How many people work?

Hello everyone

I have (had?!) secondary breast cancer in my lung and three/four mets to my chest two and a half years ago (primary 2001). All these were operated on and removed and my sternum replaced with a prosthetic one in some major surgery two years ago. I have been on herceptin ever since, but miraculously at the moment I am still fine/scans clear.
My problem is what to do about work. I went back after my operation because I was enticed by a promotion I had always wanted, but now we have new bosses and I am finding things stressful, and also feel bad that I don’t have enough time for my nine-year-old daughter etc. There are so many things to consider and I just find it is all going round and round in my head - especially following a recent chat with my consultant who says she still expects the cancer to come back - not exactly a surprise, obviously, but it does focus the mind.
I was just wondering how many other people out there with a seondary diagnosis work? I really don’t know whether I should be doing it or not, as I am increasingly tired and fed up of fitting it round scans and treatments etc. Of course there is always the money to consider but that isn’t everything, as we know
Any comments appreciated
Thank you,

Could you get medical retirement? And if so do you know what your pension would be? I think the reason Jane Tomlinson kept going was that she was entitled to life insurance if she died in service which must have come in handy. Employers are meant to make reasonable adjustments at work anyway so you should be able to take work time off for appointments, mind you it is never that easy as you have to make up the time you lose don’t you?

Maybe the promotion is stressful in itself as you have new responsibilities - could you go for a job which is less taxing?


Hi Justy

I think this is a very individual thing. I have a pretty demanding job in the NHS (diagnosed last June with liver mets, primary diagnosis in 2002). I’ve worked throughout my chemos (currently on xeloda) and have only ever had time off for surgery - many people have questioned this decision of mine though. However, after much soul searching, I know this is the right choice for me at the moment though I do accept that things might change any day. However it wouldn’t be the right choice for everybody. I find my job very rewarding and fulfilling (though stressful at times) and that is important to me. However my family is grown up (youngest is 21) and things might be very different if they were younger. Things might also be different if my husband could take early retirement and we could spend that time together. ANd most of my close friends also work.

My advice would be very much that you need to balance up what you get from working (hopefully not just the money) and what the benefits you would get from giving up work or like Mole suggests, perhaps taking a less demanding job, without worrying about what others would do. Only you know how you want to live your life and what your priorities are.

I did go for a few sessions of counselling and one of the things we talked about was continuing to work - I found that very helpful in reaching my decision. Is that a possibility for you?

Take care K

Hi Justy,
Could you not take a part time position in a different role?
Maybe just slow things down and take the stress/ pressure off you without giving up work totally.

I still say… have the summer off!!!

I am like Kay in that I have worked throughout in a demanding job, I have 2 teenagers and I think it helps them with a sense of normality to see me going out to work, I am also on Xeloda at the minute which is manageable but I do need to pace myself as if I have a demanding week then I am flattened by the weekend.
I agree it is a very personal decision but someone I know who is a specialist Parkinson nurse told me that patients with chronic disease who continued to work tended to suffer less depression.
Kay , how is the Xeloda going and your hands and feet? I am trying to speak to my oncologist to see what my tumour markers are doing after 2 cycles
Best Wishes

Thank you everyone for your comments they have certainly given me a lot to think about. Maybe some counselling would help (though I am not sure where to go for it - how do you tell who is good?) and also I do have a sneaking suspicion that I could become depressed if I didn’t work at all. At least it would make things feel more normal - I’m just not sure if it is right to feel ‘normal’ in this situation! But thank you all I am still considering my options

Take care


I was working part time 3 days a week before my 2ndary dx and during the time I was waiting for my results was able to take time off as I really couldn’t focus my mind. Once I knew what the plan was I went back and I’m so glad I did. It does give a sense of normality to my life and I am lucky that the company are very understanding and my job not too demanding. I’m currently doing even less part time than I was as I’m going through chemo but, this again helps me get through this stage. I would suggest, as mentioned above, seeing if there is a less demanding role for you where you currently are and maybe seeing if you can move to part time or, if not, look for a different job elsewhere, although I’d imagine this might be difficult as in ‘better the devil you know’. I still feel guilty leaving my 17 year old at home when I work as she’s not driving yet so is stuck in the house if I’m not here in the holidays so I can understand how you feel about having more time with your daughter. Maybe it’s a chance for a career change?

Take care


Hi Justy
I am having some counselling through my local cancer centre, I have found it helpful to have a forum to discuss difficult issues and work things through and I speak as some one initially sceptical. I really felt I needed it to help cope after my last scan results which revealed widespread progression and the fact that most of my friends seem to take their cue from my “business as usual attitude” My husband is v supportive but I can 't keep burdoning him.
In terms of normal I’ve heard it decribed as the “new normal!”
Best Wishes

I think you have to weigh up just what your job means to you in terms of money, enjoyment, satisfaction, social contact etc. Perhaps write down a list of pros and cons and then you just have to make the decision. As others have said perhaps cutting your hours would be the solution. I myself have given up working. I was a full time secretary in a university. My job was busy and quite sociable, I was in an office which was always full of lecturers, visiting scholars and students and included reception work too, so many different people coming in with varied enquiries. Though it was not stressful. I do miss the social aspects of my job. On the plus side, I have not missed the money too much as I was able to take early retirement (and receive my work pension) through ill health (I am 53 by the way) and I also receive incapacity benefit, so that has cushioned the blow. I still keep in touch with work colleagues and fill my life with other things - I have a dog now, who is great company and I fill my days with various activities. Some days I feel so well I think I could easily have kept on working, on other days I am very glad I do not have to get out of bed at 6.45 to go to work! So weigh up the pros and cons for your own situation.

Hi Justy

And welcome to our BB’s!!! We spoke briefly about it on Monday and both Pam and me didn’t really have the decision to make as you do as it was taken out of our hands.

Re the counselling, when I see you next I’ll give you a phone number of a friend of mine who is a psychotherapist or email me and I’ll give you her number. She’s on holiday from today for a month but something that you might want to consider.

Take care.

Hi Justy

Sounds as if Pinkdove is going to help with the counselling contacts - like Kathryn I had counselling through the local cancer centre which helped a great deal. Think it was also useful who had a counsellor who knew a little bit more about cancer and the various treatments.

Kathryn - my feet were really bad during cycle 2 and then my hands were even worse during cycle 3. Also for the first time had really bad digestive problems during cycle 3. However onc has now reduced my dose to 1500mg as the tumour markers have dropped so dramatically, so now (one week into cycle 4) hands and feet seem to be healing which is good. Have some neuropathy though still. How are you doing?

Best wishes


Hi Kay
Glad to hear you had such good results with your markers, hope all continues to go well . I started another thread about my tumour markers which have shot up. I am very worried and despondent as I really hoped for good results on this, when I asked about the dose that I was on before I was told that it was because I had had chemo relatively recently, I finished Vinorelbine in Feb,very difficult to know what he makes of the markers ,he does occasionally remark that they are only part of the picture, but in my experiencethey are a good indication of something untoward
best Wishes Kathryn

Hi Kathryn

Have replied on your other thread - am really disappointed for you. Hope the scan shows that things are happening even if the markers indicate not.

Kay x

Hi Pinkdove

I am very honoured to have joined the BBs!
Yes, I would like details of your counsellor if you think she has helped you, but no urgency. I have just had a really exhausted day today (flat out on the sofa and I am not even at work!) so I think I am going to ask GP for more time off after all when I see her tomorrow, and really give myself time to think about things.
Thank you everyone for your help and best wishes
Justy x

Hi Justy

Will give you her number when I see you next.

Look after yourself - was up at the hospital today for my Zometa - was through in fairly quick time for a change!

See you soon.