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Coping with cancer and work

Balancing life between home and work can be a juggling act at the best of times. Whether you have cancer or you’re looking after someone with cancer, it’s difficult to know how it will affect you at work. This will often depend on the type of work you do.

It’s a good idea to speak to your manager or human resources department about your cancer. You can choose when to do this. Once your employer knows, you can talk about any reasonable adjustments that you need.

If you have cancer, you may need to take more time off work than usual. This may be because you’re feeling unwell or need to attend appointments.

You may want to ask your employer one or more of the following questions:

  • Do I need a letter from my doctor explaining the type of cancer I have and how this may affect my work?
  • Is it possible to change my working routine, for example, flexible working hours?
  • Are there any rules and procedures I need to follow if I’m off work sick?
  • Will my entitlements and pay be affected?
  • Is there any employee support available to me, such as counselling or other employee assistance?
  • What kind of help and support can I expect when I return to work?

Work can offer the chance to take your mind off your illness and provide a sense of normality and routine. Although the effects of cancer and its treatment can be unpredictable, many people can keep working whilst receiving treatment.

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  • Money worries Money worries

    If you take time off work, work fewer hours or stop working altogether, you may need to consider how this will affect your finances. It’s a good idea to take action early on. Ignoring financial issues could make your money worries worse.

    You may need to consider:

    • unexpected costs, for example, increased travel to and from appointments or additional childcare
    • how you will cope with less income or a change to your salary
    • any life or health insurance policies you have
    • mortgage repayments
    • your retirement or pension plans

    Ask someone to help you get your paperwork in order and identify your financial needs. Friends, family or independent charities and financial advisers are good places to start for help and advice. If you have current debts with anyone, tell the people or organisations about your situation and get their advice.

    Below are some tips to help you plan and manage your money.

    • Check to see if you’re eligible for any financial help such as benefits or grants. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Macmillan Cancer Support can offer you advice about anything that’s available to you.
    • Budget your finances by calculating your income versus your total spending. From this, you can identify areas where you need to cut your spending.
    • Check your mortgage to make sure you’re getting the most competitive rates on the market.
    • The amount of gas and electricity you use can increase when your routine changes. Check to ensure you’re getting the best deal and consider switching supplier.

    If you can’t work because of your cancer, you may be entitled to sick pay or benefits. Speak to your employer, or contact your local Jobcentre Plus to find out if you’re eligible. For information about organisations that may be able to help you with your finances, see our Resources section.

  • Managing tiredness at work Managing tiredness at work

    Cancer and its treatment can often cause tiredness at work. You may have trouble concentrating, and have less energy than usual. You may find it difficult to make decisions, feel less motivated and sleepy during the day. All of this can have an effect on your productivity at work.

    Here are some tips to help beat tiredness at work.

    • Don’t drink too much caffeine. But make sure you drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and prevent constipation.
    • Plan your working days and weeks. Break your workload up into small chunks and work around your treatment or appointments.
    • Sleep well. Have a regular bedtime routine and try not to nap throughout the day.
    • Get moving. If you feel up to it, try to do some exercise, such as walking.
    • Eat well. Healthy eating can help you manage your energy levels.
    • Change your hours. Find out if you can travel to and from work at less busy times or work from home instead.
    • Take mini breaks. Use these to rest and relax in the office.
    • Ask for help. Speak to your manager or a colleague who may be able to share your workload or find different tasks for you to do.
  • Prompt access to quality care

    From treatment through to aftercare, with Bupa health insurance we aim to get you the help you need, as quickly as possible. Find out more today.

  • Returning to work Returning to work

    Returning to work after a break of a few weeks or months can be a daunting prospect. But it may also make you feel that your cancer treatment is going well and you’re returning to normality.

    It’s important to keep in contact with your employer while you’re off work. This is to keep them informed about your illness and when they can realistically expect you back at work. You can make returning to work easier by doing the following.

    • Keep in touch with colleagues so you continue to feel part of what’s going on at work.
    • Arrange to meet your manager or human resources department to discuss your work and any support you may need.
    • Return to work gradually. This may be a few days each week to start with.
    • Find out if you can change your working hours.
  • Help and support Help and support

    Being diagnosed with cancer is unavoidably distressing for you and your family. An important part of your cancer treatment is having support to deal with the aspects of living with cancer. Specialist doctors and nurses, who are experts in treating cancer, can provide the support you need and may be able to visit you at home. Ask your nurse to put you in touch with support groups where you can meet people who may have similar experiences to you.

  • Resources Resources

    Further information

    Sources

    • Tadman M, Roberts D. Oxford handbook of cancer nursing. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2007
    • Work and cancer. Macmillan. www.macmillan.org.uk, published 1 October 2013
    • Taking sick leave. Gov.UK. www.gov.uk, published June 2014
    • Off sick and worried about your job? Health and Safety Executive. www.hse.gov.uk, accessed 3 September 2014
    • Understanding your finances. Macmillan. http://finance.macmillan.org.uk/, accessed 3 September 2014
    • Cancer research UK. Treating cancer fatigue. www.cancerresearchuk.org, published 6 March 2014
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    Reviewed by Dylan Merkett, Bupa Health Content Team, January 2015

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