As cancer rates continue to rise in the United States, so, too, do improvements in treatments that are keeping patients alive. While such scientific advancements are positive, news of a diagnosis can still be overwhelming and patients can feel paralyzed with fear of the unknown and how their lives might change — including whether they’ll be able to keep working. Many of them reach out to Cancer and Careers for advice on determining their capacity to stay on the job.
The fact is there are a number of things to consider when assessing whether working through treatment is both feasible and practical. In a recent discussion with Fairygodboss, CAC’s Manager of Programs Nicole Franklin, MPH, explored ways in which patients can best prepare themselves to not only manage work but continue to be successful on the job. Here we highlight three of Nicole’s tips:
Create an action plan. Making a list of prioritized tasks is a must. However, multi-tasking should be off the table. Studies show that only 2% of all people multi-task effectively. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that multi-tasking would be even harder for someone who is distracted by thoughts of their diagnosis and/or is experiencing side effects from treatment (such as “chemo brain”).
Know your rights and protections at work. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to ask for any support or assistance you may need. Being aware of possible legal protections and workplace policies that could make your job more manageable can make all the difference — including enabling you to keep your job.
Consider disclosure of your diagnosis. Nicole reiterates what Cancer and Careers mentions over and over: Disclosure is a personal decision on which you should trust your instincts. Although there is no obligation to share information with an employer, there are some instances in which disclosing your health status can help protect your job and entitle you to reasonable accommodations.
If you’re interested in checking out additional resources to help you survive and thrive at work, take a look at what CAC has available to address the points Nicole makes:
- Formulate a plan by consulting the Where to Start section of our website, where you’ll find articles on creating an action plan, getting organized and more!
- Understand, and learn more about, various legal protections that are available, by visiting our Legal & Financial section.
- Get help thinking through the issue of disclosure, by going to our section on Sharing the News. And join us for the Balancing Work & Cancer webinar on Disclosure, Privacy, & Online Brand on September 12th! Details and registration can be found here.