Here are some suggestions and resources that can help you gather information and make decisions with presence of mind in both your personal and work life.
Focus on What You Can Control
Distinguish between what you can and cannot control. For example, although you can’t control the outcome of tests or treatments, you can collect information to understand the illness, choose doctors whom you trust, and participate in all decisions. On a smaller, day-to-day scale, although you can’t always control waiting time, you can make it more comfortable by listening to your favorite music on your iPhone or iPad. Delegating essential daily chores to people you trust will also help you understand that you remain in charge of your life. At work, delegating tasks to trusted colleagues will help you — and them — to appreciate that you are managing your responsibilities during this personal crisis.
Reach Out to Others
Social support from friends and family can go a long way during a cancer journey. It's possible not everyone will step-up in the way you might have hoped, but you may also be (or already have been) surprised by others who unexpectedly offer concern and assistance. At home and at work, ask those you trust to help out with essential responsibilities and chores. Cancer education programs and support groups can also be sources of information as well as safe havens for emotional expression and understanding. Hospitals, the American Cancer Society, your religious community, and CancerCare can provide information about cancer support groups.
Be Realistically Optimistic
Hopefulness and a positive outlook can be very motivating, but don’t fake it or feel guilty when you don't feel optimistic. You have every right to feel down even if other people pressure you to be more positive. It is normal to feel grief, loss, sadness and fear from time to time, however, if you are concerned about any anxiety or feel you may be becoming depressed, tell your doctor or ask for help from someone you trust.
Meeting one-on-one with someone with your type of cancer can help to validate your concerns. The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org), for example, has its Reach To Recovery program, which pairs breast cancer patients with volunteer long-term survivors. Imerman Angels (www.imermanangels.org/) provides a patient-to-patient mentor program. And Cancer and Careers has our Collective Diary, where you can share your story and read about others’ experiences.
Psychologists, social workers, nurses and psychiatrists trained in psychosocial oncology can be a great resource.Your oncologist’s office or any cancer treatment center can provide information on how to connect with one.
Keep doing things you enjoy during and after treatment, including exercise (if you are up to it), arts and crafts, reading, watching your favorite movies or sporting events, or whatever else provides a sense of peace and/or escape for you. For some survivors, work provides a welcome distraction from their cancer experience and many feel that being in their workplace actually aids in recovery. However, this is certainly not true for everyone - and work is hardly the only escape to be found. Figure out what works best for you.
Approaches for Working During/After Cancer
You may find that your feelings about work and/or priorities have changed since your diagnosis. As you explore and consider any such changes, consider the following suggestions:
If you have trouble concentrating, focus on one responsibility at a time instead of multi-tasking.
Take Regular Breaks
Listen to your body instead of pushing yourself too hard, and build in short breaks throughout the day where you can. Go for a 10-minute walk outside whenever possible — the fresh air and exercise should help clear your mind and boost your energy levels so you can focus on the task at hand when you return to your desk. Learn additional strategies for managing stress here.
Write Down Your Priorities
Use the list to figure out what your most important tasks are, then focus on completing those first. When you aren’t feeling well, reread your priorities to remind yourself that you don’t need to live up to other people’s unrealistic expectations, actual or imagined, you just need to do what’s on your list.
Focus on the Familiar
If your work-related goals have changed so much that you decide to embark on a new career path, it can be helpful to return to your old position for a while before interviewing for a different job. Regaining your confidence as a full-time employee in a familiar environment can be invaluable.
Find out more from the article “What’s Next: Cancer As Inspiration for Career Changes.”