Living with cancer and worried about work? Macmillan has a work support service in your local area


Macmillan Cancer Support provides a service in Northern Ireland to help people who are living with cancer to stay in or return to work, during or after treatment.

It is called the Work Support Conversation and is available in every local Health Trust.

Karen Kelly is Macmillan Information and Support Manager for the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and provides the Work Support Conversation service at the Macmillan Information Centre at the Ulster Hospital.  She explains:

“Many people consider work to be part of a ‘normal’ life and feel that what they do is a big part of who they are. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is often an uncertain, emotional and overwhelming time that brings with it a range of issues and concerns. Managing work life whilst dealing with treatments and feeling anxious can be particularly challenging.”

“All Macmillan Information and Support Managers in NI are fully trained to deliver the Work Support Conversation service.  My role is very simple.  People make an appointment with me in person, or by phone is that suits better, and I talk to them about their work issues, and get to know their individual circumstances.  I’m here to make sure that people have the right information so that they can make informed decisions.  Sometimes that means exploring what support is already available or considering what a reasonable adjustment might be for them in their workplace.  It might also involve helping people to find emotional support, managing fatigue or referring on to more specialised services if necessary.  It may just be helping people to find the right words to speak to their employers so that they can clearly communicate their needs - I help people find options they may not have thought about before.”

Joanne Nordmann from Carrickfergus was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2017 and says that the Work Support Conversation opened her eyes to new possibilities:

“I made an appointment with the Macmillan Information and Support Manager and I can honestly say that the Work Support Conversation helped me to see that I had options available.  I found it really useful as it let me talk to someone outside of my usual contacts about work.  So much of our identity and sense of worth comes from our jobs - I got teary at this meeting, as work was such a big part of my life, and all of that had been turned upside down.

“I think the service helped me to recognise my vulnerability.  I had lots of worries and concerns as many people do.  Your confidence takes a big knock when you’re diagnosed with cancer.  You feel like your head is a marshmallow and you’re unable to string a coherent sentence together - it was good to talk about it all!”

“Thanks to the Work Support Conversation service, I learned about other help available too.  I attended a number of Macmillan’s Move More classes to improve my strength and fitness, as well as a series of fatigue management workshops, and a meditation and visualisation day. The Macmillan Welfare Benefits Advice Service was brilliant too, particularly regarding support available to my family at the time of my treatment.”

The Macmillan Work Support Conversation is available in person or by telephone if you are unable to travel. People can self-refer, or be referred to the service by a health professional.

To contact your local Macmillan Information and Support Manager for a Work Support Conversation, visit the ‘In Your Area’ section of or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 0000.  Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am - 8pm.


Pictured: Joanne Nordmann who benefitted from the Macmillan Work Support Service.

Picutred: Karen Kelly, Macmillan Information and Support Manager