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The Emotional Impacts of Working With Cancer

Did you know that a thousand people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every day and over a third of those are within working age? Around 80% of those people affected want to carry on working but struggle to do so for a multitude of reasons.

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Working with Cancer, some facts and figures

Did you know that a thousand people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every day and over a third of those are within working age?

Around 80% of those people affected want to carry on working but struggle to do so for a multitude of reasons.

A survey by social enterprise Working With Cancer showed that 40% of cancer patients did not know that they were classed as legally disabled, and their employment is protected. Similarly, many employers (HR and Line Managers) had no idea that they could not discriminate against cancer patients.

There are around 900,000 people of working age living with cancer in the UK. This number is expected to increase to 1,150,00 by 2030, when 1 in 2 of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime.

The great news is that more and more of us are living with and surviving cancer for many years and as a result, for those affected by cancer, work is really important.

Cancer survivors and working carers are also protected against discrimination in the workplace and the former must be offered reasonable adjustments to return to work.

Who are Working with Cancer (WWC)?

The Social Enterprise, Working With Cancer was set up by Barbara Wilson in 2014 to help support those affected by a cancer diagnosis, to help them remain or return to work.

It is also there to provide training and support for employers, carers, health professionals, and charities and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, with all of the Working with Cancer Associates, either having had cancer themselves or having a profound personal experience of it.

Our founder, Fiona is a Working With Cancer Associate and has been supporting Working With Cancer for 3 years, this works in a complimentary way with the work that the Kora community does in offering personal support for women in managing the emotional aspects of diagnosis, treatment and beyond, enabling and empowering women to redefine life on their terms.

Why is this so important?

If you exclude the time when we are sleeping, our jobs take up a significant amount of our available time throughout our lives.

Often one of our first questions to others is ‘what do you do’, it gives us a sense of identity and purpose, as well as providing an income to support ourselves financially, enabling us to also follow our interests and passions outside work.

Each of us has different motivations and sense of satisfaction in the work we choose, often it provides us with a sense of fulfilment or pride, it enables us to develop and learn new skills as well as providing a social network.

The impacts of a diagnosis and not being able to work as before or having difficulty in making a return to work can have huge effects. When we find ourselves impacted by a cancer diagnosis, being supported to work (if that’s our choice) can help maintain or restore a sense of normality and wellbeing as well contributing to financial independence.

Many cancer patients and survivors find staying at work during treatment or returning to work a struggle as they deal with cancer’s short- or longer-term side effects and in our experience, they can often feel isolated, with reduced levels of confidence and self-esteem, feel extremely fatigued as well as facing the difficulties of managing the ongoing uncertainty of their situation.

As well as the significant physical impacts, they are experiencing a plethora of emotions around what is going on for them, including shock, denial, fear, sadness, anger, guilt and shame.

In reality, we know that Cancer can have a profound effect on the person and all those surrounding them, their loved ones, friends, family, carers and work colleagues, it has a ripple effect and its incredibly important for us to take action to help protect and normalise the conversation around cancer in the workplace in order to help build positive change.

It is so important that each individuals’ experience is acknowledged and that actions are taken to positively impact health and wellbeing for our staff, colleagues and organisations.

The Working with Cancer Pledge & how you can help

In April 2022, Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun was diagnosed and treated for cancer. After making his condition public, he received thousands of testimonies that exposed the fear those with cancer experienced, not only for their lives, but also their jobs.

Those messages reflected an unsettling reality that Working with Cancer aims to address: 50% of cancer patients are afraid to tell their employer about their diagnosis, despite 92% feeling that support at work positively impacts their health.

After being diagnosed and treated for cancer last year, Arthur launched the Working with Cancer campaign at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 17th January.

Today, Working with Cancer is the alliance of major international companies united by a pledge to create an open, supportive and recovery forward culture for people living with cancer.

The Working with Cancer campaign aims to highlight that support is often there, when you ask for it.

That’s why the Working with Cancer pledge is so important, to help employers stop the stigma and enable cancer patients to get back to work. If you are an employer, an employee or know someone who is affected by this, know that you can help by signing the pledge and support people in continuing or getting back to work and help end the discrimination today.

We at the Social Enterprise, Working with Cancer are proud to be part of a cross industry global initiative formed by Publicis Group UK to reduce stigma and insecurity of cancer in the workplace. For more information on WWC’s work, please contact via their website www.workingwithcancer.co.uk.

This is a global wake up call calling on everyone to play their part in supporting colleagues with cancer ahead of World Cancer Day on the 4th February 2023.

See the link below to find out more on how you can show support.



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