Breast Cancer: Answers to Your Questions
How do you tell the kids? How can you stay calm? There are some questions your doctor can't answer. Here are insights from people who understand – other women with breast cancer.
How do I deal with my job?
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with cancer from
discrimination or layoffs if their company receives any federal funding. Most
private employers follow those guidelines. Also, you'll want to check into your
options for disability pay, use of sick leave, Social Security benefits, and
the Family Medical Leave Act. (See Earning a Living.)
So the main question you need to answer is, what do you want to do about
One woman had never liked her job, and her husband was well-employed. After
she got her diagnosis, she simply walked into work and quit. Other women liked
their jobs and kept working throughout treatment. Still others took a year off
despite the financial strain, and then returned to work. Again, spend time
getting to know yourself so you'll know what's right for you.
When you tell your boss, be generous with yourself. Overestimate the time
off you may need. Ask for a temporary part-time schedule. You can always come
roaring back early if you feel good.
There's always some initial awkwardness with co-workers. It helps if your
boss or a friendly co-worker tells the others so you don't have to retell your
story 100 times! Even so, people are going to want to know how you feel, and
you're going to have to deal with that.
Most women on the WebMD message boards who returned to work found that they
needed to break the ice so everyone could feel comfortable. Some went back
joking. One older woman even asked the younger women, "You want to
see?" and off they would troop to the bathroom. Don't forget that every
woman fears breast cancer and is curious. Others simply said, "I'm back and
I feel OK most days, but please, don't ask me every day. I want to talk about
something other than breast cancer."
You might want to use one close co-worker as your town crier. Find someone
you're comfortable talking with, fill her (or him) in on the details you want
What should I expect of my friends?
Some friends are going to feel awkward; others will want to call you every
day. You'll need to set the tone: "I want to talk about anything but breast
cancer today!" or, "I need someone to cry with."
Many women find that they want to talk about breast cancer with other women
who have breast cancer. They create two circles of friends -- fellow survivors,
and friends from before. Your best friends love you, but they probably can't
understand exactly what you're going through. So let them help in other
Your co-workers may want to donate sick days to you or take up a collection.
Your pals may want to bring dinner or drive your kids to soccer practice.
Accept their help! You might feel awkward. You probably don't want to impose.
But it's important to recognize that people who care about you need to try to
help. Let them do something.