes coming back much smoother

just over 1 year later, it's like I was never gone, and most days I don't even remember that I am cancer - girl!
life is good

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