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study, work and finances


Before cancer became a part of your life, you may have been studying, working, or both. Now those parts of your life are areas affected by treatment, which can also make a dent in your finances. This information covers some of the issues you might face, as well as information and support options.

studying throughout treatment

If you’re starting treatment, you might be worrying about missing classes or feeling too unwell to study. It’s easy to feel like you're falling behind or you’re not connected enough.


While it’s absolutely okay to take time out and just focus on feeling better, if you want to stay involved with school, uni or TAFE, here are some suggestions to make it easier:

  • Ask your friends to bring you work, readings, assignments etc.
  • Organise for your school/uni/TAFE to keep you up to date
  • Use technology to help you stay connected
  • Find out if there is a hospital school or education program where you are being treated
  • Check out the student support services at your university or TAFE

You might be eligible for extra support or "special consideration", which means your situation is taken into account when completing assignments or exams. Talk to your student advisor to find out more, or get in touch with our education and career support team. We can help you find the information you need and give you individual support with your study and career goals.

returning to study

Heading back to school or uni after you’ve finished treatment can be daunting. Along with physical side effects like feeling tired, you might also find it challenging to get into the right headspace, or facing other challenges like:

  • Lack of concentration or “chemo brain”
  • Worrying about how other students and your teachers will react
  • Anxiety about catching up
  • Mobility or disability issues
  • Lack of confidence
  • Needing to repeat a grade or subjects
  • Concerns about changes in your appearance

Redkite is here to help you manage going to back to study or work, and we have a dedicated education and career support team who can give you individual support. We also offer education grants to help cover the costs of things like tutoring and equipment.


Here are some suggestions of other things that might help:

  • Find out if you can ease your way back into work or study on a part-time basis
  • Have a nurse or someone from your medical team visit to explain your situation
  • Share information with your teachers or colleagues, like the tips for teachers from the Ronald MacDonald Learning Program
  • If you’re at TAFE or uni, talk to your student centre about the support they offer

While this might feel like a very challenging process, remember that you’ve already overcome very tough stuff. You can tap into those skills the networks you’ve built to help you through.

cancer and your job

Whether you’re working casually or have a demanding full-time job, a cancer diagnosis will have an impact. You might need to think about taking time off for treatment, and you may also be wondering how much you need to tell your work.

do I have to tell work I have cancer?

Legally, the answer is no. You have the right to choose who you tell about your diagnosis and how much detail you give. If you take paid personal or sick leave, your employer may require a medical certificate, but this doesn’t have to state you have cancer, only that you are not well enough to work.


You might want to consider things like not being able to complete your work because of physical limitations, or what will happen if you get sick at work and no one knows your situation. If these issues are a concern, consider just telling a few key people, like your supervisor or HR department.

the benefits of telling work

Telling people at work means they may be able to provide extra support and understanding. You could be able to work more flexible hours, take extra time off, or change to lighter duties if necessary. Use your own judgement and if you run into problems, the Redkite support team can help you out.


There are benefits to working during treatment, including feeling socially connected and keeping your mind busy. At the same time, if your immune system is under pressure due to treatment, coming into contact with people can be a risk. Check with your treating team about when this might be a risk.

returning to work

Common concerns about heading back to work during or after treatment include lack of concentration, physical demands, risk of catching infection, and the need for time off for appointments and check-ups. You might also feel self-conscious about your appearance.


An employer has a legal obligation to support anyone returning to work after an illness through "reasonable steps". You could start off working only a few hours and increase back up to your normal hours over time, or change to a different type of work after you return.


Colleagues can be a great source of support, so think about people you might want to ask for extra help during the first few weeks.


For more information about your rights and returning to work check out the Cancer Council’s booklet Cancer, Work & You.

job hunting and cancer

Many people who search for a new job after or even during treatment worry that they will be discriminated against. Again, legally you don’t have to tell a potential employer, unless you are unable to do core parts of the job.


You could choose to be upfront about your cancer and draw on the skills and experiences you’ve gained to show why you'd be a great employee. If you would like support through this process, Redkite’s education and career support team are here for you. Your hospital social worker can also offer advice and support on heading back to work.


For factsheets and information handouts to give your employer about how they can help, check out the Cancer Council website. For any legal or discrimination concerns contact Fair Work Australia on 13 13 94.

cancer and your finances

Cancer is expensive. You may have to give up a job because of the time and complications of treatment, or someone close to you may have to change their work arrangements. You might also be paying additional costs for transport and accommodation throughout your treatment.


Along with Redkite’s financial assistance, there are a number of financial support options out there, and our team can help you find one that’s right for you. Here are some questions to consider as a starting point:

  • Do you or your family have health insurance or income protection insurance?
  • Have you applied for the Medicare safety net?
  • Do you know which Centrelink benefits you can apply for?
  • Is someone in your family eligible for a carer payment?
  • Can you access your superannuation?
  • Do you need help with budgeting?
  • Can you delay or part-pay bills to make things more manageable?

If you’d like support finding out more about any of these options, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Redkite support team.

Last updated September 2015.