I'm new! Post surgery recovery and work


I was diagnosed just over a week ago and it has been quite the rollercoaster. I’m booked in for a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy next Friday 7th.  My Breast Nurse said they will automatically give me a certificate for work for 2 weeks. Brilliant I thought, and duly let work know. I’ve since realised that work will only pay me 4 weeks sick pay per year. So I’m worried about my further treatments and possibility of further surgery and all the unknowns that could mean I’m off sick again.  Could any of you lovely people advise me how long it took before you felt ok to work after surgery? I’m working from home, sitting at a laptop.  Should I just take the 2 weeks and rest and recover, gather my thoughts or should I hop back on the laptop asap and store that sick pay time in case I need it?  I know you’re going to say see how you feel! That’s the only way, but some idea of how long I might expect to feel rough or too sore to sit and work would be much appreciated!

There’s SO much to think about!

Thank you in advance


PS I’m interested if anyone else was diagnosed as part of the BRAID clinical trial?

Hi Daised,

Welcome to the forum, you’ve come to a good place for advice and support through all the ups and downs of the breast cancer journey. 

Firstly, sorry you have had cause to join our special club. While there are a fantastic group of women on here, I’m sure most of us would wish we’d never needed to join! Although having said that, I’ve ended up strangely hooked on giving back (since I found reading posts here so helpful when I was diagnosed).

So many considerations…here we go, in no particular order…and with lots of virtual hugs though the list…

The op

  • It’s good that they can remove that lump so promptly. Recovery from the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy varies from person to person (you knew that was coming)! Most people take a few days to get over the anaesthetic let alone any other aspects (physical healing and psychological - again, we are all different and this can affect us at different times).
  • They will give you painkillers to take home, however we all have different pain thresholds and bruise or get swelling to various levels. The degree of surgery may also be a factor, i.e. how intrusive the surgery is, size, location, depth of lump etc.
  • The side where the sentinel node is being removed will probably feel quite stiff for awhile. Some women need drains after surgery too, they will let you know before the op if this is a possibility.
  • They will give you exercises to help gradually loosen things up across the chest and armpit area. 
  • With all of the above you might find you aren’t sleeping as well as usual (again, personal thing, but worth considering if you are thinking about working as soon as you feel up to it).   
  • A really good supportive non-wired sports bra can help reduce the amount of swelling.
  • Eating protein at each meal can also help with cell repair.
  • Usually you’ll have a follow up appointment with the oncologist 2 weeks after your op to check the op site/s plus to give you the results of the analysis of the tissue they removed, which will include the nodes, the lump, plus an area around the edge of the lump, referred to as the margin. In the majority of cases the margin is clear of bc cells, but sometimes bc cells are present, in which case they may want to remove a bit more tissue.
  • The size of lump and type of bc will have a bearing on what additional treatments you may need, as will whether the node/s are found to be clear or not. 
  • Your Breast Care Nurse at the hospital will also be able to provide advice and support. (Plus all of us on here!)   
  • You might find it helpful to call the nurse at Breast Cancer Now (number top right of screen) to talk through your diagnosis, op, recovery and any other info your medical team may have given you about whether any other treatments may be recommended. 

Income/sick pay 

  • I appreciate you say you only get 4 weeks sick pay. Have you double checked your contract and/or employers policies to see if you get a period on say half sick pay after that? 
  • You should qualify for statutory sick pay after your companies sick pay comes to an end. I appreciate it may be significantly lower than your normal income from work…
  • You might find it helpful to phone MacMillan since they have a very good employment and cancer team.
  • I appreciate we all need money to live, however at the risk of pointing out the obvious, if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer you really do need to give your body the best opportunity to rest and recover. Stress can affect our immunity and defence systems…and clearly there are multiple factors here, stress if you are pushing yourself to work when your body might be telling you to rest, stress re bc (full stop), stress re managing/sick pay, plus the psychological impacts of a bc diagnosis itself.
  • Do you have a partner who could help support you more than normal? If not do you have any savings, or a close friend or family member, just in case you need to call on such routes? 
  • Given many forms of bc do need follow up treatments, it would be good if you could come up with a contingency plan just in case. 
  • How stressful is your job? How flexible is your employer (see below)?
  • Importantly - As soon as you are diagnosed with cancer you are covered by disability legislation (Equalities Act 2010), which means as soon as you have told your employer about the bc, they have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ when you return to work. That may be them agreeing to shorter working days for a period (which may effectively help you to stretch out your full sick pay). Again you may find MacMillan helpful re advice.

Now the important stuff - how are you actually feeling? With all of the above to consider, if you haven’t already done so, please talk to someone you trust (preferably someone who is quite calm) about your diagnosis, your feelings and concerns, including your worries about sick pay. 

Regardless of how well you think you are managing handling the news of your diagnosis, you may not be thinking as clearly as normal (for totally understandable reasons!) which is where a good friend can really help. (Plus all of us on here)! 

I hope the above helps in some way…more than happy to expand on anything if you have any queries.

I’m sure others will post soon.     

Sending you a gentle virtual hug.

Seabreeze xxx 


Hi Daised, 

I am so glad you are being treated so quickly I was diagnosed at the end of Jan with HER -Oestrogen + 25mm IDC and after being put on tamoxifen I had my surgery 2 weeks ago. 
I had a WLE with SLNB…as has been said the scar from the lymph node removal hurts!!! Much more than anticipated. Only in the last couple of days have I had any issues with the breast and it’s now shooting pain’s presumably as it’s healing. 

I am a teacher and signed off for another week then may consider a phased return.I was advised not to go back to work, from my consultant, until my results but they are not coming until 25th May; nearly 5 weeks post op.

I’m hoping to get away with radiotherapy which will again mean an impact on my work…. Incredibly frustrating but I will be better for healing fully before trying to go back to full time.

 Only my story…we all heal differently…but wanted to share from a 2 week post op status!

 Take care…you are in a whirlwind of tests and treatment…. Be kind to yourself x