Fatigue or feeling very tired is a very common and long lasting side effect of cancer treatment. Some women find that they need to cut back on the time they spend at work for a while, and some find they need to stop working for a time. If you do want or need to keep on working, here are some tips to help make your work less tiring.

  • Work with your boss to set sensible goals for yourself and what you can manage now.  Tell your boss about how tired you feel.  Be sure he/she knows that you are doing all that you can so that you will have more energy.  Also make sure he/she knows that you would like to remain a useful worker.
  • Ask for a change in your current job duties.  Things that your boss can do to help include:
  • Change your hours.  It may be that you can go to and from work at less busy times (outside the rush hour), or perform some of your duties from home.
  • Ask others to help with some of your work.
  • Find a close place to park.
  • Take a short break every now and again to lie down and rest if needed.
  • Work from home, if that is an option.
  • Learn a new job skill that might be less stressful on your body and mind.
  • Plan your workload to use your high energy times wisely.
  • Try to set up your work area so that you are close to the things that you use a lot.
  • Talk openly with your boss and fellow workers about feeling tired because of cancer or treatment.  This may help them to better understand about your change in energy level or work schedule.  The more they know, the better they can support you.
  • Do not feel embarrassed about asking others for help.  Keeping others in the loop about how you feel and what help you need prevents confusion, mistrust, and anxiety.
  • Eat well; drink fluids and exercise (take short walks) as you feel that you can.  This will help you to keep energy through the workday. Keep snacks and water available at your work station. Take a multivitamin daily to help gain the nutrients you need.
  • Talk to your company’s human resources department to find out if your health plan provides referrals that can assist you in dealing with your fatigue.  They might include a nutritionist, physical or occupational therapist, exercise physiologist, or mental health or alternative health practitioner.
  • Get to know your own company’s rules about sick leave, disability, flexible work times, and options to retrain.
  • Know the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act so that you know your rights in the workplace.
  • If you are self-employed it can be useful to talk to the Department of Social Security about benefits that you may be able to claim.

For more information:

Job Accommodation Network: 800-ADA-WORK (800-232-9675) (The Job Accommodation Network is a free service that helps employers makes special plans like flexible hours for workers who need them)

The Cancer Resource Center: (415) 885-3693 (The Cancer Resource Center can give you more facts about your legal rights)

Useful websites:
Coping with fatigue in the workplace

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