Cancer and Your Career


Try not to let cancer hinder your career.

I graduated from The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa in 1990 when I was 27. I’m now 54.

In the last 27 years, many of my classmates have gone on to publish books and become well-known authors. And many of these authors’ books have been turned into movies.

I’ve written several novels, but have never published any of them. I was discussing this fact with my psychologist, Dr. Cook.

“Everyone I know has published a book,” I said.

“That’s an exaggeration,” Dr. Cook said.

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You’ve been battling cancer, two bouts of cancer. How many of your writer friends have been doing that?”

“I guess you’re right. Dealing with cancer takes a lot out of you. After my first cancer, I had writer’s block for two years. My brain just wouldn’t clear after all that chemo and radiation.”

“That’s what I mean. Cut yourself some slack,” Dr. Cook said.

Cancer can put your career on hold. If you’re wondering why you’re not further along on your careerpath, take into consideration all you’ve been struggling with. Don’t beat yourself up. With luck, the cancer is behind you now and you can now concentrate on making strides career-wise.

In terms of my writing career, I’ve been told that one of my novels would make a good Hallmark Channel movie script. It’s an interracial love story. Now that I have an apparent reprieve and (I hope) a complete departure from cancer, I’m going to focus on trying to sell the story to Hallmark.

That’s what’s on my post-cancer agenda.

What’s on yours?

Tips for returning to work after cancer

1. Set some goals for your future.

2. Talk to your supervisor (if you have one) to assure them that despite your health issues, you are still desirous of maintaining your position and working hard.

3. Take it easy at first. You need time to get used to your work life again. Get enough sleep. Take naps.

4. On your first day back, bring in bagels or donuts to show good will and team spirit and to celebrate the fact that you’re cancer-free. This small gift is also a sign of appreciation for your co-workers who have undoubtedly picked up the slack in your absence.

5. Avoid telling upsetting cancer stories. Nobody likes to hear a dissertation about your health problems.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. For instance, certain procedures or rules might have changed in your absence, and there is no shame in asking for guidance.

7. Don’t be surprised if you’re the “go-to” cancer person in your business or corporation. You’ve been there, and people might come to you to get advice if they or their loved one discovers that they have cancer.

8. Know that returning to work will be trying but remain optimistic that you will get your “mojo” back soon. Rejoice in your inner strength; you’re a survivor. And the sky is the limit for how far you can go in your brilliant career.

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