The short answer is YES, but obviously this depends on many factors. We usually recommend that patients complete one or two cycles of chemotherapy to see if there are many side effects or not. If patients tolerate the first two cycles well, usually there is no accumulating side effect expected except for neurotoxicity with oxaliplatin down the road.
Personally I think going back to work is important, because it gives the patient some normality and forces him or her to think about something else than the cancer. However this may not apply for everyone, so discussions with your doctor and family are critical. It is important to plan how you will continue to work while you get cancer treatment. I see patients on Mondays and Thursdays, so patients who want to continue to work or may have to continue to work to keep their insurance, usually get treatments on Thursdays, giving them the weekend to recover. Patients who want to spend the weekend with the family choose Monday treatments, giving them time to recover for the weekend. Here are some tips which might help you to better manage your time and work:
- Evaluate working hours. Can you be flexible, so that most meetings or work can be in the second week of therapy and so that you can leave early in the first week if you are feeling sick?
- Getting help at home can save more energy for work. Ask friends and family members to alternate with helping shopping, bringing kids to school or events, etc.
- Consider talking with your boss and co-workers know about your situation. They can help with your work schedule and be supportive to make your work more manageable during this time.
- Learn to delegate job duties so you can direct others in handling tasks when you’re out of the office.
You have the same rights as anyone else in the workplace and should be given equal opportunities, regardless of whether or not you tell people at work about your cancer. Hiring, promotion, and how you are treated in the workplace should depend entirely on your ability and qualifications. As long as you are able to fulfill your job duties, you cannot be fired for being sick. Also, you should not have to accept a position that you never would have considered before your illness. Some people with job problems related to cancer are protected by federal laws like the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some people also benefit from the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows many people with serious illnesses to take unpaid leave for medical care or to manage their symptoms. The leave can take many forms, such as a part-time schedule for a limited time, or taking off 1 or 2 days per week for a while. Not all employers are required to follow FMLA. Talk to someone in your human resources department or another workplace expert to find out what your options are.