loss of confidence

I am wondering if any of you have noticed a problem with confidence since diagnosis /treatment? I feel really silly for posting this but I would be really grateful for any advice to get be “back on track”.
I was dx and treated 5 yrs ago - underwent double mx, failed recon, pulmonary embolism, (last lot of surgery 10 mths ago to remove recon )and I really don’t know where my confidence has gone. I was treated absolutely appallingly by my manager- more or less thrown onto the reject heap , and put up with this for 4 yrs(unfortunately by the healthcare profession, if you can believe).I was overlooked for all training, appraisals, expected to do work way above what I was trained to do, constantly put down because I was slower at writing my notes than others ( i have lymphodema and would get heaviness and cramps in my arm (dominent one)) , in fact told that I was too slow (I would be wearing a sleeve but I still had problems). I finally got to the point of enough is enough- I would be panicky everytime I went to work, in tears when I was there because I felt so useless. Management were clearly not going to help- I was even rung at home 5 days after having recon reversed to see when I would be back and when I asked for a week of annual leave to take after my sick leave of 6 weeks I was told that “it wasn’t a good idea due to my lack of confidence- I woulfd be better coming back a.s.a.p.”) when I came back from sick leave after major surgery I had no phased return- when I dared to ask for it I was told by one member of staff that she didn’t get it (after having 6 wks off with dpression after splitting up from her boyfriend), “so why should I”.
I plucked up the courage to apply for another job but feel so useless at it - my confidence has gone and I feel I’m half the person I used to be. I feel that I just don’t want to work anymore because I’m so crap (have to, bills to pay). Please, if anyone has any advice for me I’d be very grateful- I’m sorry to ask because I know all you brave ladies have enough troubles of your own, but I think that having experienced the treatment, surgery etc you will have a much better understanding of where I’m coming from.
Thank you

I am just dashing off for my rads but wanted to say its not surprising your confidence has gone.Do you work for the NHS? If so can you contact Occ Health and see a counsellor? You have been through a VERY tough time and its hard to fit back in.But remember you are strong for getting this far.I lost my confidence after my mast in 2008 and kept crying at work and couldn’t cope at all.Eventually I went on antidepressants and they seem to give me the strength back.Might not work for you but don’t be afraid to try them.They turned my life around.
Go to go,hope this helps.
Love n hugs

I had 6 sessions of counselling with a clinical psychologist who is attached to the oncologists I was treated by. This was a year ago now. I had got to the stage where I was having panic attacks on account of my concentration being so poor post treatment; I also had major issues concerning my sister who was in denial about my diagnosis. She lives abroad and when she visited she behaved as if nothing was going on despite the fact I was rushing off to hospital appointments etc. On one visit I was in an isolation situation and my husband had to make her come to the hospital to visit me (and all she could think of was getting away to her hair appointment!)

Counselling for me got things back on track as the psychologist just listened to me for an hour and before my next appointment she gave me things to work on in order to rebuild my confidence. I learned cognitive behaviour techniques as well and I started to sleep a lot better (I was having nightmares relating to terminal illness and a recurrent dream about forgetting to take medication which had dire consequences). I felt better after the first session as this was someone who din’t know me from Adam and who didn’t know much about my recent medical history. She specialised in treating cancer patients.

I also use mindfulness meditation techniques by someone called Jon Kabatt Zinn (if you google him you can find his stuff on the internet). My local cancer centre gave me some of his meditations on a CD and they are great if you just need to calm down for half an hour. One year on from all this I am now confident enough to attend business meetings as an observer who takes notes (I’m s/emp as my OH’s business partner), I’m also managing to study for a new qualification and have taken on voluntary work one afternoon a week to rebuild my confidence further. It does get better, but you have to get the right help to move forward. I have had clinical depression twice in the past 25 years and I was determined to avoid going down that route again.


“I feel your pain” but it doesn’t help. You’ve been through hell and it is not easy to put that behind you. It sounds as if your employers (NHS?) are really unsympathetic and you should have Occ Health support so seek that out and get someone “on side”. I had cr*p treatmwent from my manager and asked for another manager to go to when I needed it and HR and Occ Health supported me in that although most of the time HR might just as well not exist.

It’s a tough road and those who are well supported at work seem to be in a minority.

I’ve tried the various CDs including John K-Z and didn’t find any of them to be helpful but it is worth a try for sure. One man’s meat and all that …

It is worth exploring (if logistically feasible) the 2 day relaxation sessions at the Breast Cancer Haven. Also the Bristol Cancer Centre does something similar and the Maggie’s Centres (Oxofrd, Glasgow and others) do courses which include meditation. Have you considered goign on a retreat? Or an Odyssey break - I hear they are good with confidence building and they’ve been highly recommended by other women on the forums.

Personally I am involved in my community and help fund raising and do a few hours voluntary work and I work full time but my confidence is still shattered because I am thrown the crumbs of work and not the meaty stuff I used to manage but I will be revolting soon if I’m not laid off! I work for financial reasons but given the amount of time I spend on it, it might as well be satisfying and worthwhile.

What are your reasons for working? Maybe think about a change if that’s practical. Can you look at other options with the support of your empployer or are they completely closed to helping you?

I don’t think the answer lies in book or CDs. Talking to someone may help, call it counselling it you want. Some places do group counselling and sometimes that is more supportive.

I think I’d be tempted to go on the Odyssey waiting list on the basis of nothing to lose. Meantime you might write down what is good versus bad about work and see what you can influence on your own and see if soemone like a mentor/coach could advise about the rest.

Does that help in the least?

PM me for more … I do have other “ideas” but not sure if they’re practical.


hi happyshopper, feel so sorry for you.

I am due back to work after christmas and I am already dreading it, I was one of my companies top performers but I just dont have the same confidence in myself anymore, I will go back to try it, but if it doesnt work out, hopefully they will pension me off, a bit premature at 42 but my job is so stressful, I dont know if my heart will be in it anymore.

oh the joys of this bloody thing

Take care

Carol xx

Hello, I finished my treatment a year ago except for the tamoxifen. I feel I have lost my confidence too ! I went bqck to my old job but a year on I know i must change my situation. I am going to apply for something else i have seen but am very worried about it. I was wellsupported by my company when i was off last year but now I am on my own. I recently had a meeing with another agency my company deals with and they were so rude and intimadating that I burst into tears ! After that I thought that I am not doing a job when I have to put up with that kind of stress and abuse. Life is too short. I find that my memory is still crap and I do get very tired. People who have not been through bc do not understand the long term effects of treatment years afterwards.

Rachy xx

Hi Happyshopper

Your perseverence and dedication so impress me. I actually *finished* treatment 7 years ago, didn’t have rubbish treatment from employers but still lost my confidence entirely. I had a quite senior job in the public sector and loss all faith in my own ability post treatment, with no particularly good reason compared to you for doing so.

In my case my confidence slowly returned, but really only in the last couple of years when I started to feel like ‘me’ again. I think you can be very proud of your persistance in keeping going despite what sounds like appalling management. And to have applied and succeeded to get a new role is really impressive too. I would never have had the courage to do it, but I realise you were probably between a rock and a hard place and may not see that you had much choice.

Can’t believe how long you’ve been going through treatment and when I read the list, the only thing I find surprising is that you could wonder where your confidence has gone. What a battery of treatment - it sounds utterly exhausting and I can imagine that physical healing will have taken up a huge amount of your energy.

For me, what eventually helped was time and distance from treatment, and separately, volunteering for other organisations and finding that new people thought I had valuable skills. I have more hope for you than me because you sound really determined.

A couple of things that may be worth thinking about:

  • Elsbeth today mentioned she found an Employ Charter on this site - maybe worth your looking at that if it might help with your rights.

  • Maybe some cognitive behavioural therapy might be worth exploring. Is your GP any good?

I think you’re doing amazingly.

Lots love, Exx

Dear Happy Shopper

It is hardly surprising that you have lost your confidence after everything you have been through. You have done extremely well to have coped with things so far.

There does seem to be a common thread in all these postings of lack of sympathy/empathy from employers once you have returned to work.

My own experience was of considerable support by Occ Health and my manager during my absence; total lack of interest, by my manager, in what I was doing for the first few months after my return while I was gradually increasing my hours and now an atmosphere of mental aggression!

Prior to diagnosis I had a temporary position of managing the section while consultants were preparing for restructuring. The plans were implemented in my absence and one of the new positions was ringfenced for me. I was interviewed for the post 5 months after returning. My manager subsequently resigned and the consultant took over as temporary manager. Since this time I have had ‘rigorous’ discussions with her centering around my suitability for the post and had it been her decision I would not have got the post. Why? I,m too old, none of the other managers want me, the job has moved on and my skills are not relevant, I will become isolated from the younger members of the team if I don’t maintain my numbers.

The last two points may be true. The reality is that I have been given a full time job 2 x 50% of different roles. In effect I have been told that the main bit of my job only accounts for 30% of my time and even that is a struggle to justify. The remainder of my time I should be asking my colleagues what support I should be giving them! So here I am previously the manager begging for work from my colleagues to justify my existence and prevent me being isolated from the team because I haven’t delivered as high a return as them! There isn’t the work available to deliver that return.

I am now applying for other jobs but this is not going to be easy - being 52 with a head full of grey chemo curl! The salaries on offer for the types of job I am interested in are much less than I currently earn. My mind is full of self doubt as to whether I can actually do another job and it is very difficult to stay positive.

Ideally I would like them to accept that there is no real role for me and make my post redundant. This is a strange request in the current climate but it would certainly reduce the work stress and is financially more comfortable than handing in my notice without a job to go to. However with 26 years in the pension scheme this is something they will be reluctant to do. Any advice on how I could persuade them of the benefits to them of this course of action would be much appreciated.

Darwin xx

To all you kind ladies who have replied to my posting,
I haven’t been on the site since I put this on and couldn’t believe your lovely replies- thank you so much to each and everyone of you.I still have tears rolling down my face. I know you’re all going through your own journies and I feel very humbled that you’ve taken the trouble to be so kind.
I am going to take all your advice and try the lot!
Its very comforting to know that I’m not alone in feeling like this and I will keep to posted as to how I get on with all these suggestions.
Again, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart .

You will find a way through all this. I’m not really one for self help manuals, but when I was going through the worst of things last year I bought a couple by a life coach called Fiona Harrold and they did help me put things in perspective a bit and try to focus on some goals. The books were “Reinvent Yourself” and “The 7 Rules of Success”. She talks about people losing confidence through illness.

I will admit though, being a sceptic about that stuff I got them on Amazon for a couple of pounds each as I didn’t want to waste £7.99 or more! She has a website if you google her.