Handling Treatment and the Job

When you have been hit by the cancer diagnosis and life seems to be reeling, a sense of purpose is one of the biggest casualties.  We often wander dazedly from one treatment phase to another with little to anchor us. In such cases, having a job and an alternate focus is a great blessing. Based on my experience and from what I have observed with others, here are a few pointers that I have evolved:

1.       Do not quit/resign your job: While the shock of the diagnosis in the 20s does inspire desperate reactions, my advice to all who are in jobs is to hold off the resignation. Take time off.  Use all the medical and casual leave available to you during this phase.  Think through all possible ramifications including financial and insurance before deciding. You may still decide to quit – but there really is no hurry to take an important decision like that when there is so much more happening in your life.

2.       Prioritise treatment:  In this initial phase, all resources must be focused on coming to terms with the diagnosis, understanding the treatment options and planning the treatment.  Share the diagnosis with your immediate boss (you may already have indicated the possibility during the work-up phase).  Ask for some time off to think things through.  Most organisations and bosses tend to be sympathetic and generous.

3.       Explore Options: Avail of HR Resources and your organisation leaders/immediate bosses to explore all options available to you – from leave, sabbatical and flexi-options to finances and medical insurance coverage. Some of what you learn here may drive your choice of treatment choices – hospitals, for example, so ask some family member to help out on this even if you are not able to wrap your mind around this as yet.

4.       Handover of Projects:  If you are able to, it would be great if you could take a little time to at least verbally debrief status of your projects to your boss, location of important files, pending jobs, passwords – whatever may help in a smooth transition immediately. If you do not feel ready for a verbal session, pen these down succinctly in an email to your boss.  I found that doing this helped me in 2 ways – it helped divert my mind from my immediate worries at least for some time and it won a lot of appreciation of my professionalism from my organisation.

5.       Formalise Communication: Once things are slightly more settled, treatment protocol decided and dates set, do set up a meeting or call your boss to update him/her on how long you will be away.  Discuss leave duration, flexi-options including working from home, regular days off according to the treatment schedule, insurance coverage, additional funds if required etc. Summarise all that has been agreed upon in a mail to the organisation – boss/HR.

I realise that this may all seem too much at a time when one is overwhelmed and I understandJ. However, having a career to return to pays in the longer run (pun also intended) to anchor one’s changed life circumstances. So I would recommend that even if a close family member is able to assist on handling this side of the business, it is worth the effort.