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Q. Since I'm not sure how I'll feel during treatment, how do I approach my employer about possibly needing some time off? Can it be flexible? I've been told some people are able to continue to work, but not all.


You’re right that it’s hard to know ahead of time how treatment is going to impact you and your ability to work. Some people are able to work during treatment and others require more time off. I would recommend speaking with your direct supervisor and an HR representative as soon as possible to let them know your treatment plan and ask about your company’s benefits and time-off policy, including short-term disability and FMLA.

If you’re going to be treated with chemotherapy, some people find that they need to take about a week off immediately after treatment but then are able to return to work for 1-2 weeks before their next infusion, depending on how far apart your treatments are. If you’re going to be treated with radiation, some people choose to schedule their radiation appointments either early in the morning or late in the afternoon and go to work before or after, though that schedule can become difficult the longer you undergo radiation due to its cumulative effects.

Again, speaking with your supervisor and HR ahead of time will help you better understand your options and prepare for treatment. I would also recommend speaking with your support system of family and friends, as you will likely need additional practical and emotional support as you go through treatment. If you have additional questions or need any help finding resources along the way, please feel free to call CancerCare’s Hopeline at (800) 813-4673. I’m also including some great organizations below that focus on working while undergoing treatment:

Cancer and Careers provides essential tools and information for employees with cancer. They offer a comprehensive website, free publications, career coaching, insurance information, and a series of support groups and educational seminars for employees with cancer and their healthcare providers and coworkers. Also, offers a free résumé review service and a micro-grant program to help pay for professional development opportunities to build new skills.

Leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

Provides education on the practical and legal issues that may impact individuals diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers.

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