Surviving, Thriving—and Working

For many people, work matters tremendously—and it can become even more important after a cancer diagnosis. Many find a sense of purpose and value from their jobs. Returning to the office can bring a welcome sense of normalcy after a diagnosis.

Balancing your career and cancer comes with challenges, however. You’ve already dealt with the diagnosis yourself and shared this difficult information with family and friends. Now you face decisions about telling your employer, coworkers, clients and workplace friends. You might even face some big decisions—many people find that their cancer experience inspires them to change careers.

You can face these challenges with confidence: arm yourself with information so you know what to expect when you return to work and can make the best decisions for you and your career.

Your Rights

Protect your privacy. You have no obligation to tell everyone at the office—whether you work there now or are interviewing. Treat this as a very personal decision: it’s up to you who you tell and how you tell them.

YSC encourages you to learn about your rights and protections. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) give employees tremendous protection against disclosure and discrimination. Find in-depth information about your rights under these acts at The Cancer Legal Resource Center of the Disability Rights Legal Center. This information can also help you prepare for your return to work.


YSC offers other informative resources to help you understand your rights and make good decisions in the workplace. Take advantage of our informative audio files on these topics..

YSC has partnered with Cancer and Careers, and others, to offer free workshops on managing your job after a diagnosis. Additionally, Cancer and Careers offers career coaching for cancer survivors, informative publications and useful tools like charts and checklists.

Visit our Practically Speaking section to listen to related workshops.

Don't Be Afraid To Ask for Help

Sometimes you need to ask for help. Many women struggle with relying on others. We all strive to be our best in the workplace, to deliver top results and prove our value to the company. But cancer treatment can tax you, slow you down and make absences necessary during the workday.

That means you might need help—anyone would. Asking for help does not make you any less smart, competent or capable. You just need to take care of yourself during and after this challenging time. Sometimes the people at work make up another vital network of support—don’t be afraid to rely on it.

Co-workers and managers can best help if they know what you need. That could mean an extended deadline when possible, changing a meeting time or working from home sometimes—the important thing is to ask. And always know you can rely on the resources of YSC to help you through your cancer experience.