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Work and Cancer: How to Cope

If you are a cancer survivor, you know how important a job can be to your psychological and financial well-being. Following are some tips from the American Cancer Society to help you improve your ability to continue working, as well as handle workplace discrimination during your treatment.

Manage your time

Plan treatments late in the day and just before the weekend to allow time to recuperate.

Explore your work options, such as occasional telecommuting (working from home). That may eliminate a tiresome commute and provide a more comfortable work atmosphere.

Divide your daily chores and administrative duties among your friends and coworkers.

Cope with stress

Managing your work, personal/family life, and cancer treatment can be difficult,  but not impossible. Throughout this stressful time, don't become isolated. Investigate local cancer support groups to meet others facing the same challenges. Also, ask questions of your medical team. Communication is the way to a better outcome.

Recognize the symptoms of depression: suffering more than two weeks from feelings of guilt, alienation, excessive indecision, poor self-esteem, or hopelessness about the future. Seek counseling from a social worker or psychosocial professional who specializes in working with cancer patients.

Control side effects

Medical advances now allow survivors to control the more disabling side effects of chemotherapy likely to disrupt work. Nausea and serious infection are among the leading preventable reasons for missing work.

  • Infection. Workplace hygiene is vital to avoiding serious infection. Try not to share a telephone, office equipment, or eating utensils. Disinfect phones and computer keyboards with rubbing alcohol after others use them. Avoid close contact with coworkers who have contagious illnesses, such as colds and flu.

  • Nausea and vomiting. Changes in your diet can minimize nausea. Eat several small meals a day; eat foods cold or at room temperature to avoid odors; and don't have liquids with meals. Medications can help manage significant nausea and vomiting that chemotherapy (or radiation) causes.  

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