Has anyone taken ill-health retirement?

Hello all,
I am wondering if anyone has taken ill health retirement as a result of breast cancer and all that comes with it?
Apologies for putting this post - I put one up here in Septemeber (Loss of confidence) and as you can see, I don’t feel much better about things.
I seem to have really lost confidence, with my work situation in particular. I feel really bad for even putting this up when I read about how many of you , who are worse than me, getting on with things and going back OK and here I am , 5 yrs on from dx, still struggling to cope. I have taken on board everyones kind advice - I ahve tried counselling, relaxation ,Odyssey, books, etc but I still feel the the same.
Has anyone out there felt completely overwhelmed with things to the point that they did not feel they could continue with work? I would really like to hear your comments on this. I am 46 yrs old, have 25 years in the pension scheme, and my head feels like a washing machine with what to do about things!
Thing is, I am slower, so forgetful about stuff that it makes me flustered and panicky, a shadow of what I used to be.Oh how the mighty fall!


Just seen this before popping out so will reply in more detail later but yes, I’ve taken early retirement age 44. It’s taken time to get used to but I’m soooo glad I took the risk. If you’d rather pm me that’s fine - it was a saga. Or in the meantime, I have posted about it before so have a browse !


Hi happyshopper,
I am in the process of taking it, so not there yet. I have been on sick leave on and off for the past year, due to the problems not being sorted out as quickly as they could have been and finally got to a crisis where I had spinal cord compression, due to a fractured vertebra caused by secondaries in my spine. Anyway, am now partially disabled and unable to work in my job as a nurse - not to mention all the psychological stuff - so am going down the ill health retirement route. I am 56 (and a half!) so was not far off retirement anyway, as I had planned to go at 60.
Well, them’s my thoughts - also have to add, that I will not shed any tears at retiring early. I am ready to go!

Hi Happyshopper,

I’m 48 with 33 years in my pension scheme and I would dearly love to retire on ill health grounds. I have a way to go yet though. I have only just finished active treatment in December and I am dreading going back to work. Like you, I am much slower than I was before. I’m forgetful, lose concentration and get confused easily. I have a very strssful job in a fast moving environment and I’ve lost all confidence that I’ll be able to cope. My employers have been great, offering me a phased return and a temporary change of job so I feel I need to go back and make a go of it. If it doesn’t work out I will definitely ask for ill health retirement but I know the criteria are very tough in our scheme.

Good luck whatever you decide.

Jan xx

Hi happyshopper,

Sorry I’ve taken so long to post my promised reply. I’ll try to be brief. I’d worked for the company for 19 yrs and in their final salary scheme. Diagnosed July 07 with stage 3,grade 3 but altered to stage 4 as bone scan showed mets. Had chemo,mx and anc,rads, hormone therapy. Tried to go back to work on phased basis Aug 08 but it was awful. I went for a planned checkup and was in tears with surgeon who said I was nowhere near fit enough to be back and was signed off again. In Oct 08, realising I couldn’t go back to work I applied for retirement on ill-health grounds. HR wrote to my onc,surgeon and GP practice asking whether they thought I would be able to do my job again or whether I would be able to do any job again. After 1 lot of letters weren’t enough, a second set were sent out and replied to and against all odds the Pension fund doctor immediately gave me full retirement. It means I can never do paid work ever again and has been a real shock to my system - the amount of adjustment has been huge especially as I’m obviously still having hormone therapy with its joyous side effects…

I felt guilty about not working and a sense of failure I hadn’t been able to make it when I see so many others on here who manage work, kids, family etc,etc. However, after months and months, I’ve finally settled down and am honestly really happy and content in my new life. Work just wasn’t worth it for me with all the stress and hassles around and I was fortunate in that I could afford to do it and prioritise things.I very much identify with your washing machine feeling as that’s how I described it to someone - it’s not easy to explain to people especially those who haven’t had the treatment and when you can’t think straight to even try and explain!

Retirement was deffo the best thing I’ve ever done and I intend to make the most of it. Good luck with whatever you decide and remember you are not a failure or letting anyone, least of all yourself, by doing it.


I’ve only just joined “Breast cancer Care” (mainly cos after my cancer was diagnosed in my right breast in July 2008 & had a mastectomy in August followed by three months of chemo & over 20 sessions of radio my husband is now finding it extremely difficult to accept my body as it is now - & I just don’t want reconstruction)

Anyway I was lookin through the topics on the forums and saw this one. I’m 57 years old and my husband & I worked for an Earl & Countess - Mike as gardener/handyman & me as housekeeper/cook. But I couldn’t face going back to work & my employers & my family all tried to convince me that I’d get over it - just one of those things! No - I don’t want to work anymore, I hate my job had been signed off for over 12 months & could not convince anyone that cancer does change you, I know I only worked part-time - mornings, but I just didn’t want to be there! So eventually the Earl & Countess agreed to my stopping work & adjusting our wages accordingly - which is fine but due to little remarks from my husband I feel obliged to find another part-time job BUT I DON’T WANT TO!! Am I a freak? Can I get any benefits if I don’t get a job?

HI Bowders,
Firsty no you’re not a freak,bc changes you and you’re going to feel like making life changes.I’ve not had my op yet but i’ve already decided that i’m not going back, AS IT WAS HARD WORK AND VERY STRESSFUL with little thanks, something i like you now feel i can do without.good luck Lesleyxx
ps not sure about benefits, i think there is a thread on her about what you can claim.

Hi Bowders,

Best advice I can give you on benefits is to get in touch with MacMillan. They are always on the ball with the benefits system which is very complicated. I’m certain there will be some benefits you can claim. Some of them depend on what income you have, others on whether you’ve paid National Insurance and/or your fitness for work. Disability Living Allowance can be paid whether you are working or not but depends on whether you need help with looking after yourself. The MacMillan teams are sometimes based at your local Citizen’s Advice but you’ll be able to get in touch with them through their website or helpline (0808 808 00 00)

Best wishes, Janxx

Hi Happyshopper,
lovely to hear from you again, I have sent you a private message about ill health retirement from the NHS.
As you know, I was lucky,I applied and was sucessful in getting it and I haven’t looked back. Please take my advice,
Jenna xx

I was diagnosed with bone and liver mets last year and have just finished chemo and intend to start a phased return to work next week. I want to go back and love my job but honestly don’t know if I can cope with it. I assumed that if I couldn’t I could go off sick and then apply for ill health retirement. I’m a primary school teacher.
I went into school today because there was a meeting with HR as we have to lose a teacher this year because of falling numbers.
I was really shocked to discover that I could be made reduntant and get no pension or inll health pension even though I am 55.
I was also told that ill health retirement is very hard to get. One reception teacher in a wheelchair who couldn’t swallow was turned down after her first application and another man was refused first who was suffering from early onset dementia! Both cases took 18 months to be settled.
This has left me feeling very confused as to what to do. Any advice anyone.

Hi Kelley,

My story in brief is earlier in this thread. The process took over 4 months to sort and I was fully prepared for being turned down and appealing it and was determined to ‘stand my ground’ for as long as it took. I think my case may have been helped by the fact that I tried to go back on the phased basis and couldn’t cope but may be totally wrong in that.

I worked as a mortgage adviser with the company that was in the news a lot and was aware that jobs would have be cut which was a worry for me but all has worked out well. Remember that you are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act at work too. I had the union’s help and advice and the lady there was brilliant - I never, ever expected to resort to using them but it was so worth it.

Personally, I would say go for it if you can afford it financially and emotionally - those 4 months waiting were very, very stressful. It’s also taken nearly a year to adapt to my new lifestyle. Can you discuss with and take advice from a union rep ??

Best regards, Liz

Hi Happyshopper, I retired on ill-health grounds when I was 49 when I got diagnosed with bone mets. I had not been long in my new job, about 18months. I first had BC at age 39 but managed to go back to work for about 10 years.
I just want to say that it was the best decision I ever made and my husband also gave up work at the same time so we could spend more time together. There are lots of ways to find out how you can go about claiming any benefits you are due. I just didn’t know what benefits were out there. You can contact theCitizens Advice Bureau or Maggie Centres or McMillan and your Breast Care Nurse at your hospital may have other places who could help you. The forms can be very long and complicated so a bit of help may be needed…infact I got help from a group called Disability Income Group but they lost funding so are no longer around…very sad for those going through all this now. I hope all works out for you, love Val

I’m now nearly 5 years post but I dont have the same level of energy as I used to have. Health is otherwise fine. Feel like a wimp but don’t want to do full-time work anymore.

Why not go part time. After working for a year after all my treatment finished I asked to do a job share. It was the best decision I ever made.

That was the ‘plan’ but it’s a question of finding something!

Oh god how I wish I could get early retirement but having seen how my colleague was treated when she applied ( she has M.S.) there will be no hope for me. I don’t have secondaries so my case would have to be on mental grounds. I also do a stressful job in a fast moving environment and just don’t want to work anymore - really am getting myself in a state over it. I know a phased return is planned but just don’t want to know . I’ll have been off 5 months and oh yes B.C changes your priorities. Almost near to tears writing this - so sorry to winge I know many of you are in a much worse place than me - abit of a down day - half way through rads.

Rads got me down too Lazydaisy. Mine finished on 22 December and I really thought I would never feel good again I was so low. I have been much brighter this week though, it takes time.

I’ve been off work for 10 months now. I have an attendance management meeting with my boss on Wednesday and I know that now active treatment is finished I’ll be pushed to give a date for return. I’m dreading it but will have to give it a go.

I too feel quite guilty because I know there are people worse off than me still working. I think a lot depends on how you feel about the job. I used to live to work but the job had changed so much in the year before I took ill that I was struggling to keep up anyway. I guess the phased return will help identify what I can and can’t manage. Part time would be good if it actually worked out that way but I know other managers who’ve gone part time but end up working long hours anyway just to keep up.

Good luck everyone whatever you decide to do. Jan xx

Hi all,

Just a quick note to add to my earlier posting.

Before I tried to go back on a phased return, I wrote down my diagnosis, all the treatment I had had and was still having and the side/after effects - physically and mentally. It helped me personally and also the managers and HR people that saw it suddenly realised some of what I’d been through. Most of them had no idea at all, especially as when I’d been in to the office I’d always been very positive and cheery.

I also think that although my return didn’t work out, the fact I’d attempted to return and they could see what I was like and what a change had taken place, actually helped me get retirement.

Any questions, feel free to ask or pm me.

Good luck to all, Liz

I would like to thank everyone for your comments - they’ve been so helpful and especially with regards to the fact that many of you have been affected in the same way.
I just feel that I’m not the same person i was before ; I wish I could change that but can’t. I don’t feel that my husband (or friends) appreciate just what this DX and treatment does to you (mentally and physically). i feel ashamed in the fact that so many of you are worse off than me and are still out there working.
However, i just feel that I can’t really continue like this and just not sure what to do really.I feel that by getting rid of one big stress (work) might help.
I really hope that you all find a solution too and really look forward to hearing your suggestions etc.It sounds a bit like a mine field and very surprising how long the actual process can take - with no guarantee of a successful outcome at the end.I am pretty sure though it may be the right route to take.

Hi happyshopper,

Just to say once again, I really identify with your feelings - they seem to be exactly the same ones I had until comparatively recently. Now I’ve realised my life has a new normal and things can never be the same again as you can’t go back to how things were after having an experience of cancer, I’m settled and happy and retirement was the best thing I ever did ! You’ll probably feel guilty,a failure and a loss of identity but those feelings will gradually go - it just takes time. You must do what is right for you and not worry about what others think - it’s very difficult but you’ll get there.

Liz x