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Balancing Cancer and a Career

Posted by Tri Vu, M.D. on Jun 30, 2018, 9:03:00 AM

A cancer diagnosis can be difficult to process. There are so many aspects to deal with. There’s the diagnosis and treatment plan, dealing with fear over long-term health, plus telling immediate family, who will have their own adjusting to do. For many patients, there’s also a career to consider. If you work and are well enough to continue working through your cancer treatment, here are some factors to keep in mind.

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Communication Is Important

Let your employer and your HR department know what's happening with you if you're comfortable doing so. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not require that you tell your employer what your diagnosis is, but if you're comfortable with it, it may help you in the long run. Relate to your employer what you know about the treatment process at the time. These things are always changing, but don't provide a best-case scenario for fear of losing your role at work. There may be periods of time when you simply cannot work. If that is the case, it's important to file the proper paperwork with your HR department because there are programs in place to protect employees in your situation. Most companies will happily work with cancer patients. Being upfront and always letting key people know what's going on with you can be helpful in making sure that your level of stress is as low as possible.

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Don't Overwork

If your communication has been good and you have filed appropriate paperwork, then your employer already knows what's happening with you. There are likely going to be days, sometimes even weeks, when you will be too tired to work. Do not overexert yourself at these times. The most important thing for you to do is to listen to your body and rest when you need to. Remember that nothing is as important as your health. 

Working Can Be Good for You, Too

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For so many cancer patients, the one thing they miss most is normalcy. Cancer is tough to fight mentally and it is exhausting to fight physically. It's also life-altering. Between countless doctor appointments, pokes and prodding, chemotherapy, and radiation, cancer patients live with their cancer every single day. This is why working is so important to so many patients. It's the one thing they can do that is constant and sustainable that lets them feel normal. If you want to work during your cancer treatments and you are healthy enough to do so, it's a great idea. Just remember to give yourself breaks when you need them and make adjustments to your schedule as the need arises. 

Did you work while being treated for cancer? What are some tips that might help others?


Dr. Tri Vu is a board-certified hematologist/oncologist at the Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center at the Main Campus and Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center.



Topics: having cancer and a career, continuing to work while being treated for cancer

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