Any nurses out there?

Just wondering if there are any nurses out there who have undergone diagnosis and treatment and are either working, given it up etc?

I am nearly 6 years post diagnosis, last surgery was 18/12 ago. I have been nursing for approx 26 years.

I am still working (just!) but can’t tell you what a stuggle it feels. I currently do 22 hours.

I have utterly taken such a bashing to my confidence(where did it go?!)and have feelings of really not coping or wanting to have anything more to do with a hospital.
Also, I don’t know wheteher its the Arimidex I’m taking, but my brain seems to be covered in a very dense cloud of fog.I end up checking what I’m doing about 20 times,(always was conscientious, but now more so - I had a few clinical errors made in my care so keen not to let that happen to anyone else)
My return to work was very badly handled, so I know that hasn’t really helped.
Anyway, I’ve battled on,and I have seen OH many times (always in floods of tears) about how I feel, and have always been told that maybe I need to do a different type of nursing. She hasn’t helped at all really!
Well,following that advice I have taken myself out of nurse practitioning and into a non clinical role(same trust), with day hours, office based.
Thought that this would be better, which it is as I don’t do shift work, but that lack of confidence will not leave me! plus, I still feel so exhausted (I have really good days and then not - may have fibromyalgia but the GP not sure).

To round it off, I have now developed backache as sitting all day at a desk,(had a bone scan to rule anthing out) and the latest is that since using a computer all day the trunkal lymphodema I have for 4 years suddenly now seems to be affecting my arm (dominent one) to the extent that My hand has started swelling (? because I am using a mouse/leaning on arm?)
I saw the Lymphodema nurse who thought that I may well be developing lymphodema in the arm and hand,possibly as a result of using a computer, so has prescribed me a glove and sleeve to wear at work.

So, if this is the case, what do i do now?

Psychologically, I feel unable to face working clinically in a hospital, especially as I have had treatment at all the local ones)

Now I feel reluctant to continue doing desk work if this is going to affect my hand/arm.


Maybe another tearful trip back to OH?!! I really don’t know what to do. I have considered applying for ill health retirement (I’m 46) but my other half and friends are not sure I will get it.
Have any of you faced a similar situation?
I would love any advice on what to do , what you have all done, any tips for getting on with it, have you found something else to do,anything !!!


Hi there! I’m a nurse too working, well hopefully to return successfully as a band 6 sister doing 2 nights a week mainly telephone triage and visiting ill patients if appropriate. We undertook the old GP role when they opted out of working nights in 2004. You’ll have to click on my profile to get info at where I am now in treatment. I plan to go back to work sometime after Xmas and am wondering if I’ve forget all that I’ve learnt. I was last at work beginning of last November. The thought of nights tires me out, I never was overly confident in nursing anyway and we used to do this job in twos with another nurse, but it’s now been cut back to just one. The nights can be long as you’re in a small room with a phone and a pc along with the receptionist that takes the calls. Some nights can be very quiet and some can be stressful and hectic any you’re unable to keep up with the calls and visits. I’m just hoping I don’t feel the same as you, but you never know, I’m due to start tamoxifen soon so will have to see how that effects me.

Sorry I can’t be much help, but I share your concerns about work and wondering if I will be able to cope. I too have wondered if another avenue of nursing would be possible, but I don’t have a diploma in nursing let alone a degree so I feel my options are limited. Although I did a degree level 3 course for the job I’m in now, but I’ve no inclination to get a diploma. I qualified in 1983 - ages ago!

I’m due to re-start the reflexology course that I stopped last year and hope to start up a business doing this and testing out reiki, but I’m sure it’s not going to be enough to live on, especially in a recession!


I am a nurse of 33 years. I was diagnosed in Aug last year and had a mx and immediate diep recon early oct. I had 12 weeks off work and returned on a phased return in Jan this year. I am a Surgical Matron working full time, but returned to non-clinical duties. My boss had me doing all investigations and reports into incidents until I went back off in April for my 2nd and 3rd ops, I must admit I found working all the time on the computer difficult as my recon would swell and be really uncomfortable after about 2 hours at work. I must admit that I thought I was ready to return but clearly wasn’t as like you I was often in tears - not at work but when I came home to the family. I returned to work again on the 12th July, no phased return this time and went back into my Matron role. I am so much happier although I do feel like I am new to the role as if I have never done it before, but it is getting easier. I love being with the patients and have put my experience of hospital (not always the best) to help improve my patient’s hospital experience. I do however get very tired and crash out on the weekends. I know that I will be going off again for more surgery and am being investigated for severe back pain as well. Maybe it is the uncertainty that makes me enjoy every day as I don’t know if my back will allow me to carry on for much longer. To make matters worse, I picked up my NHS pension choices pack and am now having to decide when I am likely to want to retire. My brain is definately not what it used to be and I do find making these big decisions difficult. Any advice!!!
Marjay xxxx

I too am a nurse. Have not done as much as you guyd 9 years qualified and `13nyears healthcare in total. i am an RMN i worked in a forensic Psychiatric setting, I am worried about returning to work in the future and may have to take on a non- clinical role for a while.i do not see myself at work before the new year so far everyone has been great however we wqill see when i return to work


Hi ladies
I am not a nurse but just wanted to mention that if you are having problems at work which are aggravating your health probs, psychological or physical, or ifyou envisage you may have a battle onyour hands at any stage, I would really strongly recomend you join your union at this stage so they are in your corner and also so that you can access free legal representation or just free legal advice if you should need it. I would certainly do it if u are thinking along lines of I’ll health retirement. You can ring the legal helpline of most unions for advice and the union fees are soooooooooo much less than solicitors free plus usually union firms have really good solicitors with specific expertise. If your work is causing health probs make sure you mention it to your boss and poss oh dept and it always helps to have written proof rather than to be trying to recall verbally discussing it. Just protect yourself at this stage do you keep all options open to yourselves.

Also I don’t think the low confidence is just nursing related, but it must be really hard going back to a healthcare job after going thru all this. Hope things get better for you all. I have been diagnosed whilst on a three year cAreer break so dong have up face it til April 2012 thankfully and I already knew I wld have to relearn my job at that stage anywdy!!


I’m not a nurse but worked in HR in the NHS for many years before taking early retirement in May because even though I opted to work part time rather than full time after treatment, I was still exhausted by working 3 days a week. I didn’t apply for ill health retirement, but I would have advised others to do so in my situation. You may or may not realise that there are 2 tiers of ill health retirement now in the NHS. Put very simply, one is for those who are not able to do any job ever and one for those not able to do their own job. The terms of the retirement are different of course andd you would need to have all the information about this before making any decision. Your HR department will be able to give you the details. I would also agree that you should contact your union for advice and assistance. It doesn’t ever hurt to apply for ill health retirement and even if you don’t get it first time, you can appeal.

All the best


I’m a Nurse of 20 years and work in the community. I’m back full time now after WLE and lymph removal, chemo, rads, etc. Although, like all Nursing jobs, I find it tiring and stressful at times, I do love community work. I may just be lucky but my manager is very understanding and keen for me not to overdo things, not that it stops me! It may be that there’s more flexibility in community work and that i do days only, mon to fri.

Julia xx

I too am a nurse and am very concerned about my eventual return to work although I am looking forwards to it in some ways.I managed to work full-time throughout chemo, even working before and after the chemo sessions.When my manager found out she insisted that I have chemo day off sick for 4,5 and 6th.Unfortunately I then faced the wrath ( and that is putting it mildly,) of a jumped up b***h in HR. As by then I had had 4 days off in 4-6 months or so ( the 4 th day was for a nuclear bone scan)She said she would be ‘managing’ my absence as this was covered by the sickness absence policy, when I did go off sick and implied heavily that I was malingering and skiving. I gave her 3 separate oppotunities to rescind this. I was extremely distressed to say the least. Just before I left for A/L which I used for my WLE and ANC I sent an e-mail to her, copying her manager and my mangaer and mine in to it. Outlining the parts of the policy which I felt applied to me. I took advice re this.I have never had any dealings with this woman so can’t say I have ever rubbed her up the wrong way.My new manager, who I used to work with in another county, came to see me last week and was great about my eventual return and very clear that it would be a phased return to be taken at my pace.So I feel as though I have shot myself in the foot as far as HR are concerned. Added to this I have received my pension choices pack and I am also in the group of women who will not get their OA pension at 60 but it will be on a sliding scale to an older age. I am also single and had known since my marriage broke up after 30 odd years that I would have to work on. To make these decisions now with my brain only partially functioning is so hard.And I do not think I would be entitled to early retirement either as I am 60 in Dec.As per post from Anne G. I am still in active treatment waiting for rads to start. Sorry about the rant but it helps to write it down. If anyone has any comments feel free. Best Wishes. Jackie

Jackie you have been treated disgracefully. You are covered by the disability discrimination act I think. Go to your union for advice Asap. If you aren’t in a union consider citizens advice perhaps. Good luck. X

Hi everyone. I am also a nurse, diagnosed in 2005, mastectomy, reconstruction, chemo, rads and tamoxifen.
At the time of my diagnosis I had worked for the NHS FOR 26years and was working part time. I was off sick for 9 months. During that time I had no contact with my manager unless I initiated contact. I was also marked down as having left rather than be on sick leave so had no money for three months. These aspects left me particularly anxious at returning to work.

When I did return I was never told that prior to return a meeting should have been arranged with my manager, occ. health and human resources and myself to arrange a definitive phased return plus to discuss reasonable adjustments to my work pattern. After returning occ health had made various recommendations, which my senior manager did not oblige ie I recieved a letter saying that if I had not accrued to my normal pattern of working within a week my salary would be docked. Over the next few months management tried all sorts of nonsense ie, putting me on night shifts (or trying to!) putting all of my shifts together ie 4-5 12 1/2 shifts together, selecting the heaviest patient despite not being able to lift and so on!. I became a union rep and no sooner did that happen then they completely backed off. I think I had enough evidence but left it too long to take to an industrial tribunal which I do regret and urge anyone who feels they are being discriminated against to do so.

I stayed at the Trustlong enough to prove that I could work although it was very hard. Looking back I knew I was depressed not only in regards to the work place but also coming to terms with the condition. I think when you are going through treatment there is so much going on treatments, hospital visits etc and this made coping with work much harder although I desperately wanted to work to achieve some level of normality again.

I worked with another Trust for a while. It was good initially but a change of Manager brought about comments that all staff needed to work in all areas something I was unable to do. I am also in the situation where I am now single and need to work as long as possible (I am 51). I have just retrained as a health visitor. Although it has its own specific demands I am enjoying the work and the staff, mangers and occ health have been very accepting of me and my abilities.

I hope that my ramblingsmake sense and I would say to everyone that there is light at the end of the tunnel! I still think that the treatment we recieve is very sad particularly when we are part of a so called caring profession. Good luck to all!

Hi Jackie,
As previously written, I am a Matron and therefore have to apply our Managing sickness policy etc to my members of staff who are off sick. I have also had the policy applied to me. My boss who is definately uncaring turned up trumps and after my first episode wrote down that because of the nature of my sickness no further action need be taken, this was put in writing to me, HR and into my personal file. No mention of my bc was ever recorded to keep it private. The only condition was to keep her informed as to progress etc. We, as the policy enforcers have the right to apply discretion and I am appalled that whoever you work for has not done this. The policy has to apply to all to ensure equity but it usually has discretion on part of the Manager built in. As tors states, get the advice of your union as I am sure that this has been applied unfairly and that you definately come under the DDA.
I wish you well,
Marjay xx

I too, am/was a nurse. Diagnosed initially in 2004, then spinal mets at the end of 2009. I was 56 (now 57) and had worked for the NHS for 22 years. At my secondary diagnosis, I decided to apply for ill health retirement as my mobility was/is slightly impaired due to the mets. I also knew that I could not continue in my job as an educational practitioner in neonatal nursing, as the job demands a lot from an emotional point of view. I did not have that inner strength and had enough of my own emotional needs to deal with, let alone having to give of myself to others.
My application was supported by my manager and by HR and I was awarded the upper tier. My pension and lump sum were therefore enhanced as if I were to retire at 60 - which I had planned to do anyway.
Throughout this whole process, I have been fortunate, in that I have been extremely well supported, by my work colleages - some of whom I consider as friends - my manager and by HR. The ill health retirement process is a bit long-winded, but that’s the nature of things I guess. I don’t regret my decision, as I believe I was ready for it anyway, and now enjoy my garden and other pleasures, that I never seemed to have the time for.
This post has also been a bit long-winded too, but if anyone would like to ask me anything, please do.

Thanks Marjay and Vickie I had inc in my e-mail to the HR b that managerial discretion could be applied and also quoted the relevant parts of the Disability Discrimination Act so I think not having had a response to that e-mail effectively means HR have backed off. My current manager is fine and leaves it to me to ring her with updates etc.My colleagues ( some of who are friends too) are also very ssupportive. I just feel very distrustful of the HR dept now. Thanks ladies your comments are appreciated. Jackie

Hi Ladies
I too am a nurse (15 + years) a year before my diagnosis I had been working as an oncology nurse doing clinical trials so this whole BC thing was an especially hard slap in the face. At the time of my diagnosis I had just swapped jobs to a more administrative role in clinical research outside of the NHS. I’d only been in the job 6 weeks when I was diagnosed. I am now back at work 4 days a week and agree it’s hard work, I feel tired juggling work and my 3 kids but I am thankful I am doing my more administrative role far removed from my previous oncology role. I know for a fact that I couldn’t go back to the demands of my previous oncology role, mainly from a psychological point of view. I’m working hard to keep things on an even keel dealing with my own psychological demands to get my life back and I feel I couldn’t give the psychological support to others that is required. We all have to do what’s right for us and I don’t think we should be too hard on ourselves. We;ve been through a huge issue and nursing is a hugely demanding job from both a physical and a psychological point of view> Good luck to all xxxx

Hi, cant belive your post! I am a nurse, age 46 and had my diagnosis ten years ago, with many problems and operations since. I am still working in a large heavy nursing home, but i am physically and mentally exhausted. I have had severe wrist pain in my mast. side, but a bone scan ruled out a fracture. I now have pains both arms , shoulder , top of back with pins and needles. It must be a trapped nerve, so going to .gp today. It is very difficult in this profession as my managers are so uncaring. I would like to get out but due to financial commitment it is not possible.

hI, been to see gp. Has given me a form for full blood screen to rule out things. Asked if it could be a trapped nerve and got a sort of vague reply. Have to return to work next week. Feel so low…

I am a nurse with breast cancer, and I have been very well supported by my manager, but it appears I am the exception and that is very indicting of the NHS. How can nurses be expected to peform their duty of ‘care’ when they are not being supported and ‘cared for’ by their employers, the NHS.
The hardest thing I have found in working with patients since my diagnosis, has been in the effect of caring for palliative patients.
I was surprised at how deeply affected I have been when managing such patients, although in many ways I feel I am in a privileged position to be doing so. I particularly found it hard when nursing a breast cancer patient whose circumstances were similar to mine. I’m just in the process of taking early retirement on Tier 2. I shall really miss my colleagues and my job. Just not up to it.

I`m not a nurse, but did work in an NHS Health Centre as a salaried GP.I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer 7m ago on routine screening.I had informed my manager on the day of my biopsy that the diagnosis was likely to be Breast cancer and asked that my medical details be kept confidential.Two days later the histology confirmed the diagnosis, and the following day my husband telephoned the Practice Manager to inform him that I would be on sick leave for at least 4 months. Within 3 hours of this telephone call the practice manager had told ALL the staff in the practice of my diagnosis including the receptionists and nurses. I am devastated by this betrayal of confidentiality. It seriously affected my ability to deal with the shock of having breast cancer, and I am currently really failing in my attempts to come to terms with the fact that, as I feel I can never again trust the practice with ANY personal details, I can never return to work in that practice - and leave so much unfinished business with so many patients I knew so well. So much for caring and confidentiality in the NHS.


That breach of confidentiality is utterly appauling and that member of staff should be disiplined. With it being a Practice Manager, I assume there is no professional code of conduct, unless they are a nurse as well and also wonder who would discipline him? Of course, that won’t reverse the damage he has caused or make it any easier for you. I pm a consultant with bc on this site. She had the different problem of all the staff assuming she should know all about bc, which she didn’t, and therefore she was told very little. I had to tell her about post surgery exercises!

Take care

Julia xx

I have been nursing for 21 years and retruned to work full time with a phased return to work in March this year, five weeks after i finished my radiotherapy. I now wish I had given myself more time to get over chemo surgery etc. I worked through most of my chemo taking about a week off after each one. As a specialist nurse there was always something i could do each and my team were always happy to see me in work. My Lead Nurse was very supportive and even though i was in and out of work I never had to have an HR review.
I do find I get very tired and on friday evening i feel like I have been hit by a bus! I have a lot more hot sweats while rushing around at work.I tried really hard to go to work whilst I was ill as it made me realise just how much being a nurse was who I am as a person. Howerver, If I won the lottery now I would give up in a shot! THis more I think because i would like to have more energy when my family are around and the chance to go to the gym and manage my fatigue.
Being a patient has changed my perspective I will never again utter those words “this test is just routine” as was said to me whilst waiting for the results of my CT.
Sorry this post has rambled all over the place!
Luv to all nurses out there,

Jano xx