Back at work, exhaustion, uncaring bosses

I was diagnosed with BC July 2006. Had FEC chemo, followed by mastectomy and radiotherapy. Treatment finished March 2007. Went back to work in May, all be it a phased return to work.(usually work 40+ hrs full time)

The month before i went back to work i had felt quite guilty about still being off. Thought i was ready to go back. But now I’m back i’ve found i’m really tired. Get days where i feel like i’ve been hit by a sledgehammer. Really tired with terrible migraines which make me feel sick and put me in bed for 2 days.

Had gradually increased my hours at work to 4 full days (9 hour days) but after a follow-up appointment with my Breast Care Nurse she suggested i cut back my hours again.I was doing too much. So back to 3 full days.

Still get tired. Asked for support from my boss since i’m a manager of a busy department and wanted someone to work opposite me on my days off. Politely got told “that won’t be happening” So still left to do a full time job over 3 days. More stressed than ever!! Help!

Just cos i’m 31. They think i should bounce back from everything. I wish!

Does this tiredness go away and when? Was beginning to think that it had came back again i was so pooped!
Anyone else find they’re employer is all to quick to forget what you’ve been through?

Reading your post, it could have been written by me. I thought that i would finish treatment and go back to work and back to a normal life after a cancer diagnosis!!! Well, it didn’t happen like that for me. I think that we all have days where we are really tired and this lasts for quite some time. I had a really rough time of it after treatment was finished.

For me, it was kind of like whilst on treatment you spend so much time going for appts and trying to get through surgery and chemo and rads and then whammo, treatment is over and everyone expects you to go back to “normal” life before cancer. It was at this point where everything i had been through the last year finally hit me like a ton of bricks!!!

I have been finished treatment for a year coming up in the fall and i am still extremely fatigued. It does get better but it is very slow. I am sorry that you are not getting support at work. It makes it really hard when you are trying to cope with a return to work and then you are also expected to do 5 days work in 3. I also wanted to return part time and was guilted into returning back full time. It was too much and too soon. I applaud you for going back part time.

I would take the attitude that you have been on quite a journey and your body needs time to heal and recouperate. You will do what you can when you are at work but you will not be able to do a full time job in part time hours. I would try to explain to your boss that you will not be responsible if things get behind but you will do your best with working the reduced hours. Stick to your guns and don’t let them bully you into coming back full time before you are ready. I did and i regretted it.

Think of all you have been through and it will take time to let your body heal. Hope this helps to know that you are not alone.

wishing you the best


Here’s my two cents too …

I went back to work, just doing a few hours from home, when I started radio because I really felt well and thought I was swinging the lead, as they say. In other words I felt I’d no excuse to stay off longer. As Karen experienced, I found it has all hit me badly more recently when I really need a LOT of ME time and cannot have it because for 5 days a week I’m tied to my job and back on the corporate merry-go-round with conferencecalls at 7.a.m. and “just finishing things off” sometimes until 10 p.m. - this is NOT how it’s supposed to be. We need to be either more “disciplined” with ourselves, even if it appears to others that we’ve suddenly become strictly 9-5, or have other people check on us now and then and allow them to tell us off. After all we’ve come through do we really need to be “spending more time at the office”? I don’t think so … We work to live, not the other way round. We have to keep reminding ourselves how precious life is, how precious our health (whatever state it’s in now) is and our overriding priority is SURVIVAL, not pleasing the boss or wiping the noses of those who work for us or to keep us with the workaholics.
Geez, that sounds strong but I very much regret going back to work within a year.

Please, take it easy.

Hi Caz,

Your employers are obviously not aware of the Disability Discrimination Act which covers cancer patients and how they are treated at work.
The Cancerbackup website has a section on what employers are expected to do, and you can order a very helpful booklet called, if I remember correctly,
Cancer and Work.

I think you’ll find that your employers are on rather shaky ground…

Best of luck,

Hi All

For your information, here is the link to the Cancerbackup site which offers support and advice to cancer patients and which has lots of useful information on employment issues.

Kind regards

Breast Cancer Care

thanks for all your support. It’s certainly lifted my spirits to hear from you. But it just isn’t right that employers treat us this way!

Disability Discrimination Act had crossed my mind. Know it well. Done a module at work along with said personnel manager!!! It’s a hard one to call. In some ways my work is helping me. They are letting me go part-time. and after i complained that i wasn’t getting regular reviews on how i was getting on i now get reviews every couple of weeks. It’s just that the one thing i asked for was support for someone to work opposite me and i’ll never forget those words from personnel “that won’t be happening”. Been told that on my next review if i still want to stay at my 3 days then my salary will be pro-rata’d accordingly. No pressure then Eh?

The day after i posted my original story i came home from work and straight to bed. Stressed, migraine (again) and exhausted. Should i just go back to docs and go off sick? Don’t want to do that though. Never been that kind of person. Never had a day off sick until i was diagnosed and worked for 2 months into my chemo treatment before i couldn’t manage.

By the way Christie123 it’s a supermarket i work in so you’ll know as well as me that what it comes down to is profit for the store and people come second. Sorry folks just having a really good moan tonight.

Have you tried Magnesium for your migraines. Having suffered with migraine for 30 years I discovered that taking magnesium regularly stops me having migraines and if I forget to take it as soon as a migraine starts it can stop it in its tracks. Having Chemo means that Magnesium is leached from the body so you might find supplementing a benefit.

i’ve been feeling exactly the same…going back to work has been like wading through treacle…i’m only doing one day a week but still feel absolutely worn out and my boss is trying to railroad me into taking on more…guess what, to cover for someone who is off sick! i got so low about it all that i asked for a pension forecast and it cheered me up because if it all gets too much i could actually afford to bail out. i’ve set myself a deadline too, there’s a course i’m on i’d like to finish, so i’m focusing on just doing what i need to do to complete the course work and trying not to get caught up in the organisational chaos. then after the course finishes in september i’ll look at how things are and if i’m hating it i can leave. i used to love my job, was probably a bit of a workaholic, but now i just think life’s too short, i’d rather be at home with my partner and the cats, pottering in the garden or seeing friends…

I had a tram flap reconstruction in Jan escaped chemo but had 3 weeks of rad and now on tamoxafin. My husband walked out on me 18 months ago and i have four sons living at home with me. Although I have support from family and friends I coped with the diagnosis on my own and now i am at a critical stage in my divorce.I returned to work and teaching is so stressful and my boss is just concernd that I come back and get on with my job. I lasted two days ended up in bed and now signed back off work with depresssion / breast cancer. My boss has not made it easy for me and if anything I think he would like me to leave because i am more trouble than i am worth. Two years ago I loved teaching and gave more than you could have asked for. Now everything has turned upside down in my life and I dont think I have even realised what i have gone through with the cancer. It is like i have been on auto pilot. Like you I need help I am too stressed to teach but have a family to support a mortgage to pay and I just dont know what to do for the best! HELP

hi, i don’t know what to say to help.
i am a TA in a primary school and did a phased return and they have been brill.
also cleaner in charge at comp school and again they told me to take my time as they wanted me back properly without the chance of regularly having to take time off.
i started back last sep and it has taken me till beginning of june to be back up to my hours i did before.
12 hours TA
5hours dinner lady
18 hours cleaning
all per week
best wishes.

Angelaroz - it might help to talk to your union and/or a benefits advisor, the DDA is quite hard-hitting and your boss may not be aware that he/she is on sticky ground…it’s hard to deal with these characters when you’re under par so you probably need some support and someone who can interact with the work for you. my boss means well but she’s really disorganised and tends to think you’ve agreed to things just because she wants you to have agreed! however she also doesn’t remember what she’s said because she’s so busy and if i stand up to her she backs down. i’m really only just beginning to realise how much physical and mental punishment i took going through treatment, and to stop beating myself up for still getting tired quickly or not being able to do things…

Thanks. I have eventually got the union involved, written a detailed letter to my head and sent copies to governors OH HR so hopefully i may get the support I need. Not looking forward to the atmosphere though…but i have to stick up to my rights too many men I’m afraid have s— on me over the last 18 months so now i have to start fighting back.

I returned to work two week after my treatment finished ( 6 months chemo and 25 sessions rads) and found it was just too much for me, so came back out for another three months - must say my employers have been fantastic, I had just started a new job and was still in my probationary period when I was diagnosed and my employers were under no obligatioh to g-keep my job open for me, but they did. They have been nothing but supportive. I still have days when I’m very tired and my manager always sends me home for ’ a wee lie down’. Their support has been great.