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How will you return to work?

After finishing cancer treatment, you may start to think about whether you want to return to some form of work, especially as your maternity/sick leave is coming to an end. There are a number of options:

1. Returning to the same job

This has the benefit of familiarity and financial security. It is likely that you will be offered a phased return back into the workplace and you already know what the role involves and how much energy (both physical and mental) it requires.

On the other hand, you may feel that you have changed as a person and want to try something different, or you may be concerned about dealing with comments from and conversations with colleagues. Your needs (personal and within your family) may have changed so this may be a good time to consider other options.

2. Getting a new job

Following your treatment, you may feel that a different job will suit you better. If you worked long hours or shifts in the past you may want to find something less time/energy less demanding. You may also want to work less hours overall.

If you feel let down by the people you worked for or want a fresh start where work colleagues are not aware of your medical history (unless you decide to share it with them) a new job might provide that.

With this option you need to consider the added stress of job searching, interviewing, and learning a new and unfamiliar role. If you decide not to tell your new employer about your illness, you will miss out on any reasonable adjustments that you could otherwise receive.

3. Going into training or studying

During your cancer journey, you may have decided that you want to make significant changes in your life, including learning something new or going in a different direction career wise. You may have something specific in mind or just be mulling over different possibilities.

There are obvious financial implications to shifting career and spending time in training or study, including loss of your previous income, the costs of any training, and the possibility that any lingering brain fog may make learning new skills or information more difficult. Loved ones may express concerns of loved ones and you may need to have some conversations with them about why you want to make these changes and how they can support you.

4. Giving up work

Following the end of your maternity leave, you may decide that you do not wish to return to any form of work, either because of ongoing side-effects following your cancer treatment or because you have decided to focus your energies on spending time with your family. This will allow you to replenish depleted energy levels and potentially have more time to explore what you enjoy, and any personal shifts or changes that have come during your cancer experience.

It may lead to financial pressures, although you may be eligible for benefits which can help with this. It can also lead to feeling like you are losing skills and confidence; it's important to consider how you will stay engaged and active in life.

Whichever options you consider, it is important to remember that nothing is set in stone and if one route doesn’t work out for you, it is always possible to change pathways at a later date. Talk to the people close to you about how you are feeling regarding the different options. Their opinions might be helpful but most importantly saying your thoughts out loud can help you to work out what you really want for yourself.


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