Returning to Work
Each of us makes our own best decision about how to handle work during cancer treatment. Some women choose to continue to work close to full time, others take an extended leave, and others choose something in between. There are clearly many factors that influence this choice: financial need, availability of sick time or disability payments, support and flexibility at the work place, job demands. I remember one woman who worked as a union carpenter on the Big Dig. In spite of apparently incredible support from her (mostly)_male work buddies, the physicality of the job was just too much as her chemotherapy treatments continued. Preschool teachers often feel they need distance from their classrooms because of the constant sneezes, sniffles, and other germs--not to mention the energy needed to keep up with all the children. Women who work in office jobs, even demanding ones, may feel more able to continue working. It helps if you can sometimes work from home or go in late, leave early, etc.
Whatever the plan has been during treatment, a return to work is often difficult and fraught with anxiety. You probably look different and dread the perceived stares in the elevator or cafeteria. What are you going to tell people? Do you want to talk about your illness and your treatment or do you prefer to avoid those conversations? I always suggest that woman think about the reentry and what will help most and then talk with one or two trusted colleagues at work before returning. Ask them to spread the rules, whatever they are. As in, ask them to tell others that you welcome questions, but not while you are working; please save them for the coffee break. Or, please just say something like "Nice to see you" and don't ask. You know best what will help.
That is all an introduction to this article from MedScape about returning to work. Here is an excerpt and a link:
Multidisciplinary Strategies Help Cancer Survivors Return to Work
February 23, 2011 — The number of cancer patients who survive their disease is rapidly growing, and many find that returning to their jobs helps improve their quality of life. However, many survivors must also contend with the long-term medical and psychological effects of cancer and/or its treatment, which can affect their ability to work.
The results of a new meta-analysis suggest that multidisciplinary interventions can lead to higher return-to-work rates than usual care. Cancer survivors who received multidisciplinary interventions, which included physical, psychological, and vocational components, were nearly twice as likely to overcome challenges and successfully return to work as those who received usual care.
The findings, reported by Angela de Boer, PhD, from the Coronel Institute of Occupational Health, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues come from a meta-analysis published online February 16 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.