The Tobiloba Dorcas
Returning to work after cancer treatment

Returning to work (or not) after cancer treatment - Exploring Your Options

Life after cancer treatment can be both a relief and a challenge. After completing cancer treatment, many cancer survivors find themselves reevaluating their career paths and considering new opportunities. For many cancer survivors, returning to work is a significant milestone, but it can also bring up questions and concerns about one’s health, abilities, and future. Your job reminds you that you have a life apart from cancer – you are a valued employee, a great boss, or a trusted co-worker. Sometimes cancer can make you feel very isolated and lonely, and being around people can be a great comfort.

Career exploration after cancer treatment

After undergoing cancer treatment, individuals may find themselves reassessing their career goals and priorities. The experience of facing mortality often prompts a desire for greater fulfillment and meaning in one’s professional life. Career exploration can take many forms, from pursuing further education or training in a new field to seeking out opportunities for volunteer work or part-time employment that align with one’s interests.

  • Self-Reflection: Before embarking on a new career path, it’s essential to engage in self-reflection to identify your strengths, passions, and values. Consider what aspects of your previous career brought you joy and satisfaction, as well as areas where you felt unfulfilled or unappreciated. Reflect on how your cancer diagnosis may have changed your perspective on work-life balance, priorities, and goals.
  • Research and Networking: Once you have a clearer sense of your interests and goals, conduct thorough research into potential career paths or industries that align with your values and skills. Reach out to professionals in those fields through networking events, informational interviews, or online forums to gain insights into the day-to-day realities of various professions. Networking can also help you identify potential mentors who can offer guidance and support as you navigate your career exploration journey.
  • Skill Development: Depending on the career path you choose, you may need to acquire new skills or qualifications to succeed in your chosen field. Consider enrolling in courses, workshops, or certification programs to enhance your skills and knowledge base. Take advantage of online learning platforms, community colleges, or vocational training programs that offer flexible options for adult learners.
Returning to work after cancer treatment

Starting Your own business after cancer treatment

Entrepreneurship can be an appealing option for cancer survivors seeking greater autonomy, flexibility, and control over their professional lives. However, starting a business requires careful planning, resilience, and a willingness to embrace uncertainty.

  • Identify a Niche: Before launching a business, identify a niche market or unmet need that you are uniquely positioned to address. Consider your skills, experiences, and interests, as well as market trends and opportunities. Conduct market research to assess the demand for your product or service and identify potential competitors.
  • Develop a Business Plan: A well-crafted business plan serves as a roadmap for your entrepreneurial journey, outlining your business goals, target market, marketing strategy, financial projections, and operational plan. Take the time to research and refine your business idea, seeking input from mentors, advisors, and industry experts. Your business plan will not only guide your decision-making but also serve as a valuable tool for securing funding or investment.
  • Build a Support Network: Starting a business can be a challenging and isolating experience, especially for cancer survivors who may be dealing with ongoing health issues or emotional challenges. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family members, mentors, and fellow entrepreneurs who can offer guidance, encouragement, and practical assistance. Consider joining entrepreneurial support groups, networking organizations, or online communities where you can connect with like-minded individuals and share resources and experiences.

Considerations for returning to work After cancer treatment

Returning to work after cancer treatment is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of various factors such as;

  1. Assessing Physical and Emotional Readiness: Before returning to work after cancer treatment, it is essential to consult with healthcare providers, including oncologists and rehabilitation specialists, to assess one’s physical and emotional readiness. Take into account any lingering treatment side effects, such as fatigue, pain, cognitive impairment, or emotional distress, that may impact work performance and productivity. Assess one’s functional capacity and ability to perform job duties effectively, considering physical limitations and endurance levels.
  2. Exploring Accommodations and Workplace Support: Explore accommodations such as flexible scheduling, modified work duties, ergonomic adjustments, or additional breaks to support a successful return to work. Open communication with employers and supervisors is crucial to discuss individual needs, concerns, and potential adjustments to facilitate a smooth transition back to work. Also, Building a support network within the workplace by informing colleagues about one’s situation and seeking assistance or understanding when necessary.
  3. Considering Reduced Hours or Modified Work Arrangements: Consider a phased or gradual return to work schedule, starting with reduced hours or part-time arrangements to ease back into the workforce, negotiate flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, job sharing, or flexible hours, to balance work commitments with health-related demands and appointments.
  4. Prioritizing Self-Care and Work-Life Balance: Establish boundaries between work and personal life to prioritize self-care, manage stress, and prevent burnout, recognizing the importance of rest, relaxation, and leisure activities.

The Importance of returning to work after cancer treatment

  1. Psychological and Emotional Benefits: Returning to work after cancer treatment provides a sense of routine and normalcy, helping cancer survivors regain a sense of control and stability in their lives. Also, employment offers a sense of purpose and identity, allowing individuals to focus on goals and aspirations beyond their cancer diagnosis. The workplace can serve as a source of social support and camaraderie, facilitating connections with colleagues and providing emotional encouragement during the recovery process.
  2. Financial Stability and Independence: Returning to work after cancer treatment enables cancer survivors to regain financial stability and independence, reducing financial strain and uncertainty associated with medical expenses and lost income. Employment often provides access to benefits such as health insurance, disability coverage, and retirement savings plans, supporting ongoing healthcare needs and future planning.
  3. Physical and Cognitive Rehabilitation: Returning to work after cancer treatment can serve as a form of rehabilitation, promoting physical and cognitive functioning through structured activities, social interaction, and mental stimulation. Engaging in work-related tasks can contribute to physical strength, mobility, and coordination, enhancing overall functional capacity and quality of life.
  4. Professional Development and Growth: Returning to work after cancer treatment allows cancer survivors to utilize and further develop their skills, knowledge, and expertise, contributing to personal and professional growth. By re-engaging in the workforce, individuals have the opportunity to pursue career advancement, explore new opportunities, and achieve long-term career goals.
  5. Advocacy and Breaking Stigma: Returning to work after cancer treatment challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about cancer survivors’ abilities and productivity, promoting awareness and advocacy for workplace inclusivity and accommodation. Cancer survivors serve as role models for resilience, determination, and empowerment, inspiring others facing similar challenges to pursue their goals and aspirations.


Returning to work after cancer treatment is one of the way to get your life back to normal, it offers psychological, emotional, financial, and physical benefits for survivors. Beyond the practical considerations of financial stability and career advancement, rejoining the workforce contributes to rehabilitation, personal growth, and advocacy efforts. Returning to work after cancer treatment may involve making adjustments such as reduced hours or modified work arrangements to accommodate ongoing treatment-related challenges and support a successful transition back to the workforce. By recognizing the importance of returning to work after cancer treatment and supporting cancer survivors in their post-treatment journey, we can foster a culture of inclusivity, empowerment, and resilience in the workplace.


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