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Oesophageal Patients Association
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Work discomfort

Hello all. Seeking all your wonderful expert advice again! I would really like to know how people have managed with returning to work full-time as I am finding it incredibly difficult. By 2.30pm I am absolutely wrecked along with constant discomfort and digestive ups-and-downs throughout the day, frequent dumping and severe hypos. Sitting in an office chair all day also causes discomfort (I am only comfortable eating in an inclined position) and I don’t know what to do. I am 46 and live on my own, so need to work - I want to cut my hours to 30 a week, but cannot afford it, so if anyone has advice regarding this, it really would be appreciated! Luckily, my manager is still understanding and I can leave a couple of hours early on bad days, but it is not something that other staff members understand as I look and act fine (thin, but fine). I am 18 months post-op (but had several complications in the first 6 months following surgery). Thanks in advance

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I was off work for a full year from diagnosis to return to work (I also had several complications), I still do not do things in the evening but I do work a full day - I was 32 when I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2006 and also had my two children within 5 years of treatment.

It gets easier with time,


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Hi Amsy

Are you paying attention to getting and staying fit? That, I think, is the thing that will help you more and more at work? I know it is hard to find time but it is really worth it. An understanding manager is essential; and a nice employer. Is there anyone in HR or a medic you can talk to at work?

Where I was they had a room you could rest in but that was a giant employer. I never used it but knowing it was there was a great thing



Thanks Aoife and Hayward for your replies. I have actually always exercised and walked - now though I can only manage 20-30 minutes on the cross trainer (which annoys me!). I think I might just be being too impatient and need to let time work its ‘magic’! Thanks again



You are doing well if you are doing 20- 30 minutes on a cross trainer 3 or 4 times a week. More than 30 minutes will not increase your fitness level that's the latest research anyway. It took me 2 years to regain my previous level of fitness and my operation was over 11 years ago. However I never regained my previous stamina levels but you pace yourself differently.

All the best



Sorry meant Amsy not Andy


There is a Note for Employers that might be helpful opa.org.uk/pages/factsheets...

but how your colleagues regard this is a different issue. Generally, people do not understand the problems and expect a fairly rapid progression back to normal health and strength, like normal illnesses / surgery. Which is not the pattern after this surgery even after this period since the operation.

There may need to be some sort of adjustment to the location of where and how you eat whilst at work. Or perhaps a different sort of chair? Or is it because of bloating / wind in your system?

If you are having severe hypos I think you should review what you are eating in case you can change things; it might be that there is something in what you are eating that is making things worse? There is another factsheet on Low GI diet. Eat food that is recommended for diabetics and be careful of snacks that may have a lot of sugar. reading the small print on labels can be illuminating!

If you are having urgent diarrhoea it would be worth checking for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) for which there is a breath test. It might be that there are bacterial infections in your system that need antibiotics.

I know that there will be a conflict between what you need to earn and your health, but at the end of the day your body and health will take that decision for you, unpalatable though that option may be. Employers will vary in what facilities they have for occupational health and so on, but you might have to suggest a temporary reduction to 30 hours a week. If you leave it too long, it might be that your strength deteriorates.

Returning to work at the same pace and length of day as before tends to be the exception rather than the rule for most people after this surgery, but this is complicated by the age profile as quite a lot of people are nearing or at retirement age anyway.

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Fantastic information Alan - thank you - I will take it all onboard and see what adjustments can be made. I very much appreciate all replies!


Hi Amsy, I could not sit in on office chair for more than 4 hours without getting a nasty pain across the middle of my back. I did find that a heat pad helped as long as I used it all day and not just when the pain started. I discovered that grazing all day long solved alot of the dumping issues, I could not eat in the canteen as it always seemed to be rushed, If I was out and about i didnt eat at all all day or just very small nibbles then I managed to keep going. I also worked from home at every opportunity which ment I could get alot more done and if I used logmein on my computer at work it was as if i was in the office, on the office network. but I could sit in a chir at home propped up on cushions and do a much longer day. or work out side office hours and have a day off to recover.

I found that trying to use the gym to get more staminia acutually took me backwards as I was using up more energy than I was putting in and the more tired I was the less my body digested. Walking, swiming or walking up and down the swiming pool were gentler and more helpful. Resting and letting my body heal and doing on and off consultancy work or holiday cover has got me back to actually putting weight on and having energy all day. I am now seven years post treatment but the first five were very difficult and I was always being offered seats on trains etc as i looked and felt so shattered. Lack of cash flow was a problem but lack of health was even more so.

Good luck Cheers Lizzy


Thank you Lizzy for your reply. I’m now considering trying some freelance work from home if I can reduce my hours to part time. Hope you are doing well now!

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Almost 6 years post up ,I was lucky enough to reduce to 30 hours per week.After 11 months off work i had a staged return. initially i was totally exhausted .I realized that full time would be very difficult.As well as tiredness and stomach cramps and having to have urgent loo visits I found concentration very difficult,especially on busy days and with complex tasks.

I still struggled after 3 years in reduced hours.If I played a round of golf on a Saturday i was exhausted till the following Tuesday.

After many GP visits i was diagnosed with low iron,and referred to a dietician.With the iron medication and the tips from the dietician things have improved.

The cramps have eased over time ,also i think it's taken 5 years to get to understand the new diet/lifestyle.

I was lucky enough to be able to have the 30 hours as my permanent week.(my last mortgage payment was the day after my diagnosis)so I could manage ok financely.

I have now realized how long it took to get to the new normal.And from this group have realised that we are all different,

Good luck.


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