As I mentioned earlier, it would be really great if you could continue working through the cancer treatment. I did it during my second encounter and it helped to a remarkable degree in ‘normalising’ my life and dealing with cancer as an event – significant, no doubt, but not the only show running!
Having said that, some of the watchouts or issues we need to be prepared for are:
1. Working around the treatment: Without doubt, the treatment is the priority and focus. You have to pay attention to what the body is telling you. Chemo is hugely draining and has its well-known set of side-effects; steroids cause all sorts of havoc. While work can be distracting, it can also be all-consuming (especially in the Indian work culture). So stay conscious of this; keep your boss in the loop and only handle what you can reasonably deliver. Take time off when you need it. People are understanding and really, you win no points for this kind of bravery here!
2. Communicating to your colleagues: You choose when and how you want to do this! While in an organisation, it may be difficult to keep it under complete wraps; you are certainly at liberty to tell your bosses/HR the extent to which you would like to keep it confidential. Alternatively inform those you work with (bare bones is good, there is no need for explicit detail) and request them to respect your privacy. Unless, of course, you wish otherwise – which is perfectly fine too!
3. Personal Appearance: Many chemo regimens result in hair loss – so that’s an immediate and noticeable change. Depending on the treatment regimen, there could likely be many other changes – weight fluctuations, surgical changes, effects of radiation and so on. If you are comfortable with these, more power to you! If not, there are options – including caps, scarfs, wigs, pencilling in eyebrows (I haven’t figured out what to do for eyelashes yet – suggestions are welcomeJ). Whichever way you go, don’t agonise about this aspect – there is a bigger picture which you are privy to, not your colleagues!
4. Moving Beyond Cancer: While my point No.1 above was to recognise the body’s need to recuperate and prioritise that, I will end with the need to put cancer behind you and to move on. It is fantastic that you have a career to return to after your treatment is complete – do recognise that and make the best of it. Do not make cancer an excuse for giving up on dreams and aspirations. If anything, this should make you even more focused, perhaps in a more mature and balanced manner. Chase your dreams – nothing can chase them away!