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5. Take control

Ms. Maureen Parkinson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, M.Ed. C.C.R.C, BC Cancer

Ms. Maureen Parkinson is the province-wide vocational rehabilitation counsellor at the BC Cancer Agency. She has also been vocational rehabilitation counsellor at a public rehabilitation hospital and vocational rehabilitation consultant to insurance companies and the court system. She has instructed and facilitated Service-Canada-funded programs on job searching and career exploration. Ms. Parkinson has a Masters in Counselling Psychology, is a Canadian Certified Rehabilitation Counsellor, and completed the Certified Return to Work Coordinator Program through the National Institute for Disability Management and Research. She has developed return-to-work and job-search seminars for cancer patients and created the guidebook “Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients” as well as on-line articles about returning to work and school. She also co-authored a paper commissioned by the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, “Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective”.

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Dr. Christine Maheu, RN, PhD

Dr. Christine Maheu is an Associate Professor in the Ingram School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. Dr. Maheu is also an Affiliate Scientist at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. At McGill University, she teaches research methods, supervises graduate students (masters, doctoral, post-doctoral), mentors practicing nurses and students in research, and conducts research in English and French. She has held research awards with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. These awards funded her research in psychosocial oncology, which focuses on developing and testing psychosocial interventions or measurements tools for various cancer populations. Additionally, in partnership with Ipsos Canada and funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, she is co-leading a nationwide survey of the needs of cancer patients for transition care from the end of their treatment to three years after their diagnosis. Dr. Maheu received awards for excellence in nursing research (2013, 2015, 2016) from Ovarian Cancer Canada, the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology, and the Quebec Association of Nurses in Oncology.

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Step 5 of 10 in getting ready to return to work:

Taking an active role in your vocational rehabilitation such as using self-management approaches, accessing rehabilitation, counseling and educational programs support, and educating yourself on what to expect will help you feel more empowered, confident to capitalize on your inner and external resources, and improve your chances of a successful return to work. Too often, cancer survivors feel that the return to work process is not within their control which can make them feel vulnerable. In some cases, when survivors are receiving disability benefits (such as long-term disability), they may feel that case managers from insurance companies are pressuring them to get back to work. If you actively engage in activities to improve your work-related abilities, case managers may actually feel reassured that you are moving forward and may be less likely to pressure you. In fact, taking control can include asking your healthcare and insurance provider and, in some cases, your employer for services that will help you such as vocational rehabilitation, exercise programs, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy.

For ideas on self-management see Cancer and its impact and strategies and our section on workplace wellbeing.

Taking control can also involve explore and use services that are available through:

  • cancer centres
  • other healthcare organizations
  • community agencies
  • government departments agencies (for example, through Service Canada)
  • the private sector (services through insurance, employee and family assistance, or extended health or self-pay)
  • online resources
  • print resources
  • emotional support available virtually or by phone

Sometimes services or resources are not cancer-specific but can still be helpful in addressing the short or late effects of cancer and treatments such as services for those coping with psychological challenges, brain injury, pain, amputations, or sleep challenges, etc. that affect workability. Also, there may be services available to you to help with your vocational rehabilitation and employment related legal concerns.

Next step:

Step 6: Identify and foster workplace supports

Back to the list of return to work preparation steps