Can I Continue Working While on Treatment?
Last updated: March 2022
It is a question that I hear from time to time from people who are concerned about whether they can continue working while treating their hep C. Some people may already be unable to work because of symptoms of living with the virus, but many of us either must work or want to work. I am not one to pass judgment on who or who shouldn’t work, that is not my place to say.
New treatments are easier to tolerate than older treatments
I could share my own experience, but perhaps it is not necessarily typical. Not special, just not typical today. My own treatment was with older drugs that were much harsher than the new ones, and I know some people reading this will have also treated with a toxic blend, which was much like chemotherapy, and their treatment duration was very much longer. Without question, many were cured, but in some cases at a very high cost to their wellness, and many were unable to complete their treatment. I should also mention that I did treat with a direct-acting antiviral (DAA), like the new drug therapies, in a clinical trial.
For most of us, there is a great financial burden because of illness, and hep C is not always an exception. It is getting better (I think) in terms of employers being reasonable about employees taking sick days or time, but rarely are we covered by any plan that will replace lost wages or salary.
Back to the question about whether we can treat and still work; there is no single right or wrong answer. It depends on so many things like:
- Physical difficulty of activity
- Strength and stamina
- Clearness of thought (ability to focus and concentrate)
- Side effects like headache, nausea, fatigue, and others
- Ability to discuss with employer or co-workers (stigma)
You may know others that could be added to your list, and for some of us, we have other health conditions that can be made worse in treatment that can affect our ability to work full-time or even part-time.
Each patient's experience is different
Some suggestions I can offer but are by no means truly workable for you would include having a frank and plain discussion with your employer about your situation. Stigma still keeps many of us from disclosing our status, and I get why most people do not disclose openly. There can be unfortunate consequences when we disclose and it is not always an easy choice or route to take. Discrimination is unethical and illegal in many places, but it can be difficult to enforce and prove, not to mention how stressful it can be to launch a challenge when defending our rights.
Having just written about side effects from treatment it is not necessary to go into all of the possible ones that may occur if any. The same applies when it comes to our ability to continue working, and I usually say to people that at the extremes, some feel great while other feel awful and I have known many who did work through treatment without a hitch while others had to stop.
As much as it is best to have a plan A and plan B, it is not always practical for a wide range of reasons. To end on a positive note, most people appear to be able to continue functioning well enough to do their jobs and I expect it will be the same for you. Even if you don’t feel your best and you need to work like most of us, you will find a way. Good luck! Remember that this is a big thing you are doing for yourself and those who care about you.