What Do You Say To A Co-Worker With Cancer?

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When I teach blogging classes, one of the questions I get asked the most, is how do I know what content my readers will be interested in.  There are several answers to this, but one of the most obvious is to check which search terms people are using to find your blog.  Today I noticed an interesting question pop up in the search terms on my own blog.

What do you say to a colleague who returns to work after cancer?

I’ve written before about the experience of returning to work for the person with cancer, but it would be constructive to hear your thoughts on how co-workers could help ease the transition.  My initial thought is how great that this person wants to say the right thing to their co-worker.  To recap my earlier advice to those returning to work, one of the difficulties that people with cancer report is having to deal with the myths and misperceptions of what a diagnosis of cancer means. Despite more awareness and openness when it comes to discussing cancer, there are still those who believe that a diagnosis is a death sentence, or that cancer is somehow contagious,  or that cancer means you are now less productive as a worker or team member. In this situation a lack of communication will only make the situation more difficult, so strive for open and honest communication with your work colleagues. Reassure them that you are doing ok and that you still want to be a valued member of the team.  If there are things that you are not ready to undertake initially, then be honest, and ask for help if you need it.

Thinking back to my own experience of returning to work, I found that no one acknowledged my absence or illness.  I would have liked someone to go for coffee with me and ask me how I am feeling about returning to work and if there is anything I need from my co-workers to help me adjust in the short-term.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Did you take time off work when you were in treatment? Was it difficult to return to your job? How did your colleagues and co-workers respond to you?  How do you wish they had responded? What would have been most helpful for you at the time? A lot of questions I know, but I think it’s an important question and it would be valuable to hear your thoughts.