Changing the conversation about work and cancer

Protecting a Returning Employee from the Expectations of their Colleagues

It’s a common assumption amongst employees recovering from cancer and their employers that having followed a phased return to work – for example working three hours a day for one week, four hours a day the next week and so on – the majority of cancer survivors will be back at work and pretty much back to normal.

But the truth of the matter is that for most people, whatever their age, returning to work after cancer is a marathon, not a sprint. It can take 12 months or more to get back to normal. There are good days and bad, good weeks and bad. It takes time, and that’s because cancer has both psychological and physical side effects. The physical effects might include severe fatigue, pain, and the fuzzy headedness which often results from chemotherapy – ‘chemobrain’. The psychological effects usually result from losing that sense of immortality we all have for most of our lives. It’s about loss of confidence in one’s body, fear of the cancer returning, and anxiety about the present and the future.

Written for Beauty Despite Cancer, May 2015

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