Returning to normalcy after a cancer diagnosis

Workers who have cancer should have a plan to empower them to thrive in the workplace.
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(StatePoint) Cancer. It’s a word no one wants to hear, yet all too many people are diagnosed each year. With a diagnosis comes many questions, most importantly how to get the best medical care possible. For many, the next logical question is how to maintain a normal life with cancer — including balancing work, life and health demands.

Nearly 80 percent of cancer patients and survivors say continuing work after diagnosis aids recovery, according to recently released survey results from nonprofit organization Cancer and Careers and Harris Interactive. Still, many struggle to find support navigating the work/life balance of employment with cancer.

For some, working through treatment is not a choice, but a necessity. For others, the decision to work is made based on personal preferences.

Survey results showed that several factors motivate cancer survivors to continue working — including feeling well, wanting to maintain a routine and wanting to be productive. At the same time, 67 percent of surveyed cancer patients and survivors said work/life balance was critical to having a career.

Regardless of the situation, experts say that those working through or returning to work following treatment have many factors to consider.

“There are many components to manage when people return to work after a cancer diagnosis or treatment, including understanding legal rights, telling co-workers, managing treatment schedules and addressing potential resume gaps,” said Kate Sweeney, executive director of Cancer and Careers, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to serving people working during and after cancer treatment.

Sweeney offers the following tips for people transitioning back into the workplace after a cancer diagnosis or treatment:

• Before sharing your diagnosis, study your options. Learn about the laws that may protect you, know your company’s policies and speak to your healthcare team.

• Be mindful of what you say online. Whatever you post becomes part of your online brand, so consider the short- and long-term effects of what you say and do.

• When returning to work, ease back into the routine. Make sure you take care of yourself physically and mentally.

• Be clear with your co-workers about how they can support you.

• Be prepared to “swivel” the conversation back to work-related things so the focus isn’t always on cancer.

• Rely on free resources to help make the transition. For example, Cancer and Careers provides expert advice, interactive tools and educational events for everyone dealing with cancer in the workplace, including patients, healthcare professionals, human resource managers and co-workers.

More information on how to balance the demands of work and cancer can be found at

Whether you need to work or simply want to stay active during your treatment, having a plan can empower you to thrive in the workplace and leave you with more energy to cope with the rest of life’s details.

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