Work and Cancer

Cancer Council NSW

Work and Cancer

Hi everyone, We are getting an increasing amount of calls for people wanting to talk through returning to work, often wanting to change direction in their career or simply not knowing how to talk to people when they go back. Keen to hear stories which involve work or study after finishing treatment and that can be for carers as well. The more we can collect the more we can help others Thanks Annie
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Occasional Contributor

Re: Work and Cancer

Hi I've found it a bit overwhelming to be honest. I find that juggling work and the check ups, and whether to tell work colleagues or your boss etc, can all be rather difficult. I just started a new job and already am juggling the whole oncology check up and working appointments on my day off is becoming a challenge. Also my current boss was quite dismissive about the cancer when I mentioned it. She just said how common it was and made me feel a bit like I should get over myself. I get quite anxious still and have found that I end up having to tell my boss/other staff about the cancer (even though its been 6 years now) as I hope that they'll understand why I dont always seem to have it together. I also tend to have more days off because I have another health condition which causes me chronic pain. Then if I have to bring that up I feel like I'm one of "those" people, (as people say, ie who seem to have lots wrong with them. ) Breast cancer was ok, as long as nothing else is wrong with you. But then coupled with fertility treatment afterwards, the check ups and then more tests because maybe something abnormal showed up (which happens maybe once or twice a year).. all of that and before I know where I am I feel like I may as well not work, in order to avoid all of the time off.
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Occasional Contributor

Re: Work and Cancer

When I was first diagnosed, I was working casually whilst studying and as sympathetic as they were, they just couldn't hold my job for me. Re-arranging uni around my treatment was also a nightmare. When my cancer came back, I was lucky enough to be working for a doctor, who was incredibly supportive. But I am still a casual, so lost so much income as I don't get sick leave. Now I am trying to complete a PhD and really struggling. It's hard to believe I'm going to be okay long enough to finish it. It's just too hard to plan for being healthy and able to study in a year.
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Occasional Contributor

Re: Work and Cancer

Hi Chatterdog, best wishes with your PhD I really hope you finish it, that's a great thing you are doing. Am glad you have a supportive boss now, but casual is tough with no sick pay or holiday leave accumulating, you are doing well, it sounds like you are just putting one foot infront of the other each day. I find it tough to make plans for the future. one minute Ive got some money and now Ive just quit my job as wasnt handling it too well, so back to square one again. Ive applied for an evening job part time, I think mornings are the hardest so thought maybe evenings would be better. Let us know how you're getting on, one day at a time hey.
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Super Contributor

Re: Work and Cancer

I had a complete change of career since this last diagnosis with cancer. Up till now it has been great and although incredibly hard at times, very beneficial also. I recently just failed a medical - mostly due to the side effects of the treatment that I received. I am not sure if I will continue to pursue my current choice or go back to the drawing board and have another change. Smiley Happy Julie
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Regular Contributor

Re: Work and Cancer

Hi all, I was a secondary teacher when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I attempted to work after surgery when occasional days I first started chemo but eventually gave up. Teaching was just too hard when I was feeling so tired and unwell. I had oodles of accumulated sick leave and also 'compassionate' leave that I was able to use, so I was able to have 8 months off work on full pay. I consider myself and my family exceptionally lucky. I had Income Protection but didn't have to dip into it. When I returned I was also incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful Principal and HT. My problem was that I went back too early. I was back at work a month after I finished nearly 7 months of chemo. Neither my body nor my brain was ready and unfortunately, my family thought that as I was back at work everything must be back to normal and my work load as a teacher, mother and wife did me in. My Principal suggested I drop back to 4 days and this was a Godsend. I did this for 2 years. It just gave me some breathing space. I also suffered with depression and had to realise that I had to take things more slowly than I always had done in the past. Things were different now. I was very lucky to have had the leave that allowed me to return at my own pace (well, sort of)and also a very compassionate Principal. I have now retired (not due to cancer, just because I could!)and I do casual work to supplement the fun things and I love the all care and no responsibility of it. Jenna, unfortunately, many people still see that once treatment is over, the cancer experience is finished. Perhaps our goal as survivors is to try to alter that attitude and let me people know that the changes are forever. However, we can still do our jobs (if we wish to)and we can still contribute. Hope this rant was what you were after Annie???
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Cancer Council NSW

Re: Work and Cancer

Thanks so much for this and it resonates so much with what we hear over and over again. Returning to work too early. But gee, how do we know when that is at the time? Sometimes we are so keen to do something other than be a cancer patient and long for that independence of being in the non cancer environment. And for many, its ok for a while and then wham....the old hit the wall happens. Sounds like you had a very caring environment which is wonderful but more importantly you were kind to yourself by the sound of it. Isnt that the clincher for all of us who have been through treatment or been a carer?....Practicing being kind to ourselves and make it for life Thanks for sharing
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Cancer Council NSW

Re: Work and Cancer

Isn't it interesting what people say and how they say it? Mentioning that cancer is common could have really meant that gee, don't we hear so many people with it these days and isn't that a worry........ or perhaps for her own sake she was being dismissive so she could keep everything at surface level and not think too deeply about it? Sometimes people just don't want to know cause they don't know how to respond or react. One mantra I use over and over in my head is "what people think about me is not my problem". Ive worked really hard over the years to build resilience around what people say. Its not been easy at times but boy it has been worth it. As a carer I had some real crackers dropped at me but now its like water off a ducks back. Thanks for sharing Annie
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Contributor

Re: Work and Cancer

I returned to work with a new HR boss who congratulated me on my maternity leave and new baby??????? I've since been made redundant but have found other employment but working full time takes it toll on me. Thank you for listening.
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Super Contributor

Re: Work and Cancer

Jules crickeys ... as good as me doing my volunteer work when trying to get ready/fit for work again and they asked me to update the list of everyone who had died from cancer. Did it once and then declined after that! Working full time does take its toll. I find I work and don't have any time outside of that for anything, due to fatigue. Julie
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