How to Transition Back to Work After Treatment

By on September 18th, 2013 Categories: Day-to-Day Matters

If you’re like some of my clients, you may view returning to your career as a welcome vacation from exhausting treatments and doctor’s appointments. However, as you prepare to go back to work, you may also be faced with a whole new set of challenges, including growing feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress. Here are a few ideas to help you through this process:

Plan Your Plan: Carefully select the best back-to-work date for you and your family. Try to anticipate the timing that will work best and to talk with others who’ve been treated for breast cancer to see what worked for them. Work with your partner to assess your financial situation to determine when and how (part-time, flex schedule, etc.) you’ll return to work. As you start to explore these questions, you may also find it helpful to create a work plan for you and your family that outlines what your weekly schedule will look like.

Partner With Your Partner: If you’re married or partnered, talk to your partner about your plan and make sure you’re on the same page. You’ll strengthen your relationship, save time and energy, and build the support you’ll need throughout this transition. By engaging in honest, ongoing communication with your partner, you’ll be able to successfully manage this transition together.

Communicate at Work, Too: Not everyone has the luxury of working with colleagues who are familiar with the challenges of returning to work after breast cancer treatment. Talk regularly with your supervisor and/or your staff about your schedule, priorities, and options. Only you know what you’ll need to take care of your career and yourself, so speak up.

No Woman Is an Island — Delegate! One of the secrets to success is learning how to delegate to other staff, your partner, your family, and your friends. If you’re overwhelmed with work, take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself some honest questions. What do you absolutely need to do right now? What can you postpone, delegate, or say “no” to? On the personal front, hiring a cleaning person one day a week may be all it takes to make you feel in control of your home life again. Maybe it’s time for your older children to start doing the dishes. Spread the workload around a little — small changes can make a big difference.

Set a Trial Period: Allow yourself a 90-day trial period to see how your new weekly schedule works for you and your family. Once you’re through this trial period, assess how it’s working and change your schedule accordingly.

Keep It in Perspective: At the end of the day, all of this careful planning can’t account for emotions. If you find yourself overwhelmed the first day back at work, remember that you’re not alone and there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. The good news is, research shows that if you have an enjoyable job that inspires and motivates you, it’s beneficial for your health. So hang in there, give yourself a break, and remember that by working at a job you enjoy, you’re actually taking good care of yourself.

Amber Rosenberg is an award-winning certified life and career coach who helps working mothers manage stress and guilt and redefine success on their own terms. She also works with women in relationship, career, and life transition who are ready to discover what they really want. Through personal one-on-one coaching, Amber has empowered thousands of women to achieve success that's balanced. Through corporate coaching, she's helped dozens of employers such as Adobe, Morgan Stanley, and Google to create a more supportive work environment for their valued employees. Sign up for Amber’s free quarterly newsletter at


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