People affected by cancer share their stories.
I went into work after the doctor told me I had cancer and talked to my boss, who said he’d do anything to stand by me. I was very lucky in that regard.
I took sick leave to have surgery to remove part of my bowel. When I was well enough to have chemo, I worked part-time from home when I felt up to it.
Overall, I worked this way for nine months during my treatment and recovery. Once chemo was finished, I went back to work full-time. By then, the office had moved from near my home to the city, which meant I had a longer distance to travel each day. I don’t know how I did it all, but I did.
I didn’t have as much responsibility when I first went back, but I didn’t care at the time because I just wanted to recover from my illness. There have been lots of changes at work, but now I’m back in the same role I had before I had cancer.
I’ve been employed with a Commonwealth Government department since 1995.
When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I told my boss I’d be taking extended time off and wrapped up some work before taking six weeks of sick leave.
My employer connected me with a workplace rehabilitation consultant, who helped create a return to work plan for me. The consultant spoke to my doctors and manager and determined my working hours and tasks.
Because I was having several months of chemotherapy, I started working from home for four hours once a week.
Over a year, my hours increased and I worked at home and in the office. If I worked more time than planned, my employer would re-credit my sick leave.
Having a written plan was a safety net for me. Each month I would forecast the amount of work I thought I could handle. When I felt I should be working more or was anxious about people’s expectations, I knew I could stick to the approved plan and return at my own pace.
Being back to full-time work is a juggling act because I’m still fatigued and have a lot of appointments, including for my clinical trial. I also have work- related stress – I’ve lost some corporate knowledge because I was out of the loop for a year.
I’m enjoying being back at work. I know I’m very lucky to have a supportive employer.
I hope employees know that they can ask for support from their employer – especially a written return to work plan. The support from my employer helped me to keep engaged and get back to work when I was able.
Kerryann White, Manager, People and Culture, Cancer Council SA; Nicola Martin, Principal, McCabe Curwood, NSW; Jane Auchettl, Coordinator, Education and Training Programs, Cancer Council Victoria; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Alana Cochrane, Human Resources Business Partner, Greater Bank Newcastle, NSW; Shona Gates, Senior Social Worker, North West Cancer Centre, North West Regional Hospital, TAS; Dianne Head, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead, NSW; Alex Kelly, Talent Acquisition Business Partner, Aon, NSW; Prof Bogda Koczwara AM, Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Sharyn McGowan, Occupational Therapist, Bendigo Health, VIC; Jeanne Potts, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Michelle Smerdon, Legal and Financial Support Services Manager, Cancer Council NSW. We would also like to than the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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