Coping with work stress

Hi everyone. I’m currently waiting for surgery no3. I’ve had 1 op for lumpectomy and slnd, then a second to try and get clear margins and do axillary clearance. If it’s all out 3rd time, I will be seeing an oncologist to discuss chemo.
I am having such a hard time working through all this. I feel like I’m carrying a ten ton weight on top of all the pressure from work. I teach full time. My class are challenging in every way and I’m in tears every few days…I was before cancer. Ofsted are due, and there is such a big workload. I can’t stay off while I’m not in active treatment as I don’t want to waste sick pay while I’m not actually feeling ill. It’s do hard. How are people managing work with the emotional stress of cancer?


Hello, I am a teacher too and when I was diagnosed I was so worried about my GCSE classes and cover in the Dept. I spoke to my lovely breast care nurse and she said to me that it was a job and goes on without you. Also, she said I that I am now in a fight for my life and to get through that and survive for my 6 year old boy is more important than anything.

Have you been in the school long and have you told them about your diagnosis? It would really poor if they did not adjust your workload and provide support. If they did not do that, is it the type of school you want to be in anyway? Macmillan have a helpline about work and employment laws and it is probably worth speaking to them just so you know what to expect.

I was Assistant Head and Head of Department at the time and had worked at the school for 20 years. I went off sick straightaway as mentally I could not cope. I just cried all the time and was in a dark place, especially as my diagnosis seemed to get worse and worse. I took a full year off to get through chemo and my mastectomy. For the last 3 months I did get some benefits. When I returned to work, I was only there 2 weeks and resigned. I had changed so much as was not even sure I wanted to be a teacher anymore. Unfortunately, I had to sell my car to finance a few months off.

However, I am back as a main scale teacher after being persuaded to help out at a different, smaller school with much better behaviour. I bought a second-hand campervan instead of a car so we could go on adventures when off.

Teaching is hard at the best of times, isn’t it? Never mind when you have such a huge, life-changing and devastating event. You might not feel physically ill but why don’t you take some time to get your head around it? There are helplines too for support and advice.

I know this has probably not helped you very much and everyone copes in different ways. There are lots of teachers out there going through the same and you have to do what’s right for you. I would like to think that my cancer diagnosis helped to put things in perspective (like OFSTED) but I am still a worrier!

I wish you well and am sending healing vibes. I hope you get sorted at school so you are not feeling that pressure. Xxxx


Thank you @NickyC75. I’m similar to you. I’m a mum of 3 and I’m an AHT but in primary. I am also in charge of several subjects and a full time class teacher. After my 1st operation, I had 6 weeks off because I was so stressed about the results. I then had a 2nd op to remove axillary nodes and returned after 2 weeks. Risk assessments were done on my return from both ops and after first one, I was given a reduced teaching timetable. But after the 2nd one. I was asked to teach full time and now I’m drowning in work. I have to have a 3rd op in 2 weeks as they found more cancer and then chemo, radio and tamoxifen. I’m going to be off from july till March at least. So I’ve been frugal with my sick pay use to prepare. I have a good relationship with my head but he is oblivious to how I’m struggling. If I ask for less teaching, I’m sure they’d grant it, but with staff absences high and low budgets, they’d have to cover me internally which increases a colleagues workload too. My class are extremely challenging too.

Everyone says just to go off sick but I don’t understand how people do that…6 months full pay, the down to half. How would I cope? I earn too much to get benefits but we have a big mortgage. Do you know if the half pay is stat sick pay paid on top of the half pay?

Thank you for your reply and it has helped me massively. You are right…it does change your perspective on life. I too think I might leave. I’ve wondered about supply or maybe even my own business. I’m interested in children’s mental health and wondered about getting into that. I am too young to retire but teaching gets harder every year.

I hope that you are doing well and enjoying those camper van adventures x

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I think you need to remember that everyone is different & copes in different ways.
I managed to continue teaching throughout my treatment but didn’t have children at home to look after. I found i was so busy at work that it took my mind off of treatments and prognosis, etc.
Teaching is a very demanding job & not one you can do when you’re so emotional/crying all the time.
Cancer is protected under the disability act so your employer must make reasonable adjustments. Might be worth having a think about what would make your job more manageable just now & speaking to your HT (with unuion rep) to get these changed in place. They may also suggest you go to Occupational Health.
If you feel that you’re not coping, stay off of work. You are the most important person in this situation & you’re fighting for your life. All teachers have a sense of letting the school down when we’re off but that isnt the case. You need to do whats going to support you.
Good luck


Thanks @Luskentyre1. You are right. I think I find it hard to accept that I need support. I honestly don’t know how they could adapt my role to help me though. They can’t reduce my marking, planning or teaching hours. I’m worried they will say I’m not fit to work and force me to start using my sick pay allowance before my chemo starts. But I do like work and keeping busy is important for my mental health. It’s just I can’t do as much right now. It’s very hard to give the job my all, but it was before I got cancer too. There’s just no let up in the demands of the job.

I will speak to my HT next week and explain how I feel. Thank you and I hope you are well. X


I am not a teacher but have struggled financially due to cancer treatment. With pre and post surgery chemo, will be two years of treatment.

We transferred our mortgage to
an interest only mortgage on a temporary six month basis. A specialist team at the bank helped us once we informed them I had cancer. This hopefully could be an option for you to help after your six months full pay is over.

Everyone is right. This is a fight for your life. What would you say to a colleague in the same situation? I bet you’d help them and take the extra workload.

Take care xx


Thanks @Thetawave. I’m sorry you suffered financial issues due to this disease. I’m hoping to avoid them. Both me and husband are saving in case i need longer than 1 year. I think that is a good idea about mortgage which i could look in to. The problem with cancer is that some people need 6 months treatment and some 2 years. I initially thought I’d be one of the people who have surgery then radio and tamoxifen. But I’m almost 3 surgeries down and waiting for results then referral to oncologist. It all takes so long.
I will speak to work about their unfair expectation that I should work at my normal pace. Im doing about 50 hours a week. I agree with everything you said. I hope I can find a solution. Thanks and I hope things are going great for you now. X