28 September 2020 – Return to Work

For my first day back at work, I wanted to keep my head down and avoid people and all those questions, however well-meaning. I managed to get a fitness to work note from my GP, which I’d encourage you to do too. Due to cancer being an Equality Act issue, I was sent to Occupational Health for an assessment and they were so kind. In fact, the health and safety team and line management conducted a thorough review of my work area, and I managed to get a new desk chair for my home office, which was really lovely. 

The reason I mention returning to work is because it’s important to consider any further treatments. My GP and I discussed the fact chemotherapy was going to be in my life for the next six months, and she put a clause in to my return to work note that said to monitor my hours as I may need flexibility. In all honesty, you will need to have flexibility, because chemo does totally wipe you out. You’ll read throughout the next few parts of the blog the rawness of chemo and this isn’t to put you off treatment, it’s to prepare and get you emotionally and physically prepped. It’s what I wished I’d known was coming!!

Tip: try to ascertain a level of frequent catch-ups with your GP and line manager through the chemotherapy process. Yes, you might need to open up more than you might normally, and discuss some really personal details, but actually there are processes in place to help you (and the Equality Act to protect you). 

A lot of my friends asked me why I would work during the treatment – I have to laugh because you only get a limited time of being paid for sick leave – statutory sick leave will not cover my mortgage, let alone any other things you may need to have a life. I’m lucky that my work have been flexible with me. However that wasn’t my main reason to return – I wanted the distraction, I want to be treated as normally as possible and I’m so fortunate to have a few colleagues who know the utter pleasure of good banter, to make you giggle, smile and happy. I’m lucky that I like my job, but you have to make a decision, because I don’t think if I had children I would have been able to manage both. 

Tip: Be honest about what you think you can do during chemo, talk to your GP, Citizens Advice and check your works contract. Remember you are an Equality Act issue so also learn your rights, especially if you are worried that you may lose your job as a result of your diagnosis. Keep every letter from the oncology unit and GP as evidence to issue to HR.

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