Juggling Cancer and Career

Coping with work and cancer treatments

Depending on the type of cancer you have, your treatment plan and the sort of work you do, maintaining your current work schedule and productivity level can be demanding, to say the least. Most of us cannot afford not to work. You may also need to keep your job for health insurance and other benefits. In addition, your career can provide fulfillment, routine and a sense of normalcy that helps carry you through this challenging period.

Between side effects such as fatigue, pain or nausea and numerous medical appointments, being consistently present and getting everything done can be tough. Everyone’s experience can differ greatly and yours might even fluctuate from one day to the next. Fortunately, you can take steps to diminish some of the difficulties you face. These tips will help you find work/life balance during treatment and beyond.

Communicate Your Needs

Talk to your supervisor and trustworthy colleagues about how you are feeling and what you may be facing, to the extent that you feel comfortable. Chances are good that they will be happy to step up and support you in any way they can, such as sharing some of your workload or making changes to your schedule to allow time for appointments.

Sick Time, Personal Time and Vacation

If you have an allotment of paid time off available, think about how you can use it to your advantage. Schedule appointments accordingly, as well. For instance, you might opt to schedule chemo on Thursday and take Friday off as well to allow yourself several days of downtime if needed.


Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take time off due to illness (or caring for an ill dependent) without losing your job. Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Learning more about your legal rights can help you make use of and stand up for them if necessary.

Flexible Job Options

Talk to your employer about options they might offer to help you better juggle your work, treatment and home life. This could include telecommuting some or all of the time, cutting down your hours or changing to a shift that better meets your needs. You might also be able to schedule rest breaks during the day, as well.

Support Groups

Consider finding a supportive group of people who have been right where you are or are going through it at the same time. They may be able to offer suggestions and practical advice from personal experience. At the very least, knowing you are not the only one going through it as well as hearing from others who have been there and done that can be uplifting.

Apply for Disability

Even with planning, support and accommodations, it is possible that working during cancer treatment may simply be more than you can handle. Find out whether you are covered by short- and/or long-term disability benefits through your employer. This supplemental insurance will pay you a portion of your regular income while you take a leave from your job. You can look into applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, as well.

Do Your Best

Whatever you do, try not to be too hard on yourself. Focus on things you can control or change and let go of those you cannot. Perform to the best of your abilities and give yourself grace on days when you feel you have very little to offer. Put your health first and trust that everything else –including your career– will fall into place.

Tagged with: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We choose to hope. Our weapons: a positive attitude, faith, hope, love, and healing.

Enjoying Our Content?

Sign up to our newsletter.