5 Tips for Heading Back to Work After Cancer Treatment

Congratulations – you are going back to work!

You may not feel like celebrating depending where you are in this journey, but I want to invite you to celebrate the hell out of it anyway.

Returning  to work is a major step in your recovery. Holding that perspective can be very powerful and help with the transition. The right mindset (yes, even after all the ‘stay positive’ annoying things you heard during your treatment that you are most likely sick of) is needed here.

Going back to work means you are coming back to a new normal. And even though you may be tired, still have side effects, are feeling alone now that all the doctors are gone, work is a great step to pulling you out of isolation.

Here are 5 other helpful hints on how to make going back to work a success rather than a daunting, stress inducing, how-am-I-going-to-handle-it kind of dread.

1. Plan – meet with your boss before you go back to be clear on each other’s expectations. Schedule check-ins for when you are back at work to assess together if both sets of expectations are being met.

The more clear you can be ahead of time of your needs, as well as your boss’ or your department, the better set up for success you are.

2. Be Authentic & Communicate – This is key. You need to bring the real you back to work. You have experienced a life-altering event – it’s changed you in one way or another. Don’t squash that new understanding of yourself – it actually will serve you well in a work environment. Who knows… you may inspire others to be more real.

And what about the dreaded questions from coworkers? Well, are you an introvert? Don’t share as much, or anything at all. Extrovert – maybe you will share more. The deal is, it’s up to you. You set the tone. Have a vision ahead of time of how you want it to be and be sure you let people know. They need guidance.

3. When the fog hits, empty your inbox! – Chemo brain may be part of your reality, but that doesn’t mean it has to stop you from being productive. Be sure you have a list of tedious and brainless tasks to do for when your noodle takes that break. Schedule the big focused thinking sessions for when you are at your best. Usually, first thing in the morning.

4. Tools are your friends – Technology has altered our lives for a century. Let it alter yours as you go back to work. Keep lists, set reminders, use alarms – you may not remember as much and guess what, with proper tools, you don’t have to. Your memory is different – so act differently.

5. Support – we all need it, especially during challenging times. And yah, transition is still one of those. Find your support. Find a buddy at work, a therapist, a coach, or all three. Know who that, or those people are, and don’t forget to tell them!

So what are you going to do to celebrate? -Michelle Rothstein, Leadership & Communication Coach


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