Security Upgrade - We will be asking everyone to reset their password on the 13th September 2023. To read further information please click here

Work and breast cancer - seeking your input

Daina_BCNA Member Posts: 796
edited November 2018 in Community news and events

Hi all,

As part of the new workplace supports BCNA launched earlier this year, we're planning a 'Work and breast cancer' webinar and would appreciate your input.

  • What topics would you like to see covered in this webinar about work? 
  • What practical advice / tips would you give
    someone who is currently making decisions about work following their diagnosis e.g. to work through treatment, take extended time off?
  • What practical advice / tips would you give someone who is returning to work?
  • What do you wish you had known?
  • What did your employer / work colleagues do to support you through this time?
  • Do you see this webinar being for people who have been diagnosed or would you think it could benefit employers and colleagues?

Thank you for taking the time to read through this post and I look forward to your comments and feedback.

See you online!

More information

- Read the news item for more information about the work and breast cancer project -
- Visit the online hub for resources and information to support you in the workplace - 
- If you have feedback about this project call me on 1800 500 258 or email [email protected].



  • Chelley59
    Chelley59 Member Posts: 55

    Sister said:

    I had great support from my colleagues and the organisation, and having returned to work last week after 10 months, that support continues.  However, what was difficult has been the rules around Income Protection that made it impossible for my workplace to give me any flexibility.  There are are some days I may have been able to work during treatment, even if it was going in to do backroom tasks but if I had, I would have lost the Income Protection as these were not predictable.  I think that being able to go in for a few hours here and there would have made a huge difference to my mental well-being.  I know that this would have implications for the workplace as they would still be paying someone to be there as a temp contract but I would have been happy to do this as TOIL to offset appointments now that I've returned.

    That is not really answering the questions posed though.  As @afraser said, it's important for employers to understand that someone does not necessarily know how treatment will affect them and there needs to be flexibility for that adjustment.  It is also really important for someone to feel that they can be in the loop - I checked in with my colleagues for a chat on occasion and I was able to access my email account from home - this meant that I kept up with many of the changes that happened while I was gone, meaning that I still felt part of things and it has been less of a chasm to cross now that I've returned.  It is also important for colleagues to understand things such as restricted ability with lifting and stretching, cognitive impacts, extreme exhaustion and ongoing appointments.

  • Chelley59
    Chelley59 Member Posts: 55
    edited October 2018
    Hi Sister I have only just stopped work on the 17th of this work has been supportive, i have just had a wide local excision and node removal on the 23rd...after recieving results today i probably wont be returning to work as soon as id hoped..(seeing breast surgeon frid for a plan).however, when i told my manager that i innitially would be back within 3 wks i was told i would need atleast 3 months! I didnt ask but im wondering as a nurse am i now a liability and can they stop me from coming back because of the nature of my work...
    Next hurdle... is applying for income protection if i need further surgery 🤔

  • Daina_BCNA
    Daina_BCNA Member Posts: 796
    Thanks for your feedback so far! After this and some internal discussions - I think we are going to look into a series of webinars and also have them available in podcast format. Stay tuned and keep posting your thoughts on what would help / would have helped you. Cheers, Daina 
  • Patti J
    Patti J Member, Dragonfly Posts: 589
    Where is the webinar and/or podcast for metastatic breast cancer? Shouldn't  complain....
  • Daina_BCNA
    Daina_BCNA Member Posts: 796
    Hi @Patti J

    That’s not a complaint and you will be happy to know it is coming :smile: - we have funding for one video this year and we will plan another two next year - including one for people living with metastatic breast cancer. It would be great to hear what you think we should/could cover in the webinar/podcast specific to people living with metastatic and their workplaces. 

    In the mean time - have you seen the personal stories page on our website - it does have some metastatic specific videos and the second video on the page includes some details about work.

    Look forward to your feedback.


  • Patti J
    Patti J Member, Dragonfly Posts: 589
    Thanks @Daina_BCNA. Would I be able to send you a private message? 
  • Clouise
    Clouise Member Posts: 25

    My perspective on work and treatment is based on the fact I work in an office so I’m aware it doesn’t apply to everyone.  My job can be mentally demanding but not physically demanding.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to work through the majority of my treatment (chemo, surgery, rads, oral chemo), a large part of this was due to flexibility from my employer and support from colleagues.  

    My advice to women trying to decide what to do regarding work would be it can be done but listen to what your body tells you.  Some days I pushed too far as I didn’t want to be seen to take advantage of the flexibility provided.  Don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed, my colleagues were very understanding and stepped up.  Just being around other people was a great distraction and provided a sense of normal.

    I should say that I was lucky enough to car share so I didn’t have to drive or use public transport on my bad days after chemo.  I probably would have needed more time off or spent more time working from home if I relied on public transport or had to drive myself especially the first few days after treatment.

    My employers were very understanding when I told them my diagnosis and I stressed that I wanted to work as much as possible.  I was nervous about the possibility of losing my job, it was a new job and I was still in my probation period.  

    I was my offered flexible working from the start.  Flexible hours, ability to work from home, additional leave when my personal leave ran out.  There was never a problem getting time off for appointments.  My colleagues were also aware of my low immunity during chemo so would let me know if they felt unwell that way i could decide whether to work from home or not.

    My advice to employers is having a cancer diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean an employee becomes worthless, with flexibility and support they can remain a productive member of any workplace .

    I realise that not all employers provide this level of support and I have been very fortunate.  

  • Daina_BCNA
    Daina_BCNA Member Posts: 796
    @Patti J - would love a private message through the online network or you can email [email protected] or call me on 03 9805 2504.
    Cheers, Daina
  • Hankster
    Hankster Member Posts: 86
    I've had a few experiences of returning to work after treatment.  The first time was during my chemo and return to work after a reconstruction. I was 36 a very fit and mentally strong.  I worked for the federal government so my boss was very understanding.  They were extremely flexible and I never felt held back.  The second time 10 years later was a different story I was in an executive position by then and my job required me to be totally on the ball and connected to my peers.  I was not as physically or mentally strong this time and found it difficult to perform at an appropriate level.  I was suffering chronic pain, anxiety and depression.  At the time I thought that work was being supportive but on reflection realise that they lost trust in my abilities and pushed me aside doing more meanial tasks.  Eventually they had me assessed to consider reducing my hours or taking a step back to a less stressful position.  This resulted in a phone call 2 hours after the examination telling me I was a risk to the organisation and that they could no longer have me in the workplace.  I was retired on full disability.  While some may say I was lucky as I am financially secure but it was a huge upheaval in my life and caused me no end of stress.  I felt worthless, It reinforced my fears I was dying from cancer and no good to anyone.  I was a very difficult time emotionally and really set back my recovery.  It as taken me nearly 4 years to get in a good place mentally.  While I have made a full life for my self now living with cancer instead of dying from it, my bosses could have handled it better.  In the end they got rid of their problem but did not consider the impact on me.
  • adean
    adean Member Posts: 1,036
    Hi there no one told me about tapping into my super.mum was giving me money as it was her way of helping l didnt know l had an illness cover in my super.not trying to be superwoman but felt l had to go back to work to be normal and to pay the mounting medical costs and l thought ld loose my job.l was so tired l will never forget that.