Any teachers?

Hi. I recently had my WLE and SLNB. I took 3 weeks off and plan to return before I’ve had my results and before my rads start which probably will be around April. Of course there’s a possibility that I may need further surgery or chemo, but dr thinks it’ll just be rads and anti hormone meds. My question is, did other teachers go back to full time teaching? I’m not sure if I will be able to fully cope as I’ve got a lot on my mind! I don’t know what to ask for support wise and what I can suggest regarding my duties. I’m not sure if I will be confident anymore.

I know how keen you will be to get back to work, my advice as retired head of school is that you need to have a clear head to teach full time. The demands are full on and you can’t just ‘dip out’ and take things easy if you need to in the same way as you might in many other jobs. Dipping in and out can also be disruptive for the children. Talk to your head/ leadership team, can you work part time for a while? reasonable adjustment should be considered as having breast cancer counts as a disability. You will best know what you can cope with but you need to be kind to yourself. Good luck with the rest of your treatment and decisions.

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If you go back at allin that period, Ask the school to consider a reduced timetable/phased return. I was really well after my WLE SLNB (SLNB being most sore). I then needed another surgery for unclear margins (recovered really well)

I was on mat leave from secondary school whilst this occurred, but my concerns would have been being bumped or knocked. I would have expected not to do duty because of this and classes brought to me rather than collecting.
I was even well during rads. I was warned that fatigue and symtoms for this are delayed and peak at 8 weeks after.

As soon as stopped treatment started anti hormone meds, I was left well and defo would have struggled more then.
In addition i was very anxious about developing lymphedema and the sun on my chest and arm (due to rads and lymphedema risk) and i would have expected reasonable adjustments made regarding fatigue(reduced tt/phased return) sports day, busy corridors, collecting my classes, carrying, duty points, being on feet all day.)

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Thank you @elsie1 and @Hannahjc. Some of your points worry me too. I have been doing great following my WLE and SLNB but underarm is sore still. I dont plan to go back until after half term and I’d be off again for rads, but of course there’s still possibility of a high oncotype dx, unclear margins or positive lymph nodes to deal with. I teach primary and i know adjustents to my timetable and responsibilities can be made but I think like you say Hannah, I may need more support than I have imagined.

You’ve given me some food for thought Ladies, thank you. Hope you are both doing well.


@bluesatsuma hi again, I finished radio 10 days ago and delighted that have had minimal skin reaction, have been tired and can’t stay awake in the evening but still doing cycle ride (11-18 miles) most days. So far doing well :grinning:.


Brilliant! Hopefully, I will be the same. I’m always zonked after school and rarely stay awake past 9. I reckon I’m less tired at moment as I’m off work post surgery, but I’m sure more tiredness after rads is to come! Hope you continue to feel healthy. X


I’m a primary school teacher. I taught fulltime before my cancer diagnosis in 2021 and treatment.

I had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiotherapy.

I really would advise not going back to work before you have had your radiotherapy. Please don’t rush this.

Radiotherapy left me asleep every afternoon on the sofa and I only had 5 fractions. It really is exhausting.

I had 9 months off in total from Sept 21- April 22.

I went back on a 5 week phased return. I must admit my health hasn’t been great for over twelve months now as I’ve developed a severe form of asthma - they’re not sure why.

I’ve now dropped a day and am working 0.8 but I can see me applying for ill health retirement as I’ve had so much time off.

Good luck

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Hi @louby_lou69. Thanks for your reply. I’m sorry youve not had good health since your treatment ended. I worry about this too. At the moment the plan is that I don’t need chemo, though I know the plan may change. If I go back before rads start, I would be off again when radiotherapy started and for a bit after too. I just feel so guilty knowing that everyone is doing my work for me. I don’t think I could stand in front of class at moment. X

I used to feel very guilty (I still do I suppose) but when you’ve been through what we have, you really start to put yourself first.

You (& I ) are replaceable. They can cover us if we are ill and school carries on. It’s just a job.

I’ve been teaching for 28 years and before my cancer diagnosis my attendance at work was impeccable. My parents would even look after my boys if they were ill, I’d still go to work. Rarely had time off work myself.

But things are so different now. I also think having cancer changes how you feel about lots of things.

Don’t rush back.


@louby_lou69 it is true that having cancer changes your perspective on life. If my critical illness pays out, I plan to leave teaching after a couple of years, maybe doing supply or part time. Until this happened, I worked 60+ hours a week. I was very stressed. Maybe it’s time to change x


Hi bluesatsuma,

I agree, now is the time to focus on yourself. As @louby_lou69 mentions …as teachers we are replaceable. I am a primary teacher and have not been back to work since mid nov when i was diagnosed and I will not be going back until I finish radiotherapy and know that I’m 100% ready. I am lucky that I have salary protection so will still get most of my wages, and also critical illness cover. I have been paying into this cover for over 15 years in case of an event like this so I might as well use it now and focus on myself. I know everyone is different and perhaps some people like the distratction of work. However, being a teacher is full on, you cant take ‘time out’ or nip out for a cuppa when you feel like it.
I am coping quite well with my cancer at the moment , as well as my mammy/ wife roles. I think if I added teaching back into the mix now I probably wouldnt cope so well… the added stress could push me over the edge.
Whatever your decision make sure you are 100% happy with it. Now is not a time to feel guilty. It’s a time to put yourself 1st. X


Thank you @clare81. I’m guessing from your post that you are in your forties too with children. I was diagnosed in December and I’ve had my surgery. Now waiting for results. I’m expecting radio and then anti hormone tablets but obviously will have to wait for results. I worked from diagnosis until surgery and have been off 2 weeks now. It could be 2 months until my rads start. I’m torn between work and home. Everyone says that I should be off work looking after myself and family, not worrying about work.


Yes I’m 42 with 3 kids. I was diagnosed in mid nov, had surgery a month later, thankfully I’ve had clear margins and lymph nodes. My oncotype score was low at 5 so no need for chemo. I have my planning scan for radiotherapy on the 14th feb and hopefully start the treatment by the end of the month.

I started tamoxifen today, had it for a week before I took one so hopefully side effects not too bad. :sweat_smile:

Sounds like you will have similar treatment path. I hope that all your results are favourable and treatment is straight forward. :pray:

I feel very lucky that all my results have been good and I know things could have been very different. However I also feel being diagnosed with cancer is a lot to process so I am being kind to myself.

Whatever your decision, make sure you are happpy with it. Is your school supportive ? That can make a big difference, my head teacher is very supportive and there is no pressure on me to return to work until Im ready. One of my colleagues has taken my class so I know they are in good hands and have consistency. Which they would not have with me being in and out for appointments and treatment with different substitute teachers each time.

Good luck with your decision and with your results, hopefully you dont have to wait much longer, the waiting is so hard. X

Thank you Clare. Yes similar story here. I also have 3 kids. I’m 46. I am very jappy to hear you’ve had straightforward results so far and hope mine are similar. I don’t get my surgery results for another 4 weeks yet but fingers crossed. I still don’t know what to do about work but I do a supportive head and I know they will see me right. Good luck with the next stage. Let me know how it goes x