Rehabilitation and Employment

Once you have completed your initial cancer treatment, or at any point in the course of your illness, you may need rehabilitation services. Because modem therapies are aggressive in order to control cancer, you may experience a temporary or, less often, permanent physical or emotional disability that may interfere with your ability to function as you once did. Naturally, this is upsetting because most people are eager for life to go on as it did before. They resent it when illness interferes with their normal functions.

To cope with the changes generated by cancer, you may have to adjust to a new self-image, perhaps one that includes a disability of some kind. This is not easy. It takes time and is often accompanied by feelings of sadness as you begin to live with a different image of yourself. This is harder for some people than for others. People with disabilities that are obvious to others -- such as having a laryngectomy or losing an arm or leg -- sometimes find it more difficult because they worry about others' reactions. It is important to remember that what made you unique as a person before cancer is still inside you. No illness can change who you are as a person.

Your ability to do your job may also be affected. This is usually temporary and continues throughout periods of active treatment. If you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you may need to consider a reduced workday or a short-term leave of absence, depending on the type and degree of side effects you are experiencing. If the side effects are severe enough and your company has a short-term disability program, that may be an option until your treatments are completed. There are many kinds of options available and it will be important to talk with your employer, personnel department, or union representatives to see what arrangements can be made. Most companies are cooperative and most patients return to active employment following treatment.

If your ability to do your job is permanently affected by your illness or treatment, you may be eligible for job retraining and counseling. It will be important to check out these options because work is a major part of our self-image. The return to a normal life following cancer treatment is essential to help you feel good about yourself. Rehabilitation services play a big part in helping you get your life back on track.


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