Career and cancer: do they go together?



workCancer and cancer treatments come with severe symptoms that can interfere with a person’s private and professional life. Many years ago, cancer patients had to stop working during the time when they were battling the disease. Thus, a diagnosis of cancer could then mean the end to a career.  This, however, may have some long term effects on the patient’s well being as well as getting back into normal life after treatments.

Nowadays, about 60 to 80% of cancer patients continue to work or return to their jobs after treatment, according to studies compiled by Rutgers University researchers, as reported in this Boston Globe report.

Why would people want to work through cancer?

  • For many people it is a financial necessity.
  • It can improve quality of life. Work keeps the mind busy and off the pain and other symptoms.
  • It helps some people to heal faster.

Why is working through cancer more feasible now than before?

According to CancerCare Executive Director Diane Blum

“Twenty years ago, being treated for cancer was a full-time job. Now symptoms are managed better, treatment is outpatient. People are often able to live their lives with some semblance of normality.”

However, there are other factors involved as well. For one thing, the attitudes in workplace have changed.

The stigma that comes with being ill, at least with cancer, has lessened over the years. Employers and colleagues are showing more understanding and consideration to cancer victims and survivors. With the aid of technology, flexible working hours and home office are now commonly practiced and widely accepted. The US Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act provides people with severe illness protection from unrightful dismissal due to health problems.

This doesn’t mean that the cancer-work combination is easy. It is very difficult and highly challenging. But this challenge might just be the motivation that a patient needs to get back to his or her feet. However, as long it is medically feasible and appropriate supervised, and as long as the patients get support from the people around her or him, it can work.

According to Stacy Chandler, a social worker at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center:

“People who are living with cancer appreciate kind words and gestures from people, but they also appreciate opportunities to feel normal. Patients are trying to achieve a new normal. It’s a really hard thing to achieve.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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