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Working During Cancer Treatment

Two employees at work, one has cancer

As patients begin cancer treatment, one of the biggest concerns you may have is if you can keep working for both financial and for personal and professional reasons. Cancer treatment can be isolating and maintaining a regular work schedule can help patients feel busy and valued, while also paying the bills.

While the decision of whether to keep working is rarely clear-cut, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when considering the pros and cons. For example, the later the stage of cancer, the more aggressive the treatment and its schedule are, and the more physically demanding a person’s job is, the more difficult it will be to continue working during cancer treatment.

However, in many cases – especially for office jobs –a few adjustments to the work schedule or the workplace can help someone keep working well into cancer treatment.

Managing on the Job

If you can fulfill your job duties, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects you from being fired for your illness. Talk to your boss directly about your cancer diagnosis; don’t let them hear your news through the grapevine. Then talk to Human Resources about company policies and reasonable accommodations you can make to keep working. For example, a more flexible or part-time schedule can allow you to make doctor’s appointments, and an office closer to the bathroom can make it easier to deal with chemotherapy and radiation side effects like nausea and diarrhea. Working from home, especially on days when fatigue is at its worst, can also help cancer patients continue to stay on the job.

Unless there is a reason not to (such as a particularly competitive work environment), telling co-workers about your diagnosis can be beneficial. Not only can they provide emotional support, but they may be able to help you more efficiently manage your work. You may wish to start by telling one trusted co-worker and then either asking them to spread the news or telling the team yourself via email.

Meanwhile, consider carefully scheduling your treatments. While working during chemotherapy, plan treatments late in the day or right before the weekend so that the worst of the fatigue hits you on a day off. Be aware that, with radiation therapy patients tend to feel well enough to work at first, but over time, they may feel more tired and weak, and may need weeks or even months to recover, even after treatment itself has ended.

Taking Time Off from Work

If cancer treatment starts interfering too much with your ability to work, talk with your supervisor about taking some temporary time away from work. Short-term or long-term (typically, after 6 months) disability insurance may be available through your job. But if long-term disability doesn’t include employer health insurance coverage, the costs of treatment can quickly add up. Similarly, unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act can safeguard your job through your absence, but the loss of income can be detrimental.

If you need to take a break from work or to leave your job permanently and are worried about covering the costs of care, consider talking to Fifth Season Financial about our Funds for Living Program.We can provide you and your family with advanced funds from your life insurance policy. You’ll maintain ownership of the policy, and funds will still be there for your beneficiaries in the future. For more information, contact us online.

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