One of our newest Corporate Partners, American Express, recently held an event with their employees to shed light on just some of the challenges a young person who has endured cancer must face when returning to work and what an employer or colleague can do to provide meaningful support.
An insightful discussion was held by the guest panel which included; Tate Harris, Education & Careers Support Consultant at Redkite; Amanda Baus, Survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and You Can Connect member and Sophie Ryan, CEO Sony Foundation.
A cancer diagnosis can take months and even years of disruption to a career. Challenges can vary from fatigue, chemobrain, fear of getting sick, pain, frequent doctor’s appointments and more. In fact, a recent study by CanTeen claims that the total lifetime costs per young person diagnosed with cancer is estimated to be an alarming $1.3 million; $0.6 million in burden of disease costs, $0.7 million in health costs, productivity costs and informal care costs. Loss of productivity means all that time a recovering patient can’t physically or mentally can’t work. Therefore, it’s vital that once treatment is over, support is there to help patients get back into work, whatever that may be.
Amanda, a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor and You Can Champ, shared her story with guests at the event and how, her challenging return to work turned out to be a blessing in disguise, inspiring a whole new career and outlook on life.
“My work place was very supportive through my journey. They put my job on hold and told me to take all the time that I needed. This was a huge relief. It was extremely hard for me to not work though because I am a person that likes to keep busy. I had no other choice though, I was too sick to work. It felt to me like my time had stood still and everyone was just continuing on with their lives around me.
After my radiation had finished and after 8 months of treatment, I attempted to go back to work part-time. Two days a week. I struggled. Not only physically but mentally.
My employer was very supportive and told me I could cut back to doing half days. I tried this too and I still wasn’t coping. I do appreciate everything that my employer did for me and I do still feel guilty to this day for them keeping my job open for me to end up resigning but I had to do what was right for me.
Since resigning, I have now started my own business. I spent the second half of last year developing my own organic skin care brand. I was very conscious when I was going through my treatment of what I was using on my skin. I changed all my skin care to natural skin care and I used an all-natural deodorant too. I began to think about this more and more after my treatment and I had the idea to create my very own organic skin care line.
I am now much more appreciative of life, I no longer sweat the small stuff and have no time for negativity. I have an ENORMOUS gratitude for life that I never had before. I really appreciate every moment and live my life to the fullest. Cancer gave me the greatest gift, the gift of knowing how to live! Looking back now, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was all planned out for me. So I could live my best life. My life stood still for almost a year, yet it was in this time that I developed the most clarity.”
Amanda Baus, You Can Connect member and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor
Here are some tips that were shared by the panel for best practice in supporting someone back into the workplace or school/uni;
- Empathy – really show the person you have time to have a chat and that you have a sense of perspective in regards to what they are going through. Every experience is different, so being able to understand their needs and issues are is key to then providing the type of support that will help in a meaningful way.
- Flexibility – If a person has had cancer and they are returning to work, they will be battling all kinds of symptoms like fatigue, chemobrain, anxiety around getting sick and much more. It could be helpful to explore flexible work options with the employer like either working from home or half days to help alleviate stress and adjust.
- Open Communication – make sure the person feels like they can come and talk to their manager/colleagues when they feel like it or when they might need help.
- Encourage External Support – connect the person to organisations that can provide support with returning to work like;
- RedKite – provides personalised assistance for 15-24 year olds who’ve had cancer, no matter when they were diagnosed. Helping those young people get back on track with work, study or training. Redkite is an organisation that provides practical support like counselling, financial assistance and vocational assistance to young people who have had cancer
- Leukaemia Foundation – provide free services including accommodation support, transport and emotional and practical support for those diagnosed with Leukaemia.
- You Can Connect – A community of young adults (15 – 35 years) who have also been touched by cancer. Connect, share and thrive.
- Cancer Council – Provides support for both employers and employees on a range of topics about Cancer and Work.
To read the full story on returning to work after cancer, click here.
Special thanks to the team at American Express for hosting such an informative and thought-provoking event on the importance of supporting young patients at all stages of their cancer diagnosis and recovery.
To read more about Amanda’s touching and moving journey as a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patient on You Can Connect, click here.
 January 2018, Deloitte Access Economics report for CanTeen, “THE ECONOMIC COST OF CANCER IN ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS”