Taking time off from school, college, uni or your job during cancer treatment might sound like a great idea at first, but it can quickly seem quite weird. There are plenty of ways you can avoid losing touch completely though – and plenty of ways to make going back less stressful too.
School and studying
Your school, college or uni can only support you if they know what’s going on. So while it’s up to you who you tell, it’s usually a good idea to let your tutors know. You might be able to get extra support or postpone your studies.
Doing some work even if you’re not able to stay at school, college or uni full-time can be a good way to feel positive and stay in touch with people. You can always chat to your tutors about what’s possible, but be careful not to take on too much.
And you might be able to make arrangements to study outside of school. Lots of children’s cancer wards and teenage and young adult units have education departments, and if you’re not in hospital and 16 or under you might be entitled to home tuition or be able to study online. You can ask your clinical nurse specialist, social worker or Youth Support Coordinator for more info.
Once you’re feeling well enough to start studying again, chat to your doctors and nurses about what’s possible. It can be a good idea to visit your school, uni or college beforehand to let people know how you’re doing. You might like to ask your teachers to talk to your class so you avoid having to answer the same questions again and again.
The first day back can be nerve-wracking, though it’s often worse in your head than it turns out to be. Maybe arrange to meet a friend beforehand so you can go in together. And don’t worry if you struggle to keep up at first. Your teachers will understand – and things will get easier as time passes.
You may be able to get extra support to help with exams. To talk about that, or if you have any issues, speak to your teachers, school pastoral support team, counsellors, or care team. It’s important not to keep any issues to yourself.
Work and cancer treatment
Legally you don’t have to tell your employer if you’re diagnosed with cancer. But if you don’t tell them they don’t have any obligation to make reasonable adjustments for you, like giving you time to go to appointments. Your employer can’t discriminate against you if they know you have cancer, so think carefully if you’re planning on not letting them know.
If you’ve taken time off for treatment, going back to work can seem like a big step forward. Be careful not to rush it though. Wait until you’re ready then talk to your care team and bosses. It can help to:
Make a return-to-work plan
Go back part time
Adjust your day around when you feel best
Make sure you take breaks
Be honest if you’re struggling
Go easy on yourself, especially at first.
Most companies are brilliant at adapting to make your life easier. But if you think you’re being treated unfairly, try not to stay silent. You could speak to colleagues, family, friends or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Macmillan’s website has more information about making decisions about work after treatment
Searching for a new job after cancer treatment can seem like a mountain to climb. But if you’re qualified and able to do a job, there’s no reason cancer should be a barrier.
There are very few reasons that an employer can question your health in an interview. And while you might not think of yourself as disabled, the Equality Act and the Discrimination Act consider everyone with cancer to be disabled. If you see the ‘positive about disabled people’ symbol on job ads, you’ll definitely be asked in for an interview.