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Breast Cancer: Post Treatment 0 - 6 Months: On Disability



While On Disability

If you receive a disability income, take all the steps required by the income source to keep the income flowing. For instance, if you are supposed to continue to see a doctor, be sure you do so in the timely manner required. File paperwork on a timely basis.

Be prepared in case an investigator comes calling. For instance, you do not have to submit to an invetigative interview just because an investigator shows up. You can require a mutually acceptable time and place. For more information, see the document in "To Learn More."

Stay in touch with former co-workers. They will be concerned about you. Staying in touch also makes the transition back to work easier.

If You Think You May Be Able To Return To Work

Now that treatment is over, it is time to consider whether you are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to return to work. An easy way to find out if you are ready to work full time is to volunteer, preferably in a situation which helps get skills up-to-date or perhaps in a new area of work you are considering.

If you are receiving a disability income, look at the rules to find out what constitutes work. As a general matter, volunteering does not count even if you volunteer from 9 - 5. If you are receiving income from Social Security Disability Insurance, you are even allowed to return to work for pay for a limited period of time to test whether you are able to work without affecting your disability income.

Consider whether this is the time to become self employed or to start your own business. (For information, see the documents in "To Learn More.")

Return to work will be easier for you and others if you stay in touch while not working. Keep co-workers informed about your situation and progress. Talk to them on the phone, send a text or email, or appoint a trusted friend or family member to do this for you. When you are able, stop in the office. 

Before you return to work:

  • If there is a question whether you are physically and mentally able to work, consider volunteering  - preferably in a situation which helps get skills up-to-date, or perhaps to volunteer in a new area of work you are considering. Check to be sure that disability income will not be affected even if you volunteer from 9 - 5. 
  • When you do return to work, consider working part time to get back into the swing and not overtax yourself.
  • If you have been out of work for a while, think about what skills may need to be updated. For instance, learning the latest computer program, or the newest version of a program you are used to using.
  • Think about who you want to tell about your health condition and/or treatment, and how much you want to tell. Be prepared for a variety of responses. See "To Learn More."
  • Talk with your boss about what you can and cannot do so you are both on the same page.
  • Consider visiting the job ahead of time to catch up with co-workers and office news.

Keep in mind that:

  • The only question is whether you are mentally and physically able to work now. What may happen in the future is not relevant. 
  • If you would prefer to work for another employer, job lock because of a health condition is a thing of the past. New employers cannot ask about your health condition thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar laws. Thanks to a law known as HIPAA, if a new employer's health plan has a waiting period for pre-existing health conditions, the amount of time you have previous health coverage can count against that time period as long as the gap between coverages is no more than 62 days.

When you return to work:

  • Let people know how you want to be treated. For instance, you may still not be able to work a full schedule, or you may need help accomplishing certain tasks, or you may need an accommodation such as being stationed close to a bathroom for a while. If you need an accommodation, you may be entitled to a reasonable one. Even if you are not entitled to it, you can negotiate for it. (Survivorship A to Z tells you how in the document in "To Learn More").
  • People may need to be reminded that cancer is not catching or that you are not dying.
  • People who return to work after treatment often become the "go to" person when a co-worker or a friend of a co-worker has any type of cancer. If this happens to you, set limits and let people know what they are.
  • If you have difficulties, read: If The Attempted Return To Work Is Not Successful 

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