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If you’ve taken a leave from work, you may be very happy when you can go back. Going back can represent a big step on the way to “normal” or be a sign of overcoming cancer. You are happy to have your routine back and the company and support of your co-workers. But even if you’re looking forward to it, it’s normal to be nervous about returning to work.
You are the best judge of when you’re well enough to go back to your job. When you’re ready, talk to your healthcare team and your employer. Most people return to work without any problem. But if you’re uncertain, talk to your human resources department. Some companies provide an employee assistance program that can offer support in various ways to people returning to work.
If you can, give yourself time to make the transition back. You could start off working part-time hours and gradually move up to full-time hours. If you have a very demanding job, you may need to change the way you work or consider working part time. If you are can’t return to work, you may want to consider long-term disability.
Some cancer survivors can face problems when they try to go back to work or get a new job after treatment. These problems may include:
It is against the law to discriminate against someone who has cancer or a physical disability. You can protect yourself from employment discrimination by learning about your rights in the workplace.
For example, an employer cannot treat you differently from other workers in job-related activities because of a cancer history, as long as you are qualified for the job. Employers have to reasonably accommodate changes, such as changes in work hours or duties, to help you do your job after cancer treatment. However, they do not have to make changes that would be overly costly or disruptive.
When you return to work you may feel relieved to have a steady income again. But you may still have financial concerns if you are not able to return to work full time right away. You may have used up all or most of your savings to cover costs during your cancer treatment. And you may still have some ongoing costs, such as equipment or nutritional supplements.
Check with your human resources department to see how your health and employment benefits will be affected after returning to work.
Account managers at your bank, personal financial planners or advisors can help you budget your money and help you with a financial plan now that you have returned to work.
You may still be able to claim some of your ongoing medical costs (such as drugs, equipment and supplies) on your income tax return.
Long-term disability (LTD) is a type of insurance that pays a percentage of your salary, if you are not able to work for a long period of time or are unable to return to work at all.
If you are covered by an employer, LTD benefits may be offered after short-term disability benefits end. LTD benefits vary depending on the plan.
You will be asked to provide detailed medical information when you apply for LTD benefits. You may have several medical forms to fill in, some of which have to be completed by all of the doctors responsible for your care. A medical update may be needed at certain times and there may be a limit to the amount of time you can draw benefits.
Some private life insurance companies will insure cancer survivors, but at a higher rate. Others may insure cancer survivors after a number of years of being disease-free. In some cases, buying individual coverage can be harder for a cancer survivor.
As a cancer survivor, it may be harder or more expensive for you to get travel health or trip cancellation insurance. Check to see what your healthcare plan covers and read the fine print on your policy to make sure you understand its terms. When you’re applying, ask lots of questions and be open about the fact you’ve had cancer and any other health conditions you have. If you don’t tell the insurance company about an illness or health concern, it may invalidate your coverage.
A social worker or financial advisor may be able to tell you about which companies provide extended health benefits, critical illness, travel or life insurance and what they have to offer cancer survivors.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Community Services Locator helps cancer patients and their families find the services and programs they need in their community.