Following her breast cancer treatment and recent return to work, Rach has some tips for the colleagues of someone returning to work after breast cancer treatment.
1. Don’t stroke their hair. it isn’t a baby bump – actually it isn’t ok to stroke a baby bump either! If they have had chemotherapy then they are tired, their body and face is unrecognisable to them, and it’s quite likely that they aren’t overly comfortable with their new short (in my case quite grey and thin) hairstyle. Maybe you really do think it suits them, or that you’d love to be brave enough to go that short, but that doesn’t make up for the memories of the clippers removing clump after clump of hair before the chemotherapy took it, or the shock of their ghoulish reflection in the bathroom mirror during treatment.
2. Don’t ask them how it felt to be told they had cancer. Ok, maybe if you’re on a night out, you’ve all had a few IPAs and you can’t wait any longer to find out the horrors of that life changing moment, but don’t ask them at lunch on the first day. They are unlikely to want to explain how it felt to be told that their body had turned against them and would kill them if left to its own devices; to be forced to consider whether or not they would still be around to see their own children starting secondary school.
3. Don’t ask them if they are ‘ok’ now. What do you mean? Do they still have cancer? Well if they had surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, then hopefully not. They might still be having adjuvant therapies to prevent recurrence that leave them feeling far from fine. Chemotherapy broke their body down to such a weak state that the slightest sign of an infection was enough reason to rush them to A and E. They are probably not ok, however impressively their eyebrow pencil and blusher is applied. They are also probably not on death’s door, which leads me to my next tip…
4. Try not to cry. Your colleague is back at work, so now they need your support and your encouragement. They don’t need to know how hard it was for them to hear of your diagnosis. Your colleague isn’t planning their funeral right now, they don’t need to see the mountains of sympathy behind your glassy eyes over the photocopier.
5. Don’t let it happen to you! Check your boobs (see #coppafeel for how), check your balls, watch and listen to your body for signs or changes that you can’t explain. Be aware of your family history and speak to your doctor with any concerns. Drink less alcohol, eat less sugar, move more, work to live don’t live to work.