Going Back to Work

Cancer survivors may experience a mixed bag of emotions associated with going back to work.

You may feel relief, apprehension, hope or even a sense of awkwardness. Although somewhat difficult, working can also bring along many benefits.

Your job may be a positive reminder to you, telling you that you possess a life apart from cancer treatment – You are a cherished employee, an awesome boss or a trusted co-worker. Working and being around colleagues can boost your confidence and, not to mention, your income. 

Your decision to return to work can be an empowering step in your recovery journey. Some people find it easy to take the plunge while others require a period of adjustment, but in all things, please be gentle and patient with yourself.

Though research has shown that cancer survivors who continue to work are as productive as their colleagues, it is common for some to experience a sense of insecurity and feel the need to do more than they can manage to ‘prove’ their efficiency. It is also unfortunate that sometimes others may doubt your ability to work and pass disparaging remarks.

Here are some suggestions on how you can manage your transition from patient to a working cancer survivor:

Colleagues or business associates may be concerned or curious and ask questions on how you are feeling or on your treatment process. How much to reveal is entirely dependent on how comfortable you feel with sharing information with the other party. This is a personal decision that others will have to respect. You may opt to simply thank them for their concern, say that you are doing well and leave it as such.

Please do not be pressured to explain. Some cancer survivors choose to avoid focusing on their cancer or to be associated with the disease in people's minds. Others are very open and find it meaningful to advocate cancer education, health checks and early detection. The best approach is the one that feels right to you.