Going back to work

Going back to work can help you to regain your confidence and independence and bring back a ‘normal’ routine that gives you something to focus on other than cancer. But moving back into the workforce can be hard and it will help if you give yourself some time to prepare.

  • Be prepared for work colleagues – even friends – to act a bit weird around you at first. They may not know what to say or how to act around you.
  • Tell them you haven’t changed and that you just want to be a treated like normal. You can stop the whispering by letting them know what you’re willing to talk about and if it’s okay to ask you questions.
  • Take it easy on yourself. Don’t expect to catch up on everything on your first day back, or be able to work as quickly as you used to straight away.


Changing careers

Sometimes career aspirations change out of choice during a cancer journey – because your outlook on life and what’s important to you changes. Whether you’re looking for your first job or have been inspired to make a change, there are many options and possibilities out there.

If you’re interested in a career that has certain physical requirements (for example entering the armed services) you should find out if having had cancer will affect that. It might not be possible to do exactly what you had in mind, but don’t be discouraged.

If you are qualified and physically able to do the work, your cancer history should not affect your ability to get a job.

Job searching can be stressful and discouraging for anyone, so go easy on yourself. Stay positive and motivated by making time for yourself to have some fun, relax and exercise too.


Your rights

An employer cannot refuse to hire you because of your health history.

  • You are not legally obliged to tell a future employer about your cancer. It is your decision to tell or not.
  • An employer must keep any information about your medical history that you do tell them confidential.
  • An employer is allowed to ask you in an interview about your abilities to perform specific tasks related to the job.
  • You may find it helpful to provide a potential employer with a letter from your doctor that explains your health status and ability to work.
  • If you are worried about how to explain gaps in your resume because of treatment, think about organising it by experience and skills instead of date.
  • A career counsellor or social worker can give you advice and offer assistance with resume writing and interview skills.

Find out more about employment discrimination.