Feeling down a few weeks after the mastectomy and not ready to go back to work

I was diagnosed at the beginning of May after finding a lumpy area in my breast. I had a single mastectomy on the 23rd May. I was diagnosed with invasive ductual cancer. The consultant told me that the treatment should be chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. After the mastectomy the results from the tissue analysis was that I did not need any further treatment. There were two tumours and they were low grade and my lymph biopsy was also clear. I suppose I had built myself up to having the chemotherapy (already had my hair cut short) and apart from Tamoxifan hopefully will not need further treatment II had the operation 5 weeks ago and feel quite emotional over this last week. Initially at the diagnosis stage my life was spent organising everything ( I am a single parent of three children) and making sure I had childcare planned and people to come with me to appointments. I felt very positive. Now I feel very emotional and quite unmotivated. I need to think about going back to work (financially I need to get back as I only get statuatory sick pay) but the thought makes me feel extremely anxious. I feel guilty about being off work but then i don't know how I'll cope. My employers have been great and I have spoken to them about a phased return and they are not putting any pressure on me. It is an intensely busy job dealing with lots of documents, multi tasking and very customer focused. I don't know whether I need counselling or just need to bite the bullet and go back. I am just concerned that these crying episodes come over me and I cant be doing that at work. When I say the cancer word it doesn't seem real and that it doesn't apply to me. I wonder whether thats because I havent had the chemo or radiotherapy I feel a fraud. part of me wishes that I had needed the treatment so that I was kept in this little bubble away from normal life. I guess I should be feeling lucky. I am struggling to get back to normal. I am sorry if this offends anyone who has/ is having to go through treatment. My GP is not the best - you get to see a locum doctor so no-one who knows me. Is this normal i suppose is the main thing I would like to know?

19 Replies

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  • Sounds like me on a daily basis I get myself ready for treatment to begin to be told it's been postponed due to blood count or now it's my arm movement just makes you feel stupid and waist ing people's time as soon as someone said how you feeling I answer them with a positive attitude then soon as the word cancer comes up in in tears remembering I've still got it

  • Wow, you've had an incredibly quick journey haven't you, mine was 6 months, I had lumpectomies and radio, and, yes, it took quite a while for me to get used to the fact that I had cancer, gradually, over time I accepted what had happened, but, like yourself, I felt a fraud at times, no chemo. No feeling ill etc but I got there eventually. Give yourself some 'me' time, if you can, just a long soak in the bath, or out for coffee with a friend, and I'm sure you'll gradually get used to the fact, that you had cancer, and you've now beaten it, I wish you well x

  • Going on my own experience, I would say how you feel is perfectly normal/expected. I had a few down day's, especially after mastectomy, I didn't deal with being treated/seen as fragile very well, I'm used to a busy life as a mum, wife, holding down a job and then someone goes and tells you you're seriously ill, but you don't feel it so your mind can't comprehend how???

    Mentally I know I prepared for the worst, even though to the outside world I was picking myself up and dusting myself off. Mentally you have been through the biggest challenge of your life, your mind, like mine, was probably preparing for the worst at one point. I don't think there's anything else in life that can ever prepare you for the challenges that cancer can bring, there's no right or wrong. I've literally thrown myself back into life, always planning and doing something new, I have to force myself to do it otherwise I think the dark days would consume me. You are not a fraud, you may not have needed belt and braces so far as treatment is concerned but you've still had one hell of an ordeal. Stay well x

  • Hello. Things sound tough and I'm not surprised it's very early days and as someone said to me, " you need to be kind to yourself". The emotions are perfectly normal but counselling certainly helped me understand my feelings and manage them, your breast care nurse can advise you on a good counsellor. Speak to Macmillan about finances they may be able to help.

    Don't feel guilty about being off work, the psychological impact of cancer is huge but find a support group and use Macmillan free phone number for support.

    I'm so happy for you that the news is good, really good. You sound tired and with 3 children on your own I'm not surprised.

    Get some support sorted out and only you know when the right time is to return to work.

    Lots of luck xx

  • I understand how you feel. There is definitely a feeling of safety in the bubble. I am stage 3 but feel guilty about my friend who is stage 4. Remember tamoxifen is playing with emotions, I often find myself holding back tears for no reason, usually if I see something good happening.

  • I know how you feel,I had my mastectomy in october15,and like you I was very lucky,I didn't need chemo,or radio,as it hadn't spread to any lymph nodes,so feel a bit of a fraud,it seems as if I've got away with it so easily,and not fair that other people have such a struggle,I've taken early retirement,as I was lucky enough to be in that position,I only have to take letrozole,and that's it,just doesn't seem fare for others,but I am so grateful to my consultant,the breast care and speck teams,I had moments when I cried a lot,but it's a big emotional journey,you need to concentrate on getting yourself better for you and your family,and your allowed to cry,it's part of the healing process.GOOD LUCK.xxxxx

  • I think you need time after finishing treatment to just take some time for yourself. It's an emotional roller coaster and you need to take time after treatment to just relax and take stock of everything. As someone else has suggested, do speak to McMillan about finances. Best wishes to you xxx

  • I had three operations dating back to August which resulted with a mastectomy at Christmas I had four weeks radio but no chemo. I have just been told I have to have overies removed next week. than reconstruction next march. I am same as you on my own with no sick pay so had to get back to work on part time basis. My employers are now expecting me to go back to eight pm finishes next week. To tell the truth im shattered at only doing six hour days! So twelve hours will be a killer for me. I have no one to turn to and yes the tears are normal. To the outside world I am a strong person but on my own I feel what next. I am 49 with one grown up son who works away. I count myself lucky that I sold my property so that takes some of the preasure off me. The savings are dwindling fast but hey we are still here! take care sending big hugs your way.

  • I'm going for four weeks radiotherapy I'll be devastated if after they tell me overies have to come out another op but in my mind I no its there as well that will be the fourth place but yes the tears still roll and people look et you and say well your ok arent you well no I'm not till it's all gone but I'll get there in my own time sometimes we just need to lock ourselves in a room and scream

  • Hi Poppy, Yes you will definitely need counselling and emotional support after this. Breast cancer is a massive and life changing diagnosis, and even though you were clearly fortunate not to need chemo you still had to lose a breast and that's a big deal. Plus as a single parent the stresses on you are going to be greater than someone who has a supportive partner. Don't delay, get the help you need today!

  • Hi, you are not alone I had surgery chemo & radiotherpy I was very tearful all the way through I just learnt to go with it & not hold back, every time my sister called my partner would just throw the tissue at us ha ha even now I have the odd day when I just cry & don't know why. I had seven months off work then went back on rehab hours when I felt ready I up my hours each week apart from the curly hair you would not think I had anything wrong or what I'd been through , you will find your way good luck 😘💖

  • As others have said don't be hard on yourself. What you are feeling and going through is a completely normal reaction to your situation. Make use of the MacMillan service, I went to Relate counselling for free through them and I found it useful to talk to someone who was completely neutral. They do also offer financial advise as well. Don't feel guilty about being off work and it's good that your employer has been supportive. If they are not pushing you to go back then take the time off and a phased return sounds like an excellent idea. Also try again at your GP's it may be that you may need a course of antidepressants to help you back up. I'm still on mine 2 years later and it is mostly definitely not a sign of weakness.

    I hope you manage to sort things out.

    Take care xx

  • Hi. I think you need to give yourself some time, it's only been 5weeks. I'm like you, I had mastectomy with reconstruction but lymph nodes were clear so no further treatment apart from tamoxifen. I also feel guilty, like I got off lightly!

    If you have Clan near you, they offer fantastic support. I just had a counselling session through Clan and I found it really helpful. She reassured me that these are normal feelings, because although the body might be healing the emotions are still there. Don't be too hard on yourself.

    This group is a super help too. You have helped me by putting up your post, means I'm not the only one.. 😬Sorry, not that I want you to suffer, but I hope you know what I mean. 😀 Take care. X

  • Thanks so much for the replies ladies. It made me feel better. I am going to see the GP next week as I wonder whether the Tamoxifen could be contributing to my low mood. Tracey I will do a search on Clan (can't say as I have heard of them). I have suffered from post natal depression 19 years ago and might benefit from some anti depression medication although last time it took a few attempts to find the right tablets for me. I found prozac helped me immensely however I see that I cant take it with Tamoxifan. MacMillan were really good at getting back to me ref benefits however as I am a homeowner and still getting working tax credits I only qualify for a couple of pounds a week council tax benefit. It's been a stressful time as my eldest just sat his final A levels and he has been pretty anxious and his girlfriend also has issues so i guess I have had a bit to contend with, thanks again xxx

  • Not sure if they are a Scottish based charity. You could see if Macmillan have any services you could use.. I was struggling with low mood and tiredness as well, the Gp and other reassured me that this is normal. We've been through an ordeal, and even though we feel we got off lightly it's still traumatic no matter how brave a face we put on and tell everyone we're fine.. You take care. Xxx

  • I had my mastectomy in March and do not need further treatment. I am still swollen round my side and under armpit is still stinging. I am also suffering from fatigue which makes me feel fed up and un-motivated. I do not want to go on anti-depressants as I have previously been on them and want to get over this myself. I am planning on returning to work next week but just need confirmation that it is ok to return to my part time clerical job whilst I am still swollen. As I am a carer who works part time I have insufficient contributions to get SSP and my CSP has run out so I will need to return for financial reasons

    . Also what do you say to people who ask how you are honestly ,without becoming over emotional (which I can't always control as I would like) If you just say 'o.k. thanks' it is dismissing their and your own feelings. I am feeling fragile and vulnerable and need this to be acknowledged so I can move on to some normality. I have kept it private from most colleagues to protect my disabled son but it has leaked out. I have been off work so long I am feeling quite fearful of returning and how to handle things. I work in a large supermarket in the admin team. Does anyone have any advice please. My cancer care nurse just says everyone is different and the swelling will 'eventually be absorbed in due course' They will not drain citing risk of infection.

  • Hi that sounds similar to my story. I had my mastectomy in march and luckily only needed tamoxifen after. I have my good and bad days. I just sit and cry for no reason. I also had a immediate reconstruction. I have just gone back to work and have been struggling a little with my emotions. You need to give yourself time. I know the money is a worry but you need to make sure you are well to look after the little ones xx

  • An update on this. I have been to see the GP and was so lucky that a particularly decent one was working that day who was brillant. I have been prescribed anti depressant Sertraline (apparently its fine to take with Tamoxifen) and have found a private counsellor who I am going to see today. I can see light at the end of the tunnel and have accepted that I need help. Mental illness the GP tells me is very common in cancer patients, he told me that he had actually had bowel cancer a couple of years ago and is taking anti depressants himself still. Probably sounds a but wierd but it helped me feel that I am not weak and stupid for feeling so crap. I suppose people cope in different ways xx

  • try talking to the team at the Haven they have fantastic people there . I went to the Hereford one and had free sessions. It really helped to talk . It took a lot for me to reach out but so glad i did . Your employer seems to be doing the right thing and they need to as you are protected now by the disability act which i found strange at first but it protects you a lot . Macmillan also do publications on work , finances and your rights etc .If anything like me i was given so many booklets to read but they are useful .Don't forget to talk to your breast care nurses at your hospital that's what they are there for . I was one of those people who said i wont bother as people are worse off than me and need the appointment more than me but i did eventually ring them up and got the support so give them a call ... lots luck . Just coming to this site is a good start !

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