Returning to work after a brain tumor diagnosis is a complex decision. Many people can and do return to work, either at their current company or at a new and less demanding workplace. Others prefer to focus on the process of recovery or reevaluate priorities to spend more time with family. There is no “right” answer. You need to look closely at your own needs, capabilities, and preferences and decide on the best choice for you.
With the support of your doctor, your health care team, your employer, your family and perhaps your close friends, you can start putting together strategies to help you address and overcome the challenges that may face you as you return to work.
Communicate Openly with Your Employer and Co-workers
Many people feel that their health is a private matter. However, it can be helpful to let co-workers know what is going on and gain their support. If you do not reveal your condition, your co-workers may be baffled about why you may be behaving differently even though you look and sound basically the same. A counselor, social worker, or supervisor can help you explore the best ways to let your co-workers know and how much to tell them.
Develop Strategies for Getting Work Done
If you are a “Type A” personality who “lives to work,” you may need to adjust your expectations. Your brain needs approximately 18-24 months to heal, and you also may need time to recover physically and emotionally from your treatments. You may also become frustrated and angry when commonplace job tasks are harder to accomplish. Create realistic timelines with your supervisor and return to work gradually. Time is an important part of the process, so be patient.
Set Up Your Environment for Optimal Performance
There are many ways to create a work environment that can help you be more productive. For instance, you can set your computer to provide automatic date-and-time reminders for appointments and meetings. You can create checklists of what you have accomplished and what still needs to be done. You can use visual and auditory skills, such as color-coding tasks and a timer to remind you of those tasks.
Know Your Limitations
Everyone has some sort of limitations; yours may simply be a little more pronounced right now. Ask yourself: do you have more energy in the morning or in the afternoon? If the answer is “morning”, schedule your most challenging tasks for before noon. Your medications may have something to do with your fatigue level so get familiar with how they affect your energy.
Develop Flexible Solutions to Your Work Challenges
Once your employer is aware of your disability, they are required to help you make reasonable accommodations according to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). There are many ways this can be achieved: through job-sharing, flexible hours, a temporary job coach, assistive technology, reassignment to a vacant position that is more suited to your abilities, and possible additional unpaid leave for required medical treatment.
Know Your Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents job discrimination for those with a qualifying disability and applies to all companies with 15 or more employees. According to the ADA, if you can perform the essential responsibilities of the job, the following conditions will protect your rights:
- The employer cannot discriminate against you in hiring.
- The employer must make reasonable accommodations to allow you to perform the job unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer.
If you feel you have been discriminated against, call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4000.