Even with advanced breast cancer, it is still possible to have a good quality of life for a number of years. For many women, this includes going to work.
People who want to get back to work after having been ill for a long time often can't work as much as they used to right away. In Germany, the “Hamburg model“ offers the possibility of returning to work gradually. This model allows working hours to be adjusted in a flexible way. You start by working a few hours a day, and if you manage that well enough you can gradually increase your working time. To do this kind of reintegration you need to get the approval of your employer and your health insurance fund first.
But it's sometimes no longer possible to go back to work. You may then be able to re-train and go for a change of career. Your employer may also be reimbursed for the costs of technical aids to help at work, the adaptation of your workplace to account for your disability, or for any training that is needed. You can find out more about this from your local social welfare office (Hauptfürsorgestelle), employment agency, your pension fund or a rehabilitation consultant.
No longer being able to work can be a big change – not only financially, but also socially. Some women feel they are no longer an active and equal member of society. Other women leave their jobs without regret, dedicate themselves to other tasks and spend more time with family and friends.
Your priorities might change over time. Only you can find out what activities are particularly important to you and what kind of environment you are comfortable in. You might be able to talk to your employer about working part-time. It may also be possible to switch to a more flexible job, either paid or on a voluntary basis.
In Germany, under certain conditions, you can apply for unemployment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld I or II) at the Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit) or for social benefit (Sozialgeld) at the social welfare office (Sozialamt). The German Cancer Aid (Deutsche Krebshilfe) has a hardship fund to give small-scale, non-bureaucratic and quick help if people have financial problems caused by cancer.
In Germany, if you can't go back to work or are only able to go back to a limited extent, you can apply for a pension at your pension fund. Depending on your age and whether you fulfill additional requirements, you can apply for a regular "old-age" pension or for a disability pension. If you have disability insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung), the conditions for getting a disability pension may be fulfilled.