Can you work during chemo?

Hi all, I have recently had a left mastectomy and lymph nodes removal due to large mass lobular cancer. Results showed cancer in 4 out of 9 lymph nodes ER positive HER negative so I am now told I will be starting 6 cycles on EC chemo and Taxotere the week after next. As a single mum I need to be able to work through some of this to pay the bills but having been told a long list of possible side effects yesterday I am scared how much I will be able to do. Any ladies out there felt well enough to work through all this and look after their kids?

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  • HI there K. 2015 i had a similar op. i opted to do a reconstruction at the same time as my mastectomy using my own tummy tissue, so it's a bigger op with longer recovery time, but still it was all very fast, 6 weeks i was back running round like my usual self. i have 2 teenage sons, so life didnt stop just because mum needed to have an op!! . anyway chemo started at 7 weeks, for 8 cycles, every 3 weeks, and i found that for week 1 i was kind of confined to sofa with anti sick meds for first couple days then really unnaturally tired.. but for most of the 2nd two weeks i was well able to continue working. i work in a family business so a lot of allowances were made for me which made it very much easier, but i think any employer would meet you half way if you wanted to continue. One thing i would just say is you will get absolutely dog tired suddenly without warning, and you must listen to your body and go take naps and plenty of healthy snacks and fluids. dont overdo it but certainly i found getting back to work a.s.a.p. helped me enormously with mentally and physically getting past this and getting back on track.

    Having said all of that, it might not be for you.. you have to see how you get on with the first treatment, and the rest of them will pretty much go along the same routine. my chemo was relatively non aggressive i think so i dont mean to understate how it goes for anyone else.

    good luck and let us know how you get on with it all.

  • Thank you for your frank and honest answer Gracie. I work in a hospice as a medical secretary so everyone I work with is very caring so hopefully I can at least manage to work some shorter days and then get a little rest before my daughters come home. Just couldn't go 6 months without earning but the list of possible side effects I was told about yesterday literally scared me silly.

    Will let you know how I do, Am starting first on 6 cycle a week Wed.

  • You will really need to get some help. Do you have relatives who can assist you. I was very poorly during chemo and Andes up in and out of hospital. I really don't want to scare you as everyone is different, but do have someone on standby just in case. Wishing you all the best with your treatment and making a full recovery xx

  • Thank you Lainey, I only have an elderly mother as relatives but I do have some good friends and work colleagues who will be looking out for me. Kx

  • Hi, part of the problem is no one know how they will react , everyone has such different experiences , one thing to factor in though that you will be having treatment over winter with all the potential bad weather and that may have a part to play in how you feel - in terms of help , the Macmillan helpline will be able to offer you great advice on what you are entitled to , they also can issue discretionary grants of , I think , £400 towards help and loss of earnings etc , if you go on the Macmillan online site there is also a group Breast Cancer and there is a current discussion about PIP and claiming it - worth a look ? The Macmillan number is also on the site. My bank were fantastic too when I called them , they refunded all my bank charges and gave me an extended overdraft , I have also heard of people who have contacted their mortgage provider/loan companies and been given payment holidays etc, so there are several options available if you are struggling or think you might do ?

    Jo xx

  • I think it very much depends on what job you have. I was a nurse in an elderly care home and decided not to work as the risk of contracting an infection was just too high. Also, I felt washed out during the second week of the cycle, so if your job is physically demanding you may struggle. Have you contacted the McMillan nurses? You can phone them and they will be able to inform you of benefits you can claim while having treatment. Best wishes to you

  • Yes been told of a £350 Macmillan grant and SSP/ESA but still need to work on what I hope will be good days, it’s so hard as single Mum and bank will only let me take 2 month mortgage break

  • Hello there.

    It does seem like everyone reacts differently. My GP signed me off for the whole of my treatment so I got sickness pay for some of the time. At one point I was claiming employment and support allowance (ESA) and the dept of work and pensions were very happy to give me ESA. I had just finished a contract when I was diagnosed and decided not to try to work. For me it was the right decision, I have managed very well during my treatment, hardly been unwell at all (tiredness of course and a few of the other side effects like horrible taste, sore skin and saying goodbye to hair). I think not working made it so much easier to manage the treatment. I realise though that I was in the lucky position where I did not have to work financially as I was coming up to retirement. I know that not everyone is in this position.

    I hope you are lucky and find the treatment manageable. I also hope you employer is helpful to you. All the luck in the world with your treatment journey. Caroline xx

  • Thank you Caroline, yes I have told to claim ESA after my SSP finishes but it’s not enough to cover my bills so just need to work where I can

  • To ko717

    Yes u can work after chemo. Not all listed side effects manifests in every person. Besides there are take home meds being prescribed to avoid or minimize these side effects. I have done 5 cycles after my left breast mastectomy last may. Thnk God am able to do household chores, do grocery etc.

  • Thank you, just hoping to have more good days than bad where I can earn

  • Hi, everyone will react differently to your chemo. You need to listen to your body. Your immune system will be low so you dont want to put yourself at risk of picking up anything and ending up in hospital.

    I was lucky with minimal side effects and continued to work throughout my treatment which allowed me to retain some sense of normality. Macmilllan or if you have a Maggie's centre offer great support on the financial side.

    Good luck xxx

  • Thank you Maz, have spoken to McMillan and it seems apart from a one off grant of about £350 there is nothing other than SSP I can claim but waiting for CAB to get back to me otherwise I just hope to get as many good days as possible where I can work

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