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Returning to work after cancer treatment

Fa calendar 16 grey October 18, 2016   
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Workplaces should provide a supportive environment to employees diagnosed with cancer since it creates a sense of normalcy and stability owing to financial stability and health insurance benefits. 

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There is usually a lot of talk on cancer around this time of the year, October being Breast Cancer awareness month. Kenya National Cancer Control Strategy 2011-2016; a publication by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Ministry of Medical Services ranks cancer in the third place as a cause of death. Cancer (a noncommunicable disease) causes 7% of total national mortality every year and close to 13% of the total deaths worldwide translating to an estimated 7.9 million people globally. In Kenya, the risk of getting cancer before the age of 75 years is at 14% while the risk of dying of cancer is estimated at 12%. These figures may not be as worrying until you factor in the thought of our health systems in our beloved developing country, considering by now we might all be knowing of someone who is or was a victim of cancer and their experiences.

For some reason, cancer still remains a taboo subject for many especially in the workplace when a colleague happens to be a victim to this grim reaper. It’s understandable to get scared or worried in such a situation; some may be quick to show their empathy, some may find it hard to engage with their ill colleague the same way that they used to while some ill employees may want to be treated like everyone else. It is however important to understand that the way people deal with their own cancer is as individual as the person themselves. Therefore, understanding each individual is the starting point to offering effective practical and emotional support.

Workplaces should provide a supportive environment to employees diagnosed with cancer since it creates a sense of normalcy and stability owing to financial stability and health insurance benefits. The issue of disclosure however looms large in the minds of employees who want to continue to work during and after treatment; fearing to be viewed as a liability to their employer and perhaps be terminated. As an employer, you can go an extra mile beyond the provisions of your Occupational Health and Safety policies in helping your employee fight cancer.

This can be done by doing as little as setting up basic amenities within their reach. For example, a printer or photocopier in cases where one has to run up the stairs to process their document or being accommodative in terms of workload since chemotherapy comes with loads of fatigue, pain, mouth and throat sores, nausea and vomiting or even worse - nerve damage. Knowing what to expect is key to ensuring work continues as planned. Alternative working hours may be provided or in some instances fellow employees can make a collective effort and cover for their colleague. Having a return to work plan for that hero or heroine who survives cancer is important and can be done by having a point person who can update them on what they missed.

Most people rarely see a doctor for basic check up until they fall sick and have popped enough pain killers by themselves. Ever heard that old saying, “an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure?” It best applies to the regular doctor’s visit. There are numerous resources available in both print and electronic which explain the various types of cancer and how to go about them. Taking charge of one’s health might help detect those cancerous tissues through screening before they spread and help save a life.

 

 

 

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