Working with cancer: For many Canadians, it’s not always a choice

When New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton revealed last week that he had prostate cancer, many in the national press corps expressed surprise that he was not stepping down. Political allies and opponents alike lauded his courage and determination in austere terms that left the impression the NDP boss had one foot in the grave.

Mr. Layton was much more sanguine. He made himself the butt of a few jokes and was soon back to his regular work, staging a press conference to denounce unacceptable levels of poverty among women and children in Canada and internationally.

And so it should be.

Virtually everyone diagnosed with cancer continues with their daily activities  including paid work, volunteering, recreational outings and care-giving duties during their treatment and beyond.

Many keep working out of necessity because they do not have good insurance plans, job security or money tucked away for a rainy day.

Others, like Mr. Layton, do so to keep a sense of normalcy because they do not want a pesky tumour dictating how they live.

Cancer treatment has changed a lot over the years. There are still three basic forms  surgery, radiation and chemotherapy but it is far less debilitating than in the past.

A man with prostate cancer can be in surgery on Thursday and be back to work on Monday. He can get radiation treatment in the morning and keep a lunch appointment. Or he can get chemotherapy then head out on a business trip and, in many cases now, not lose his hair either.

But let’s not sugar-coat reality. Treatment can also be hard: physically, emotionally and financially.

To read the full article Work and Cancer