Facing Cancer as an Expat 

January 2023

Unexpected challenges are all a part of life as an expat. But when your health has taken a hit it is difficult to know what to do. Facing cancer as an expat is a scary and deeply unsettling experience. Particularly when you planned for an exciting new expat life. But the unexpected can happen in life. We share simple steps to prioritise your health and wellbeing when facing cancer as an expat.

A difficult diagnosis when you’re living far from your home can intensify any feelings of homesickness you already face. While you might think you’re the only one to be unlucky and face cancer as an expat. You will be surprised to see you are not the first expat to face this. Seek out a cancer support group with locals and other expats. Speaking to others who have gone through the same feelings and challenges can help support you through this difficult time. Not only can you gain support but also information, and education from others who are further along in their treatment journey than you. 
Before making any decisions about moving home for treatment, it might be worth exploring your treatment options abroad. You might have better access to living as an expat than what is available at home. Take your time to search and compare the cost of hospitals and clinics back home and abroad. It’s an emotionally charged time but taking rational steps and considering all your options will help you make an informed decision. You could be an expat living in one of the top countries for cancer care in the world. So, take this all into consideration before making any big decisions. 
The idea of facing treatment alone without a familiar face or the wider support of your family at home is daunting. You might be surprised to know that a high number of expats stay abroad for their treatment. Two of the biggest motivations for staying are the insurance offered by employers and the fear of becoming a burden on families back home. It is not uncommon for expats to also have family members they support financially at home. This added responsibility is enough for most expats to stay abroad for treatment. 
Your diagnosis is likely to impact your work, particularly when you’re in the depths of treatment. Talking to your employer about your options and diagnosis is a part of your road to recovery. You might not be in the financial position to take time off work. Or you just want to keep up your normal routine. If you continue to work you will still need the flexibility to attend treatment and extra time off to recover. This is why keeping your employer in the loop is so important.

From diagnosis to recovery, you will be facing a range of intense emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel when coping with cancer. Spending some time to understand the emotional effects cancer can bring can help you navigate how you’re feeling. Your emotional wellbeing through this journey is just as important as your physical health.  

Speak to our team of professionals offering multilingual and confidential support for mental, financial, physical, and emotional wellbeing with our Expat assistance programme

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