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Working through treatment

After a breast cancer diagnosis, everyone’s priorities are different. You may choose to continue to work, take time off or give up work completely.

There is no right or wrong, and your choice will be dependent on your circumstances.

Side effects

Side effects from breast cancer differ from person to person and it’s important to be aware of them so you can make the necessary adjustments for your business.

You may need time away from work to have treatment, to rest and recuperate both physically and emotionally.

On your return to work, it’s likely you will need to adjust your working day to accommodate for fatigue and physical capability.

Your doctors can prescribe medication to relieve symptoms. However, it’s important to have a back-up plan for your business in case there are times when you are unable to work.

Eventually, work piled up as the chemo started to slow me down. The surgery that followed was a further drain, while radiation was not so much of an impediment to work, as a daily routine that interfered with running a successful business.

Questions to consider

If you are thinking about continuing to work during treatment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will I need to cut back work temporarily?
  • Will I need to run my business in a different way to allow time for treatment and recuperation?
  • Can I pay someone to run my business and still make a profit from it?
  • Who will be able to help me in practical ways?
  • Will I need extra financial help during this time?
  • Will it be safe for my employees if I continue working during treatment?
  • Have I spoken to my insurers to check if I am still covered?


Managing your workload

These tips may help you manage your workload if you need to reduce the hours you can work.

  • Decide what absolutely must be completed and what can be left until later.
  • Prioritise tasks that need your unique skills and experience, and can’t be undertaken by anyone else.


Time management and flexibility

  • Be realistic about deadlines.
  • Allow yourself extra time in case you feel unwell.
  • Schedule in time for breaks and activities that help you to relax or feel better.
  • Think about different ways of getting the job done , for example, working from home instead of travelling to the office or client.


Delegation of work

Even if you don’t have employees, you can still have a team of contractors or freelancers for a period of time. You might like to consider the following:

  • Hiring a freelance assistant or bookkeeper who works from their own premises.
  • Using a subcontractor for some parts of a project.
  • Asking someone to manage your website for a short period.
  • Using a fulfilment house temporarily.


It may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which tasks have to be completed daily?
  • Can someone cover the days when I can’t?
  • Do I have contacts in the same trade or profession who could assist me?
  • Are there domestic chores someone could help with, so you I concentrate on work?

Managing side effects of treatment

When you are self-employed, you may not have the level of support that someone employed by a large organisation has. The following tips can help when dealing with side effects:

  • Keep a diary of how you feel during your treatment. This will help you gauge patterns to know when you’re likely to feel well enough to work.
  • Talk to your health professionals about scheduling your treatments at times best suited to you.
  • Meditation and complementary therapies can ease stress, tension and anxiety.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet to keep your energy levels up.
  • Plan to rest after activities and meals.


Useful Information

For further information, the following resources are available: