15 maart Nationale Kanker en Werk Dag
February 28, 2022

The third edition of the Dutch National Cancer and Work Day (Nationale Kanker en Werk Dag or NKWD) will take place on March 15 2022, preceded by 2 online introductory sessions on February 10 and 17. This year the organisers will promote job retention and sustainable employability for cancer patients.

Patient Advocate Sabine Wernars is one of the organisers and she explains: We do this with inspiring guests and concrete tools for employers, self-employed professionals and employees. Fellow Patient Advocate Ilona Schelle will be one of these guests and this year’s theme is: What is possible?

If you have to deal with an employee who has cancer, what should you do as a manager?

Unfortunately, Ilona Schelle, head of an IT department at the Dutch National Bank, had to deal with it several times. She shares her experiences at the National Cancer and Work Day on the 15th of March. ‘People really want to work,’ she says.

‘The most important thing is the first contact with the employee who has heard that he or she has cancer,’ says Ilona. ‘Then there’s so much going on, then as a manager you at least want to make it clear that you’re there for the employee. Because what do you think goes through the mind of someone who is sick, when they go and talk to their supervisor? ‘Oh dear, now they’re probably going to ask if I’ll come back to work soon, and I don’t really feel sick yet, but I’m also not so sure what I want yet, what should I say when they ask when I’ll be back at work?’ These are often things that people worry about. It is so important that you, as a manager, take away that unease. That you make it clear: I am concerned with your well-being, with what you need. It’s not about your work now, but about you as a person.’

Should I go home and wait to die?

‘People want to work very much. Quality of life, that includes your work. For a small part of the people, their job is mainly a way to earn money, for most people it is also part of their identity. You can’t separate that from the rest of your life. For example, there was a fairly young employee who was incurably ill, he continued to work until his last weeks. I’ll never forget his words to me, ‘What should I do at home? Wait until I die?

Own emotion

‘It also does a lot to me. We are a large organisation and I have had to deal several times with people who got cancer, also people who did not get better. That affects me of course. Fortunately I can talk about it well, with people in my private environment and with colleagues at work. Because sometimes it’s tough, for example, when you hear that cancer has come back to one of your team members and you have to tell the team about it. It’s important to take care of yourself as a manager as well.

Read Ilona’s full story  or read more in our previous post Don’t write off an employee with cancer about this the Dutch National Cancer and Work Day .

For more information about this online event on March 15,2022, please visit the website NationaleKankerEnWerkDag.NL

Sabine Wernars
Patient Advocate Inspire2Live and organisor National Cancer And Work Day