4 Reminders For Those Struggling Returning To Work After Cancer

We are warriors, we are strong, we are amazing individuals who get the full perspective of what matters in life after living through cancer. You know that saying "youth is wasted on the young"? Well I think, "health is wasted on the well".

Think about it, once you hear the words, "You have cancer." everything changes - inside and out. Your perspective changes, your ideas of self and happiness change and I say every day that I wish I could go back in time and bitch-slap pre-cancer me for all of the things I worried about that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.

It is not necessarily enough, though. It is not like, "Oh, I had cancer and now life is perfect." Nope. Not even a little bit. You now need to figure out life after cancer - or during cancer for our stage 4 sisters and brothers. For those of us who are “early stagers”, we need to get back to work because goddamnit, we CAN. We are considered “healthy” enough to get back to work (some of us even work during diagnosis and treatment) but it is not that easy.

Although some of us planned to work during our diagnosis, the universe had other plans. Some of us got fired, laid off or chose to stop working during the grueling experiences of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Now though “after treatment”, we no longer see our doctors every two weeks but maybe every 6 months. We are recovering and for most of us that recovery will not feel official until our 9-5 or 8-6 or midnight-8 is back, too. It is not easy to readjust from cancer patient to professional person again. It was not for me and I happen to be a career expert - seriously, I have written books on how to be career ready and to be entrepreneurial in a job search (check it out at thenextstep1234.com).

It is no longer enough to be your regular professional self - in fact, if you are like me, you are not even sure if you CAN be professional after all this time of talking about blood counts, chemotherapy (if needed or not, you still talk about it) and various body parts that were butchered or removed and statistics of recurrence, progression, etc.

So here are some of my lessons at getting back to career after cancer.

1. Be kind to yourself. there are things you could do before that you might not be able to do now like work double shifts or lift heavy things. Understanding what you can still do and cannot do is a great first step to getting back to a career.

2. Revisit what you LOVE to do. ...And figure out how to incorporate that, if you can. We do not all have the luxury of finding a job that talks to our souls but for those of us who have been through the war of cancer, we know that being happy is basically the most important requirement though of course if we cannot pay our bills (like me), then we cannot really be 100% happy. It is important though to try to have some joy in what we are doing, though.

3. Stress is EVIL. We know that stress is not good. I do not know about you, but I feel things much more deeply now so if something is not right, I can sense it and it has led me to not going hard for certain positions because I just knew it would not be a good emotional fit for me.

4. Fake it til you make it. Have the best resume you can, practice a lot at small talk to avoid mentioning the big C and smile.

I am sharing more on my blog regarding my path back to work after cancer at thetimebetweenis.org.

What tips do you have for anyone struggling with getting back to work after cancer? Share in the comments below! Photo courtesy of author.