Last week we held the second session of our 2023 Balancing Work & Cancer Webinar Series . I presented on Making Key Decisions, where I discussed the steps of decision making in order to make informed decisions. Many patients and survivors report feeling a loss of control when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. So, while it is important to understand that every situation and individual circumstance is different, by following a process you may be able to regain a sense of that control over your life and work.
The seven key steps to making decisions include:
1. Breathe. Processing the emotions around cancer and how to handle employment can feel stressful. Allowing yourself to sit and navigate some of those feelings, can prepare you to be a bit more clear headed when actively exploring your options and making a plan.
2. Gather Information. The more information on hand, the better able you are to understand the various options to consider. Be sure to collect medical information (treatment schedules, surgeries, appointments), work information (flexibility options, leave policies, insurance benefits), and legal information (state and federal protection laws, leave laws).
3. Get Organized. Keeping all of the collected information organized can make for a lower-stress and simpler process. Knowing where to find specifics around different aspects of your decisions means you wont waste time and energy researching things you've already looked into. Our Living and Working with Cancer workbook is a great way to organize thoughts and keep track of your information.
4. Identify and Evaluate Options. Weigh out the pros and cons of what is available to you. Imagine how they fit in with what you know to be true at the time.
5. Draft an Action Plan. Using the information you gathered and organized along with the thinking about which of the available options work best, come up with an action plan to meets your needs.
6. Monitor Your Plan. Treatment is fluid, so it's important to continue to monitor the decisions you came up with in your action plan to assure they still work for your current situation.
7. Adjust if/as Needed. Your needs can change as treatment progresses. Perhaps protocols change, surgery becomes necessary, or you need to begin radiation. All of these aspects can influence whether the plan you originally decided on is still viable. Using the information you originally gathered, apply different options that may be more suitable given the reality of your circumstance.
Everyone's situation is unique depending on their diagnosis, cancer type, employment situation, and of course personality and personal style. Using the steps of the decision-making process can be a useful starting point to ensure you're arming yourself with the information necessary to identify practical options that will work best for you and your specific situation. If you're struggling with any of the above steps and would like to obtain more resources or talk through your options, feel free to reach out to Cancer and Careers at firstname.lastname@example.org.