Employment, Your Diagnosis And Treatment

This blog was originally published on Cancer and Careers.

Before you approach colleagues, talk to your doctor specifically about how your illness can affect your career. Here are a few helpful tips to smooth the process:
• Tell your doctor exactly what your job is and any unique circumstances you’ll be coping with.
• Let your doctor know that it’s important to you to make decisions that are good for your health and your job whenever possible.
• Ask for general ideas of how your diagnosis, medication or treatment could affect your job.
• Know the specific details on all treatments and medicine. What are common reactions? What can you do to manage them? Know what each medicine is and how it will affect you. See if you can be flexible with the time you take your meds, in order to minimize any side effects at work. Ask about oral chemotherapy and other options that might be less disruptive to your work schedule.
• Ask your doctor for advice on working during treatment.

Working Through It
If you plan to continue working while undergoing treatment, you can make the process easier for yourself – as well as your employer and co-workers – through planning, preparation and communication.

Regular communication will help prevent your coworkers and supervisors from questioning your value and productivity as a staff member. Everyone will need reassurance that you’re still part of the team. A lack of communication can give rise to confusion and anxiety – or even mistrust and suspicion – whereas clear and constant communication can help build a world of reassurance.

Pointers & Ideas
• Communicate regularly with supervisors and coworkers to let them know how you intend to stay on top of your work responsibilities.
• Initiate regular meetings with supervisors – and colleagues, if appropriate – to review expectations and productivity.
• Inform supervisors and coworkers if there’s any change in your condition or treatment that will affect your performance. If you need to take time off, stay in touch with one or two people by phone or e-mail to keep your lines of communication open during your absence.
• If you need help, ask. It doesn’t convey weakness. It shows that you’re invested in ensuring the best outcome for any given project.
• If colleagues handled some of your responsibilities during your absence or while you transition back to work, let them know that you truly appreciate their support.

Keep A Work Diary

Use It To:
Map Out Your Work Week
Keeping careful notes about the way you feel throughout each day and week should reveal important patterns about the effects of your treatments and medications. If your hours are flexible, work during as many of your peak-performance hours as possible. You can also schedule important meetings and presentations for the mornings or afternoons when you know you’re likely to feel your best.

Find Optimal Times For Treatments
Your work diary can help you determine whether it makes sense to schedule doctor appointments before work, during your lunch hour or at the end of the day. If you feel exhausted three or four hours after treatments, for example, schedule 2 p.m. appointments, so you’ll be off work when that fatigue hits. Or if your body needs a few days to recover from treatment, try to schedule sessions for Friday afternoons.

Document Your Work Schedule
By tracking your hours and reactions to treatment, your notes could prove valuable if problems arise at work. What if your worst-case scenario presents itself and you suspect that your rights are being violated? You’ll already have a detailed first-person account, describing your daily and weekly schedules.