Going back to work

I am starting back at work tomorrow and I have mixed feelings . I feel that my illness no longer exists for everyone else but my body and mind tells me different and once again I feel alone . I wanted to just move on and get my life back after it all but that doesn't seem to be happening and I can't understand why . Has anyone else felt like this ?

28 Replies

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  • I do hope tomorrow goes well for you and that people you work with will be very supportive and welcome you back. I thought I would want to get back to work but found the diagnosis and treatment took away my confidence, ability to concentrate and was a sleep thief! I feel so blessed to have been told about the Haven in London and found all the people I came across there very helpful and on the emotional front I found the words of life coach Gosia helped me accept that maybe I needed to change jobs and reduce my stress levels which I did. A friend of mine went back to work too soon after treatment and after her visiting her doctor was signed off for a further three weeks so don't suffer in silence if you do decide that you need more time to heal. Here is the link to Gosia incase you want to read a bit more about her and consider downloading her CD Happy Heart – Healthy Body - how to heal your body using your heart. gosiagorna.com/testimonials...

  • Hi thanx for your reply I feel the same in that my illness has taken my confidence away, I struggle to remember even simple things. I am still very emotional and sometimes can't seem to cope with day to day things. I suffer from nuropathy in my feet and my joints ache all the time (thanx to doxitaxcil) to top it all my hair is just coming bak in so is very short and grey whereas I have always had long blonde highlighted hair. This is not supposed to sound like me having a moan as I'm not it's just the things preventing me moving on . I am very grateful I have the option to go to work as I no not everyone gets threw this so I now feel guilty for my thoughts and feelings .

  • This is the place where you can let off steam. We all understand your thoughts and I think it makes you feel better when you realise that there are others out there going through a similar situation. I hope work goes well and that everyone understands that you need to start gradually. If you are getting stressed, you need more time off. I have now just read that you might have put off going to work. I think that is probably a good idea. The radiotherapy could still be working so give your body time to recover. Things will prove xx

  • Angie69 have you been checked out for any vitamin and mineral deficiencies at all? Given what you have just been through it is a distinct possibility that you have low levels of one or more of these. One possibility is vitamin B12, amongst other things this effects feelings of well-being and mood regulation, mental clarity, concentration, memory function, physical, emotional and mental energy. Others that might be worth checking out for a start include selenium, magnesium and iodine.

  • Hi thanx for your reply, no I haven't been checked for anything like that. Had my last radiotherapy 5 wks ago and don't go bak to oncologist till 19th July so I will make an appointment with my gp .

  • Hi I had my last radiotherapy also 5 weeks ago and had planned to go back to work immediately however both my work and go felt I should take some extra time to recover from treatment so I am off until end of August attending physio only for lymphodema

  • don't know what tests your gp will do but when you get the results don't be fobbed off with 'you're in range'. 'In range' doesn't really mean a thing as we are all different and one size fits all does not really cut it. Vitamins like B12 are water soluble so you can overdose on supplements without doing any harm. Minerals like Selenium are very low in certain areas and need supplementation anyway. Doctors get very little training in nutrition (mostly it comes down to a single lecture out of their whole training) so don't really have a clue. Researching for yourself might prove more informative. You can also get private blood tests if your doctor won't test what you want.

    Good luck

  • Hi hope all goes well I never had to go back as was retiring age but I do go in for cover holidayss etc, it actually lifts me a bit .x

  • Thank you but I'm not sure I'll go I'm not sure I'm ready . I'm 47 and retirements not an option but wish it was. Maybe it's a job change I need like bravelady7 .

  • Bless you, sounds like you have had a rough time. I had my lumpectomy surgery and sentinal node biopsy 5 weeks ago and I am still off work as I am not healed, and not even healed enough to have my radiotherapy yet. Plus my concentration and memory are all over the place still. Out of curiosity what is your job?

  • Did you? Go to work, that is.

    5 weeks doesn't seem long enough recovery time for what you have been through. Especially as you don't feel 100%. You shouldn't be putting more pressure on yourself unless you are up to it - that only leads to more illness as your immune system tries to cope with more than it can manage. Unless your job is one of those that makes life worth living (ie gives back more than it takes) you might be better off looking after no.1 for the moment. If it is one of those that saps everything you have to give and still wants more, you might be right about following in bravelady7's footsteps.

    Take care

  • I've recently started back at work on a phased return, one week after completing radiotherapy. I was diagnosed last August, started chemotherapy in September, finished it in January, had total mastectomy with axillary node clearance in February and then radiotherapy was delayed by 12 weeks due to excessive Seroma.

    I am exhausted but have been advised not to make any big decisions about my career until I've given myself a chance to settle back in and pace myself.

    I still have an oophorectomy to go next week and reconstruction with diep tram flap in January.

    Be kind to yourself and don't expect too much.

    Xx

  • I am on the same path and time scale as yourself, I have taken a bit of time to garden

  • Your body has had a major shock,and you can see light at the end of the tunnel, I have days when I feel so well,I completely forget I've ever had cancer,then I get carried away and do to much,and then get tried,so puts me back again,take it easy,but see how you get on,and if necessary you could ask for reduced hours,where it's less days,later starts,or shorter days.Good luck,don't be to hard on yourself,and then try to be super woman at the weekends,ask for help at home,then spend some time at the weekend doing something nice,a walk in the park/beach,a meal or just sit and relax(your are allowed-my consultant gave me permission).just don't try to do to much to quickly.GOOD LUCK.xxx

  • I was glad when I went back to work 2 yrs ago as I wanted the normality it gave me, however, it soon became clear the others managed well without me, and even now I feel very unwanted/unneeded in there, I didn't know until recently that a phased return can last indefinitely, so try to remember if in x amount of time you are struggling you are within your rights to go home early or come in late, as for your hair, I didn't have chemo so I can't begin to imagine what it's like for you, but on talking to a lady at my local MacMillan Centre I said (not planned) I'm the same Jenny as I was before the cancer, but I'm also very different, which is why I don't WANT to leave my job but I NEED to, I wish you well xxxx

  • Angie, what you are feeling is all quite normal for people who have gone through what we have gone through. My employer was excellent. I have to say that every consideration was afforded to me and I took advantage of everything offered. Pre diagnosis I was in a very busy, stressful job dealing with people all day, every day. I decided very soon after my diagnosis that I didn't want to get back on that treadmill (I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing at the time but the stress levels would build in the background) so I spoke to HR who spent months looking for an alternative, less stressful position for me. This was a confidential decision between HR Staff and myself so my immediate line managers and work colleagues knew nothing about it. In the meantime, I started a phased return to work but only felt up to "back office" admin tasks and could not face the public (& all their problems - I had enough of my own to cope with). It got to the end of my sick pay (been on full sick pay for 6 months, then went on to half sick pay for 6 months) and a stress free admin post was not forthcoming. My line manager naturally asked me what I wanted to do so I admitted my lack of desire to go back to my "normal" duties. This led to frank, open discussions with HR & my managers and eventually an "early retirement" package was offered which I accepted. I am 58 now and making sure that I enjoy every minute of every day. I consider myself very lucky to have had such excellent employers because I would have lost out financially on a standard early retirement package, so at one stage it looked like I could not afford to retire. I went through a few dark weeks where it looked as though I would, reluctantly, have to go back to my pre diagnosis employment role. I felt that I had then "wasted" six months of "phased return" because I had shied away from my normal duties due to the fact I had already decided to go for a less stressful administrative role. When one was not forthcoming I was devastated. At age 57 I didn't fancy my chances on the open job market, especially as I still felt very vulnerable and did not consider I would perform well at interview for a completely new role. My employers then came up with a supported retirement package so I did not lose too many retirement benefits (that extra eight years was going to make a huge difference on the financial settlement). Yes, I have still lost "paper money" but I weighed up the odds. Who was to say that I would survive a further eight years, especially employed in my stressful former role? In hind sight, retirement is right for me and I am living life to the full, doing what I want to do. Life is so precious and I am sure you will all agree that a cancer diagnosis "sharpens the thought process" somewhat. I do hope you make the right decision for you but don't rush at it. Take the time you need to recover your mind and body. Both are equally as important. X

  • I do hope today has gone well for you. For all of us though, post cancer we have a new " normal" and that takes a bit of getting used to. Allow yourself to feel as you do and avoid adding pressure to yourself. You have come through a tough challenge that most of your work colleagues will never fully understand. You are amazing! Good luck! Xxx

  • I've been thinking about your concerns and thought that you could openly talk with your colleagues and explain what your body went through and ask them to be supportive if they notice you're stumbling along. And maybe even help you a bit.

    Good luck!

  • Oh this sounds like me 6 months ago! I returned on phased hours, just 8 per week (4hrs Tuesday's and Thursdays) in mid January, a year after diagnosis, at the age of 46. I had 2 ops in March and April 2015 (mastectomy and full lymph clearance), followed by chemo (FEC/T), then 5 weeks of radiotherapy. Treatment "finished" in mid November 2015. So, I thought it was great timing for a fresh start in the New Year, back to work was the final milestone! BANG - in came all the psychological effects, the tiredness, the confusion, the aches. I am still only working 8 hrs. I work in HR as he only HR at my company. I had no return to work discussions as they seem to leave me to shout up for myself, even though I have provided them with a cancer and work pack via McMillan to help them help me. I have struggled, I was taking to a clinical psychologist as a follow on from my treatment but she went off sick in April, not before she told me I was difficult to deal with due to my HR background as I thought I knew how to deal with thing's but was in conflict with myself. My eyes did not smile along with my mouth! You know the smile you put on to make everyone else feel better. I have since, quite recently had o go back to GP as I could not shake off the fatigue, low mood, unmotivated etc. He listened as I focussed on selling him I was trying to help myself with exercise, eating healthy, tonic boosting supplements etc, then he asked some odd but, I see now, relevant questions. subsequently he proceeded to tell me that I had PTSD, and he could prescribe anti-depressants. I was speechless, felt a failure. Everyone tells me how well I look but I'm broken inside. It's exhausting, like living 2 lives. I have declined any pills and have been referred for cognitive therapy. I understand now that this is a slow process, that I set my expectations high and tried to rush. Medics have told me I'm trying to run before I can walk and, that I'm too hard on myself (I kept telling myself to get a grip). This stage is what we are not told about, we focus on day to day, getting through treatment. We feel better when we are not entirely as we never felt so bad as having chemo. Everyone else asks "are you better now" You smile, nod then run away, it's easier as you are still processing life yourself. I know it's getting better, I do find the gaps are getting shorter from bad days. I do more physically and mentally for my work and family, but find I don't give myself much self help time anymore, which slows things down. Anyway, sorry for rant, I don't respond a lot to these things but your post touched something in me. Key things to remember ; it takes time, be kind to yourself, don't make hasty decisions (if y can make them at all), if it didn't work today accept it and try again another day, still ask for help - friends, family, colleagues, will jump to help they just don't know that you still need it, talk to a professional - I thought I could do this on my own. Practically, I was initially given a great article by the phycologist "after the treatment finished - then what?" By Dr Peter Harvey (Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. I cried when I read what someone had put in words was just wat I felt. Unfortunately I only have a paper copy. Also, get hold of the Essential Work and Cancer Toolkit from the McMillan website or ask your HR to , it could be enlightening for all parties, it's also in black and white that as a cancer "survivor" you are covered under the Equality Act & Disability Discrimination Act you have protection, this should take pressure off you. Good luck 👍

  • Hi I was diagnosed Christmas and had my op end January then radiotherapy 6 weeks later which I finished mid April I was going to go back to work straight after radiotherapy but oncologist advised me not to so I took 4 weeks before going back. I agreed to go back to work on a phased return starting end of May which I did starting 2 days first week and then 3 days following week, during this I had my first Zolodex injection and have felt really rough and hormonal since. This week was my third week and yesterday had a bit of a meltdown at home and then again at work. I've been to see doctor and he thinks I've gone back to quick although I felt ready and needed to be with people. So I have been signed off for another 4 weeks work are really good as I had a meeting with my manager last week and told her I felt I was struggling with fatigue and being able to concentrate .

    It's a battle with yourself as I was feeling fine and in control at home , I was worried about money as I have just finished my 4 months full pay and will now go down to half pay but I'm a housing officer so my job is very stressful and full on all the time which I just can't cope with at present. I am finding it really hard to make the right decision about anything so just don't be afraid to try and if you can't cope take a step back again.

  • I feel like that all time the cancer gone but I still feel that alone feeling hope you get on OK at work

  • Hi angie

    I know exactly how you feel dont know what your job is but i had a team to manage and had projects for service development in my role

    I took plenty of time off as much as i could afford i had a bit of a phased return bit as my oncologist had warned i was expected to hit the ground running everypne thought i was the same me projects i had left a year before were soon given to me and i was under pressure to work like before this was too much i am a perfectionist and felt i needed to be the old me that will never happen we are changed for ever and the battle in my head was i needed to take it easy avoid stress as this had caused my cancer and been stressed would make it come back

    It was nice to be with friends and everyone at my level was really supportive bit my brain confidence and as you say that feeling of loneliness was and is still there menopause from chemo adds to feeling

    I ended up back off with stress it was too much just take it easy and dont put too much pressure on yourself everyone will think you are better its not their fault they dont understand but you will be different

    I still feel i need a new job but i was told not to make major changes too soon 2 years later still doing same and as with you too young to retire

    But ive learnt to say no and am going to at last drop my hours

    Hope all goes well i was glad to be back and have friends around but if u have a stressful job take care expectations are still high from some

  • I felt exactly the same I have been back to work 6 weeks now & it is getting better. I felt sick of people telling me how well I looked & wanted to say how tired I constantly feel but to everyone else it's all in the past. I have seen a counsellor twice since going back & found this really helpful. Hope it all goes ok for you take care 😊x

  • These posts really sum up the true feelings of what happens "when cancer treatment stops". I failed to mention in my long post earlier that my worst two months was October and November 2015 when faced with end of chemotherapy and a desire to go back to work. I got so low on an emotional level that I could not stop crying whenever kind, caring people asked me how I felt or enquirer about what I had gone through, as part of my treatment. I was fortunate to get in touch with the Wessex Haven and was seen by a hypnotherapist. My GP had already provided me with anti-depressants, which as it turned out, I didn't need. I was not clinically depressed but I also got diagnosed to be suffering from PTSD. A lot of TLC from various practitioners at The Haven plus hypnotherapy sorted out my sub conscious brain and turned my life around. I am now coping with life and still refer to my meditation recordings when I need a boost. There is a lot of help out there and it is a shame you have to ask to find it! Physical cancer treatment is handled so well by the healthcare professionals but more should be done to help with the emotional side of life. Thank goodness for The Haven.

  • Hi Angie. I know exactly what you mean. I was lucky and had a 2 month phased return to get me back up to my full time hours and everyone was brilliant with me. I've been back 4 months now and I have to say I still get worn out quickly and my enthusiasm for the job isn't the same although I'm still very happy in it. The other thing I have noticed is that I get knocked off my feet by the smallest of bugs whereas before I never caught anything. My Macmillan nurse says it's purely because of what cancer puts your body through. Keep going and stay healthy xx

  • Hi Angie, just wondering how your first couple of days back at work went, was it better or worse than you imagined it to be x

  • Hi Angie. I am in exactly the same predicament. After having FEC-T chemo, full mastectomy and node clearance end of March and finally radiotherapy which I completed 2 weeks ago I am back at work today. I manage a team for the local authority. I must say my line manager and senior colleagues have been fantastic and allowed me to 'dip' into some data projects when I felt able during chemo. I say 'allowed' because I was going stir-crazy at that time because being away from work was totally alien, so I begged the opportunity.

    Fortunately I am able to work from home today, picking up emails etc, but I meet my line manager in the office tomorrow. I haven't been in the office for 9 months and feel it is a major hurdle. As others have said, I look different (hair is just starting to come through and cannot cope with a wig during the summer). The exterior is one thing, emotionally I am a very different person and at this stage I am not sure I want, or could cope with, the challenges and demands that exist in my current role. Also, practices and legislation change very quickly so I feel entirely out of the loop!

    I have found it useful to hear others advise not to make any rash decisions and to take time to assess new career goals.

    I too will find things difficult financially and I am in the process of selling up and downsizing my home to lessen the burden.

    Good luck Angie, I'll be following your progress with interest x

  • Hi 2013 was when I had my surgery your right that's how people act like its never happened I think we feel how we do because of scars and if your on medication I'm on tamoxifen and it plays havoc with your body good and bad days no periods and it puts you into menopause side effects of this are awful I'm having more good days than bad now it takes time stay strong you will get through this big hug xx

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