A common fear for people returning to their same job/company following a diagnosis or treatment is that they will be seen as the “cancer girl” or “cancer boy” in the office forever and that that will hold them back.
If you’re in this situation, you may be wondering things such as:
- Will your office always see you as a person with cancer?
- How do you get your workplace to see you as the professional you are, rather than as someone who has/had cancer?
- Is there a nice way to say “Please stop bringing it up”?
It’s true that people may assume you can’t do your job in the same capacity as you could before treatment. As you focus on proving the naysayers wrong, it is also important not to overwork yourself. Remember that it’s up to you what you want to discuss at work.
One solution is to take a cancer-related comment (e.g., “My uncle had cancer, too.”) and “swivel” the conversation to the topic of work (e.g., “Thanks for sharing that; I am sure it must have been quite difficult. Actually, while I have you, do you think now is a good time to go over those meeting minutes?”). What’s important is to acknowledge the comment but not let the conversation end there.
Being able to swivel the discussion back to a place where you feel comfortable is empowering and helps to reset the view your colleagues have of you. It’s also important to remember that it may take time to recast yourself in the eyes of your workplace. Try not to get frustrated; instead, keep in mind that the more you focus on work, the more everyone else will follow your lead.