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Working Through Cancer

Posted 4/21/2014

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  This is another workhorse (sorry, couldn't resist) topic. For many of us, the question about whether we can and should and want to work through treatment is complicated and compelling. Some of us are fortunate to have a choice, meaning that we have supportive work environments and colleagues and benefits that enable us to consider taking time away. Others feel that they have no choice; if they don't work, there is no income. And still others work somewhere that feels impossible while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 

  I met with a lovely woman last week who is on short term disability while recovering from breast surgery. She both loves and hates her job, has been at it for a long time, and has strong positive relationships with many co-workers. But she admits to feeling completely exhausted and stressed when she is working, often stays very late or goes in on week-ends, and having a cancer diagnosis has motivated her to examine her priorities and choices. Is this a job that she wants to keep?

  Women who manage to work through treatment invariably find strategies that help: shorter days, perhaps shifting some responsibilities temporarily, working sometimes from home, being able to be fully honest about their needs. This is lucky, we know that. It is true that you don't always know what might be possible unless you ask. I always tell women to think carefully about what they want and then speak carefully with their manager. Sometimes they are pleasantly surprised by the response. (and, in all honesty, sometimes they are unpleasantly surprised--but, still, it was worth a try)

  This is a report from daily RX news about strategies that have enabled some women to stay on the job:

Strategies for Working Through Breast Cancer Treatment
Modified work activities enabled women to work during and after breast
cancer treatment
Author: Sheryl Wood

 For some women, working during breast cancer treatment is a necessity. The strategies these women
have developed to cope with working during this time may help other women in the same situation.
A recent study interviewing women who worked during and after breast cancer treatment helped to shed light on
techniques used to make working during this time a little easier.
Performing fewer or modified work tasks, adjusting their work schedule and doing fewer extra non-work activities at work were all strategies that helped women get through this tough time.
This research was conducted by a team from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, led by Joanne C.
Sandberg, PhD, of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.


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