The meaning of work and working life after cancer: an interview study

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Abstract

Background:

Cancer survivors have diverse and complex patterns of return to work, but little attention has been given to individual experiences of returning to work.

Objectives:

To analyse the meaning of work and working life for cancer survivors over time.

Methods:

Participant observation was carried out at a cancer rehabilitation centre. A total of 23 participants were interviewed twice.

Results:

Cancer survivors try to get back to work after treatment and try to re-establish their former structure of everyday-life that is seen as a normal and healthy existence. Work contributes to creating the individual as a social being, partaking in social relations with others. Work plays a role in establishing the individual's identity. It is difficult for many to resume work. When they are unable to work, they establish new activities in everyday-life that give meaning to a life. In order to understand the cultural meaning of work in capitalist society, we incorporate the theoretical perspective of Max Weber.

Conclusion:

Those who after cancer treatment are unable to work lose a part of their identity; they lose the personal challenge and satisfaction related to work. They are no longer part of the companionship related to work. Having had cancer means a disruption of the structure of everyday-life that is taken for granted.

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