My Cancer Story

Working During Cancer Treatments

After you have learned about your diagnosis and what the treatment will entail, you will have a better idea about how it will affect your ability to perform your job. Many women choose to continue to work through their treatments (by choice or due to economic reasons) while others find they cannot cope with cancer treatment and work at the same time.

If you have to undergo chemotherapy, there will be days where you will miss work.  Generally, it is a good idea to schedule your infusions on a Thursday afternoon so you can recover on Friday and the weekend and return to work on Monday.  Since the effects of chemotherapy are cumulative, toward the end of your treatment, you will likely be more fatigued, and may need an extra day to recover.

Most chemotherapy schedules are once every two or three weeks and last between three to six months. With this in mind, you can expect to miss about twelve days or so. When spread out over the course of almost a half a year, and keeping in mind that you are undergoing treatment for cancer, most employers will likely be understanding.  However, that is not always the case.

Many women choose to utilize the benefits they get from their employer to go on short-term disability during all or part of their treatments.  While on disability leave you will be paid a portion of your salary; the amount you are paid depends on your short-term disability plan.

For me, I was paid 80% of my salary for 3 months and then 60% of my salary until which time as I returned to work.

In addition, it is worth noting that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave a year, and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave.  Employees are also entitled to return to their same or an equivalent job at the end of their FMLA leave.  For more information on the family leave act refer to

You must figure out what will work best for you.

If you have a human resources department, it may be helpful to discuss scenarios with them confidentially so you can figure out what you think is the best solution for you.

When you do explain the situation to your boss, do not apologize for your illness – you did not choose to have this disease.  Be professional and be prepared to discuss your proposed plan of action. If you intend to work through your treatment, tell your boss what your treatment schedule will be, how many days off you may require, and remind him that this is a temporary situation and not a permanent one.  If you plan to take short-term disability, be prepared to discuss the likely length of your absence.