Cancer & Work
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1. Understand your current abilities

Step 1 of 9 in getting ready to return to work:

Understand your current abilities

From a physical perspective, you will need to consider your present energy levels and how long you can do activities during the day before feeling tired. If there are any physical tasks you cannot do because of your cancer or treatments, then you also need to take these limitations into account. For ideas on how to assess your abilities, consider a physical self-assessment under assessment of your work abilities.

From a thinking perspective, you will need to consider how long you can concentrate on an activity and if you require additional ways to compensate or modify your job to help cope with challenges. There may be times during the day when you may feel your brain is more “foggy.” This awareness will help you identify work tasks and times in your workday where you may need to implement strategies to maximize your performance.

From an emotional perspective, it is important to reflect on how your cancer has affected you emotionally. This effect might include worries you may have about returning to work or on-going concerns you may have about your cancer. For ideas on how to assess your emotions, consider a psychological assessment of your work abilities.

Here is how one cancer survivor so aptly described that, although he was physically ready to go back to work, he did not feel emotionally ready:

Physically I was better enough. I was still walking with a cane, but physically there was no reason I couldn’t do an office job, like a cushy office job by most people’s description. But it was the head that was off, psychologically. I wouldn’t say [I was] destroyed, but not really in a good place to go back [to work] and start dealing with everything I knew would be there.

Another way to assess your abilities and functions is to ask people who see you often, know you well, and can see how you are managing in your everyday activities. These people can include family and friends.

Sometimes it is not clear how changes in your physical, thinking or emotional abilities might affect your work. In that case, you can have these changes assessed by a professional.

Next step:

Step 2: Understand your challenges

Back to the list of return to work preparation steps