I quit

No!! You do not need to resign from your job in order to fight cancer!! You can continue to work and remain a valuable member of your team even while you are undergoing treatment! There are many people who were even promoted while they were on treatment!! And, in any case, if you sit at home everyday you are probably going to get bored!!

So what do you need to do?

Find out if you can have your treatments every three weeks instead of weekly. Speak to your oncologist/supervising doctor and see if they can treat you on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning, – then you can recover over the weekend and, come Monday morning, you should be feeling much stronger!! If they cannot treat you on a Friday or Saturday ask for the number of a practise that can – just make sure it is conveniently close to either home or work. Even government facilities should understand if you tell them that you have to work.


Speak to your boss or HR department. You do not have to tell anyone about your condition but there are a few good reasons why you should.

Firstly, you are going to be taking quite a few days off over the next six to twelve months. If you regularly call in sick your employer is allowed to request a sick note to make sure you are not faking it. This means that your employer will soon find out the truth in any case.

Secondly, if you do not tell your employer the reason why you are missing from work they may assume that you have another, part-time position, or that you are not serious about your job. If this happens they could stop considering you for promotions and you could most certainly lose any performance based bonuses.

Thirdly, many medical aids require that you disclose your cancer and register on their cancer programme so that they can better provide funding for your successful recovery. You could ask HR to help you with this.

Also, many companies have special insurances in place for members of staff who are taken ill. There may also be policies attached to your medical aid, pension or life insurance that could be “activated” to your own advantage at this time.


  • You don’t have to shout it from the mountaintop! You could just tell your supervisor, your closest colleagues or HR. Bear in mind that bosses are people too and their responses may be dictated by their own experience (or lack of experience) with disease. Some of your co-workers may be very supportive, others might not be and others may almost drown you in sympathy!
  • Remember, you want to stay positive and focussed on your own successful recovery. When you tell people about your cancer ask them not to tell you horror stories! You must remain positive!
  • Speak to colleagues in a private area. If you are part of a small team try to speak to all of them at once. If it is a bigger team then speaking to groups of three or four people may be easier.
  • Start off by explaining that breast cancer is very treatable and direct them to the Breast Health Foundation website (www.mybreast.org.za) if they want more information.
  • Assure them that you will do everything possible to continue performing well at work. Recommend that some time be allocated to find solutions for when you are away and to bring you back up to speed when you return.
  • Nominate the colleague you will phone and keep updated on your progress.
  • If you will be receiving chemotherapy then explain this and briefly discuss hair-loss, wigs, hats and scarves.
  • Your co-workers will probably have lots of questions, and you may not have all of the answers yet. Thank them for their concern, and then get back to work!

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