The decision to return to work after breast cancer is different for everyone. For some, choosing to go back to work can be a positive step forward but for others it can be challenging and scary.
Side effects, such as fatigue and brain fog, can be important things to consider when returning to work. Some women have the option to gradually return to their job. If your employer supports it, returning to part-time work can allow you to ease back into the demands of your position while balancing the remaining effects of your treatment.
Occupational rehabilitation may be beneficial when preparing to return to work. Through work simulation and exercises to address symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness, memory loss, and cognitive impairment, occupational rehabilitation can help you gradually recover your fitness to work. Check with the provider of your long-term disability benefits to see whether they will fund occupational rehabilitation and refer you to a program.
Unfortunately, many people often feel that they cannot afford to take too much time off and go back to work before they are finished treatment or before they are emotionally ready. Under the federal Employment Equity Act, your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations to help you perform your job. These could include time off for medical appointments and extra breaks to help you cope with fatigue.
The decision to talk about your breast cancer to your co-workers is a personal one. Some women find it helpful to confide in a co-worker while others choose to keep it private. You should not feel obligated to discuss anything you are not comfortable sharing. This is personal information that is yours to share or keep private as you choose.
Before making a decision to return to work, it is important to talk with your doctor and your employer to determine the best plan for you.
For detailed information and resources about returning to work visit cancerandwork.ca, a comprehensive website designed to help patients, survivors, employers and healthcare providers in Canada.
Read our edition of Network News Fall 2016 for an informative article on "Returning to work after breast cancer treatment" by Patricia Stoop, an occupational therapist and metastatic breast cancer patient.