Once you’re on the road to recovery, you may want to think about making preparations for going back to work. This can feel exciting, but also daunting, especially if you’ve been away a long time.
‘I felt fairly anxious…having to spend so much time in isolation, I lost all my confidence. But it’s just been brilliant, it’s allowed me to keep building up my confidence again - it’s making me feel stronger.’
While you’re preparing to go back to work, it’s useful to think about what could make things easier for you. It’s normally best to try and take things gradually - you might not be able to go back full-time to start with, or to exactly the same duties.
As someone who’s had a blood cancer or blood disorder and is recovering from treatment, you are protected by equality law. This applies if you had your transplant many years ago (even as a child), and you’re still experiencing long-term effects as a result of the treatment.
Your employer needs to consider making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make sure that you aren’t at a disadvantage to others in your workplace.
You could also:
You may also be able to get An Access to Work grant to pay for practical support to start working, stay in work or move into self-employment.
‘At times I was ecstatic that I was being treated ‘normally’ – and at other times I was affronted that they seemed to have forgotten everything I had been through! But it’s important to remember that some people have had little experience of cancer in general and don’t know how to react.’
Ariane, had a transplant in 2011
Here are some brief tips to help you manage
‘My haematologist was reluctant for me to go back to work in the airport. He advised I speak to my line manager and request to work from home as a phased return.’
Nilush had a transplant in 2013
After a transplant, it’s common to think about doing something different and making changes in your life. Take time to make these decisions and discuss your thoughts and feelings with family and friends. You can also speak to your transplant team.
Some people decide to give up work after a transplant. It may be that you resign from your job, take voluntary redundancy or early retirement. Think about this carefully, get some independent advice, and consider all your options before making any decisions.
Getting financial support
You might be offered voluntary redundancy as an alternative to early retirement, but you shouldn’t feel pressured into this; it’s important to think about the pros and cons of each. The Money Advice Service, or Macmillan Cancer Support have information about this.
If you have a personal or workplace pension, you may be able to draw on it earlier if you have retired due to ill health.
If you give up work, you give up occupational sick pay, Statutory Sick Pay, pension rights and occupation-linked private medical insurance. But you will be able to claim to certain benefits and you may be entitled to an income tax refund.
If you feel like you are being forced to leave work, or dismissed because of your health issues, it may be classed as disability discrimination, as you are protected by equality law. For example, if your employer has failed to make reasonable adjustments or dismissed you because of sickness absence related to your condition. Seek advice from Equality Advisory and Support Service, ACAS or your trade union.
Looking for a new job
Looking for a new job after a transplant can be exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. Some people worry about telling their employer about their medical history, or you may feel that your confidence needs a boost after time away from work.
When you’re applying for a job, you’re protected from discrimination by equality law. You’re under no obligation to tell them anything about your medical history, health or disability.
But they may ask some questions during the recruitment process to make sure they are not discriminating against you in any way, and check if there are any ways to support you during application or interview. For example, if you have sight problems, they must make sure that any application forms or tests you need are available in different formats.
You may decide that you want to tell a potential employer about your medical history. It may be useful for you if you have any particular needs, and to give employers an understanding of why you’ve been off work.
The National Careers Service have information about returning to work after long term illness, as well as ways to update your skills and knowledge and boost your confidence.
You may want a new sense of purpose or challenge, especially if you’re no longer working. Find out more about getting involved by volunteering with us at Anthony Nolan.
Work & finance: before, during and after a stem cell transplant
Work & stem cell transplants: a guide for employers