Getting back to work after cancer treatment a ‘return to normality’

Pictured at the recent Work & Cancer workshop in Mossley Mill are (L-R): Northern Irelands Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride; former cancer patient Nicola Porter; Downing Streets Expert Advisor on Health and Work, Dame Carol Black and Macmillans Strategic Partnership Manager, Paula Kealey.  INCT 16-722-CON
Pictured at the recent Work & Cancer workshop in Mossley Mill are (L-R): Northern Irelands Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride; former cancer patient Nicola Porter; Downing Streets Expert Advisor on Health and Work, Dame Carol Black and Macmillans Strategic Partnership Manager, Paula Kealey. INCT 16-722-CON

A Carrickfergus woman has told of how returning to work after being treated for cancer helped her “return to normality”.

Nicola Porter was off work for almost a year while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Her story comes as Macmillan Cancer Support calls for greater guidance to help people navigate the often difficult road back to employment.

During her time off, Nicola maintained regular contact with her employer and says she found Macmillan’s information on work and cancer particularly useful.

“I started back on a phased return in March and returned full time in May,” Nicola said. “By that stage I was eager to get back full time.

“The only changes to the process I would suggest would have been a referral to occupational health sooner and introducing training or update sessions. Being off for a year is a long time and I was coming back to a lot of changes. In some respects I almost felt like a newcomer.”

Despite these challenges, Nicola received great support from her colleagues and feels that being back at work helped her to “draw a line under things and feel back to normality.”

Results from the first ever Northern Ireland Cancer Patient Experience Survey found that around 1 in 5 people, who were treated for cancer in Northern Ireland between the ages of 16 and 65, received no information about the impact cancer could have on their work life or education. Macmillan is aiming to raise awareness of the need for support for those affected by cancer and at an early stage in the patient’s journey.