Understanding cancer in the workplace: the emotional recovery and unseen side effects
I offer workshops (tailored to the company’s environment & with virtual options available given the current climate) which will shed light on how to best support staff and colleagues who are returning to work after cancer treatment, or who are living with the disease whilst continuing to work.
My story from my first breast cancer diagnosis in 2010 as a single mother of triplets and older son.
How the emotional recovery impacted my mental health and therefore every other aspect of my life. How my confidence was affected and how the fear of recurrence was paralysing.
I will talk about the impact my secondary diagnosis, in 2014, had on my life and what my coping strategies are following a third diagnosis at the beginning of 2019.
I’ve been living with cancer for ten years. I live well, I ‘thrive’ in many ways, but the invisible struggles are real.
Appearances are Deceptive. What’s really going on?
I look well. I run.
You wouldn’t have any idea that I’m on targeted chemotherapy and will be for life.
You wouldn’t know that I struggle with anxiety and that the chemotherapy induced ‘brain fog’ is crippling at times.
How could you be expected to know that my concentration and memory have been affected by years of treatment and that I regularly forget names and faces and make what many might dismiss as silly mistakes?
How could you be expected to know how humiliating and demoralising that can feel, especially in a work environment?
You might not realise how exhausted I often feel and how that fatigue can make the smallest tasks seem overwhelming.
You might not realise that when I seem distracted and not ‘present’ or when you see me repeatedly glancing at my phone, that I’m actually waiting for the hospital to call with blood test or scan results. That at some point, god knows when, the dreaded No Caller ID will flash up on my phone and my world will tilt one way or another.
How could you know any of this unless we talked, really talked?
How could you possibly know what the right thing to say is?
And, crucially, what’s the best way to instigate a potentially difficult or uncomfortable conversation in a busy, pressured office environment?
Maybe it’s just easier to ignore it. Smile politely and look away.
By sharing my own experiences and opening up about the many unseen aspects of a cancer diagnosis, I hope to give some insight into how you can understand and best support your friend/colleague/staff member as they manage their working life alongside their diagnosis.
All that followed
I will read an extract from my memoir, ‘All That Followed – A story of cancer, kids and the fear of leaving too soon’.
I will then open up a conversation about the many aspects of what your colleague/employee (or their loved one) might be going through and how by talking and listening we can deepen understanding, raise awareness and strengthen connections between one another.
As a supportive employer or head of HR we will discuss why ‘checking in’ regularly which your employee could make such an enormous difference to their confidence, emotional wellbeing and morale within the workplace.
How can this help your employees?
Through sharing my own experiences and by challenging the group through discussions and Q&A’s I feel confident that I can provide an invaluable insight into what life is really like following a cancer diagnosis and therefore how you, as an employer or colleague, can provide the best kind of emotional support that will in turn, make it easier for your employee to engage confidently in their work and fulfil the potential that might otherwise have been diminished.
Following the session I offer access to ongoing support to anyone who feels they would benefit from continuing the conversation around cancer. These “Conversations Around Cancer” Lounges take place in small groups or one on one and can be adapted to suit the needs of the individuals or group with the company’s support.
For further information including pricing, please get in touch (details below).
I am an author, columnist, speaker, mum of four and cancer ‘thriver’.
My book ‘All That Followed – A story of cancer, kids and the fear of leaving too soon’ was published by Mirror Books in 2018.
I write a column for Women’s Running Magazine.
I have a highly engaged following on Instagram as @limitless_em