Navigating breast cancer treatment and work balance

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New Delhi, October 11 (IANSlife) When Priya Sharma (name changed for identity purpose) learnt that her breast cancer had metastasized and spread to her liver and lymph nodes, her first instinct was to immediately send in her resignation letter.

She feared she wouldn’t be able to balance her work commitments with her treatment schedule and the corresponding side effects. However, she ultimately decided to continue working, valuing the financial and mental stability it provided amidst her health challenges.

"I didn't want breast cancer to become the sole reason for me stepping away from my career," said the 43-year-old operations director at a skincare company in Chennai, India. I didn't want to adopt the mindset of quitting my job today due to the fear that tomorrow might be my last day."

Priya is not alone in feeling this way. While balancing work life with cancer treatment presents a unique set of challenges, it’s possible to navigate journey by having detailed discussions with your doctor about available treatments, strategies and support groups. With recent developments, there are advanced therapy options that have potential to not severely disrupt your life during and after treatment.

Govind Babu K, President of the Indian Society of Medical and Pediatric Oncology & Medical Oncologist, HCG Hospital, Bangalore, said, “I've noticed 50-60 per cent of breast cancer patients want to keep working while receiving treatment. Majority consider this in order to alleviate the financial burden that comes with treatment.

Therefore, it is essential for patients to select a treatment strategy that complements their regular work schedule. With so many alternatives like advanced therapy, it's essential to evaluate treatment plans and understand any potential adverse effects that make affect your work plans.

To maintain a healthy balance, it is also crucial to be open with coworkers and the organisation about treatment plans, schedules and most importantly the difficulties faced during the treatment.”

Open Communication with Your Employer: Keep your employer and colleagues informed about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Open communication helps set realistic expectations and allows your workplace to provide support. Explaining potential changes in your availability or workload can prevent misunderstandings and reduce stress.

Choose the right treatment for yourself: The type of treatment and its subsequent side effects can impact the type of work you can do during and after.When it comes to treatment, advanced therapy options are becoming more and more prevalent. Compared to chemotherapy, advanced therapies may be better tolerated and have fewer side effects. Discussing your options with your doctor and making an informed decision about what is best for you and your unique situation is important.

Plan your treatment schedule: If possible, coordinate with your medical team to schedule treatments and appointments during times that have the least impact on your work hours. This might involve receiving treatments early in the morning or later in the day or scheduling them on specific days of the week. For example, you can go in for treatment on a Friday so that you can rest during the weekend.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Request flexible work arrangements such as remote work, adjusted hours, or reduced workload if feasible. Flexibility can give you the time and space needed to attend medical appointments, manage side effects, and rest adequately while fulfilling your professional responsibilities.

Prioritise Self-Care: Recognise that your health is a top priority. Embrace self-care practices, including suitable exercises, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep. By caring for your physical and mental well-being, you'll be better equipped to manage both treatment and work demands effectively.

Utilise Support Systems: Lean on your support network, including family, friends, colleagues and support groups. Delegate tasks that others can handle this will allow you to focus on your treatment and work without feeling overwhelmed. Their assistance can relieve some pressure and help you maintain your work-life balance.

Set Realistic Goals: During Treatment, adjust your professional goals to align with your current circumstances. Be realistic about what you can achieve while undergoing treatment. Setting achievable milestones will prevent burnout and foster a sense of accomplishment.

You can navigate this journey more effectively by communicating openly, embracing self-care, and exploring flexible work arrangements. When deciding on treatment options, prioritise your health and ability to maintain a satisfying work-life balance. Remember that seeking guidance from healthcare professionals and leveraging your support network will empower you to make the best decisions for your unique situation.

(Dr. Govind Babu K, President of the Indian Society of Medical and Pediatric Oncology & Medical Oncologist, HCG Hospital, Bangalore)