The Impact of Working During Cancer Treatment
- TV personality Sarah Beeny, 51, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2022. She kept working during cancer treatment, which helped refocus her mind on other things.
- Beeny underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, which helped bring her breast cancer into remission.
- Working during cancer treatment helps create a sense of normalcy for cancer patients.
- It's important to remember continuing to work following a cancer diagnosis is a decision you should make with your doctor. Some people can continue working during treatment while others may need to take time away.
"Some days were hard, but to be honest the team I work with are amazingly supportive," Beeny told BBC in a news interview about her breast cancer journey.Read More
Beeny admitted her mom's battle with breast cancer weighed heavy on her from age 10 into adulthood. Since Beeny's mom had breast cancer, that means she was also at higher risk of getting the disease, as family history is a risk factor.
"I've lived with this fear for such a long time and actually once I realized how the treatment works it's not nearly as bad as the fear, and I thought well if I can talk about, A) it keeps me busy and B) if I can make it a bit less scary for other people and make them not be scared of going to the doctor because the earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome," Beeny explained.
Beeny underwent chemotherapy treatment and a double mastectomy while filming the documentary. A double mastectomy involves the removal of both breasts to get rid of cancer.
"A double mastectomy typically takes about two hours for the cancer part of the operation, the removing of the tissue," Dr. Elisa Port, Chief of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, tells SurvivorNet.
Expert Breast Cancer Resources
The mother of four went on to share she was told by doctors she no longer has any evidence of the disease, according to news outlet The Independent.
It's her belief staying active with work took her mind off cancer. Beeny's sentiments are exactly what SurvivorNet experts say is among the primary benefits of working during treatment.
WATCH: Learn the risk factors for breast cancer.
Working During Cancer Treatment, If You Can
As many cancer warriors know all too well, a diagnosis can be life-changing. The toll it can take on your mental and physical health can be downright tiring.
However, staying busy, like Sarah Beeny did with work, can prove helpful. SurvivorNet experts say working during cancer helps create a sense of normalcy.
"Some women choose to continue working [through cancer] because working is a significant part of their identity, they enjoy the job, and there's flexibility built in," behavioral health clinician Laurie Ostacher said.
WATCH: Working During Cancer Treatment
It's important to remember continuing to work after a cancer diagnosis is a decision you should make with your doctor. Some people can continue working during treatment while others may need to take time away.
The type of cancer you are dealing with, and the necessary treatment involved can influence your ability to work.
SurvivorNet recommends cancer patients wishing to work also speak with a medical social worker to work through the logistics of balancing work and treatment.
We also understand a willingness to work during cancer treatment is not all about creating a sense of normalcy, it can also be a financial decision.
"Some women will have to keep working because they have to pay their bills and they can't imagine any other way to do that," Laurie Ostacher said.
"Other women worry about losing their job if they take time off," Ostacher added.
If you are unable to continue working or need to take on a reduced work schedule, resources are available to you.
The Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act helps protect cancer patients from job-related difficulties. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), allows many people with serious illnesses to take unpaid leave to get medical care or manage their symptoms.
If you have questions about these resources, you should speak with the human resources department at your job.
By law, employers must make certain accommodations for a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show it would be an undue hardship to do so. This could mean making changes to work schedules, equipment, or policies.
Questions for Your Doctor
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, here are some questions you may consider asking your doctor to help you understand your situation:
- How advanced is my breast cancer?
- What kind of treatment options do I have?
- What are the side effects associated with my recommended course of treatment?
- How much time away from work and daily activities do you expect me to miss while undergoing treatment?