Make working life easier

Having a long-term condition such as CML can bring challenges if you work.1 You’re not alone. Many people have long term conditions, and these may affect their employment prospects.1 For most people with CML, the condition is a long-term one they live with,2 so stopping or reducing working hours may not be practical or necessary.

What’s right for you?

Before you talk about CML at work, it might help to think about what the best outcome for you would be right now.

  • What symptoms do you have? You may look and feel perfectly well and decide that there’s no need to change anything about your work now. If you are experiencing symptoms like fatigue, pain or difficulty remembering, is there a way of managing your work that would help you cope?
  • What are your financial obligations? Could you change things about your lifestyle to reduce the amount of money you need?
  • How important is your work to you? Having CML might change your perspective on work. You might realise you love your role and it’s important for your self-identity, or you might start questioning whether you want to continue putting so much time and energy into work.
  • How can you be kind to yourself? What would you advise a friend?

Getting the right information from your doctor can also help you make plans:

  • How often will I need hospital appointments? How will that change over time?
  • Are TKIs likely to cause side effects that might affect my work?
  • How will symptoms affect my work?
  • What challenges do other people with CML report about their working life?

You might want to spend time talking to friends and family about your thoughts and feelings, or to a professional counsellor, especially if you need to make a big decision about work.

Talking about CML at work

It may help to tell your employer or colleagues about your CML. If you’re self-employed you may decide to tell your customers. Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone everything – you can decide who you tell and how much information you give them. 

Top tips

Think in advance about who you want to tell, and where/when you want to tell them. If this feels daunting it may help to rehearse beforehand how to bring it up, and what you want to say.

Come prepared:

  • The person you’re telling will probably know nothing about CML and its treatment. It’s good to be prepared with some information about how manageable it is and the treatments available.
  • Be prepared to explain the kind of adjustments to your working life you would like to discuss (if any). You might find it helpful to make a list.
  • If you’re talking to your employer you might want to bring a list of questions, for example, about policies on absence from work, sick pay, any support schemes or assistance

Expect the unexpected: your news may come as a surprise to the person you’re telling. The person you tell will probably be supportive, but it’s also possible they will have some worries. Everybody is different, and some people don’t say the right things! You may want to offer the person some time to digest the news and set up another meeting to discuss the next steps. You could offer to have regular “catch-up” meetings with your employer if you both think that would be helpful.

Keep track of agreements: it’s a good idea to keep a record of emails or letters requesting support or about your performance.

Your rights

If you have or have had cancer, you are protected by law against discrimination in the workplace. You can find out more about workplace law on the Macmillan website.3

There is a lot of variation in how people manage work and CML. There is no “right” way to do it, the most important thing is to decide what is right for you.
  1. European Chronic Disease Alliance & Members of EU Health Policy Platform (2017). Joint statement on “Improving the employment of people with chronic diseases in Europe”. Accessed: May 2018.

  2. Jabbour et al. Patient adherence to tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy in chronic myeloid leukemia, American Journal of Hematology, Volume 87, Issue 7, pages 687–691, July 2012, DOI: 10.1002/ajh.23180.
  3. Macmillan. Protection against discrimination. Accessed: May 2018.