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Work After Cancer

Posted 9/26/2013

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  There are all kinds of ways that remaining at work through treatment or returning to work after a medical leave can be challenging. Women who choose to (or feel that they must) continue to work throughout cancer struggle with physical exhaustion, mental stress, and worry that they are not working to their normal level and/or that their co-workers are losing patience with their necessary absences or shortened days. They must also figure out what to say to colleagues or clients and just how to present a professional public face to the world while also coping with the trials of cancer treatment.

  Women who take a leave of any length have fairly predictable concerns about a return. Will I be able to keep up the usual schedule and work a full day? Should I try to go back less than full time? (My answer to that one: If it is at all possible, even for the first week, yes. And consider going back for shorter days rather than fewer days. And, if you can work shorter days, try to go in late rather than planning on leaving early; it can be impossible to get out once you are there and busy.) What do I say to curious co-workers and do I want to talk about my cancer at work and how will it influence my professional credibility or job success?

  Yes, it is illegal to discriminate against someone for health reasons, and, yes, employers are legally required to make adapatations for a "disabled" employee...but we all know how nuanced discrimination can be and how difficult it is to prove. If you are wondering in a serious way about this and have experienced problems at work, consider a one time consultation with a labor lawyer.

  This is a useful article from Cure Today. I give you the start and a link and encourage you to read more on their site.

Task Force: Tackling Work After a Cancer Diagnosis

High school math teacher Mark Nelson never questioned whether he would work after cancer. After receiving a diagnosis of colon cancer in 2011, Nelson had surgery in June and started chemotherapy just two weeks before the school year began in his hometown of Mondovi, Wis. He had a round of chemotherapy on Wednesday afternoons and taught during the rest of the week using a portable infusion pump. Nelson, now 59, says he needed his job for the paycheck and health insurance. But it went beyond that. “Teaching the kids was saving me,” he says.

Nelson was on a half-day schedule during treatment—the result of a declining student population and budget cuts—but now teaches six periods a day, sometimes from a chair, because of neuropathy.


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