It was like being hit by a train to be honest when I was diagnosed on Christmas Eve in 2012. The biopsy had come back positive and I was told I had quite an aggressive tumour in my prostate.
I was working as a Senior Project Manager for a construction company, where I continue to work today. When I told my employer it was cancer and I needed to have an operation they were understanding and supportive. It took me three months to recover after the operation. I didn’t return to work in this period as my oncologist told me I wasn’t ready and my HR contact told me not rush back, so I didn’t feel pressured. Financially I wasn’t worried as my company paid me in full whilst I was off work. Before I was diagnosed I didn’t really know anything about cancer so it really helped speaking to others about it, including my oncologist, HR, my line manager and my colleagues. Speaking to all these people helped me not feel so alone.
They mentioned I didn’t need to come back to work after the 3 month recovery if I needed more time, but I'm a very active person and felt I was ready for work. Actually I felt it would help me recover to do something and I really appreciated that my job was there for me to return to. I asked them about what jobs were coming up, and chose to return to work on a less demanding project to start. Despite coming back to work as normal, this had to change when I was told there may still be something in my prostate bed. I needed 40 radiotherapy treatments and as my oncologist was based in Harley Street I needed to go there for my treatment.
I wanted to carry on working through radiotherapy. I was told about side effects, including how this may disrupt my bowels, but I felt I could manage this. It did help being prepared. I also found out about the amount of follow up appointments I would need during working hours from my oncology team and shared this information with my line manager and HR. They told me they could be flexible so I could continue working around my treatment. It was agreed I would work reduced hours, working in the morning until 12pm and a colleague would cover for me in the afternoon. Finishing early meant I could get a train for my afternoon appointments. And working shorter days during treatment kept me active which was important for me.
My cancer has come back a bit, and I am currently taking some time off work. My employer continues to be supportive and I make sure that I keep speaking to my line manager, HR and share any information I have from my oncologist. From experience I have found that talking and asking questions when necessary has really helped me. I feel very loyal to the company now. I always felt loyal and proud to work there, but now even more so.