Realistic expectations of time off

I am in a very well paid job, three days a week. My husband and I are like a tag team with our three kids (2,6,8) and which one of us works late. It is very hard juggling it all, and meeting work expectations.

I am having my operation next tue, then results 9 days after, with the expectation of rads and likely tamox. my husband has already made comments about me having any time off and I already feel guilty. It looks like I am going to have to go an hour away for rads, so my husband thinks I can still work half days then, whereas I was expecting to be off.

Please can you give me some advice? I wanted some time to try to get over all this, but I could be pressured into having only a couple of days post operative off work.

Looks to me as though OH had great expectations. Even Rads can have some se’s that could make working problematic and you’ll need to consider the emotional side of things.
Don’t quote me, not got as far as rads yet, but i’m sure one of the other members will be along to help you soon. Good luck.

Hi Small1, the only person that is going to know how much time you need for this is really you. Nobody knows your body better than you. Likewise, I work too and had to check my entitlement regarding my sick leave. I then made the decision to have a few days off prior to my op, WLE and SNB, which I had on 16th Aug, so that I could go into hospital rested up. I have also made the decision not to return to work in between my op and awaiting rads, getting my plan next Tues, to give myself the chance again to be fully rested going in to this type of treatment.

So far, I’m having good days and bad, both emotionally and physically, some days I think I feel quite good and could probably go in to work, but then I think I wouldn’t be fair to myself and this wouldn’t give me the opportunity to concentrate on me for a change! I won’t feel guilty for wanting to give myself the best chance of beating this and so I have calculated that I will not be back at work until probably mid November, and that will mean I will have been absent from work approx 3 months, but I’ll see how it goes. But that’s my personal story, yours could be very different and you might find it useful to chat to your Breast Care Nurse and see what she says.

Just try to be kind to yourself and to be fair to your OH, he may not realise just what you’re going through and forgive me if I’m way off the mark but it sounds like he’s trying to cling on to “Normal Life”, can’t blame him. He might find the document attached useful, (hopefully not patronising), there are lots of useful documents on this site that are well worth a read/download;

Take care and good luck with your op and recovery
Simone xxx

Sorry to be direct, but have you had an operation before? Or has OH? You’re really going to have to have some time to be kind to yourself. I’ve had three (including recent WLE and SNB) and it took me a week just to get over the anaesthetic each time, never mind the actual healing process. I was driving after that first week, but wished I’d been able to leave it another week. It was probably 2 weeks before I was reliably out and about again, but still needing to rest spontaneously at times. I was managing the school run and small shopping trips after about 10 days. Everyone is different but any kind of an operation causes trauma to your body. The more you get the chance to listen to your body early on I think the sooner you will recover.

As for the emotional side, well once again we’re all different. It tends to jump up and slap me like a wet fish when I’m least expecting it. Having said that, having the children to deal with has certainly helped me get back to “normal”.

Rads - I’ve just had 9 out of my 15 and was fine the first week. But then the tiredness hit me very suddenly. I have to drive an hour (or more) to get to hospital though, so that isn’t helping. A bit more human today 'cos I had a lie in. I’ve had to reduce my expectations a bit - but it’s only a few weeks out of my life. I work from home so just try to fit in what I can, but to be honest, it’s not a lot at the moment.

I’m all for a forward-looking attitude, but don’t underestimate how wiped out you’re going to feel for a while. If you’re feeling unduly pressured talk to your breast care nurse or consultant and ask them to explain it to OH. Perhaps the helpline here can advise you too?

Wishing you the best of luck for your operation.

Ummmm, unlikely! I was 33 when I had my WLE and SLNB, I don’t like sitting about. It knocks you silly, really. The anasthetics and painkillers you get totally dopes you up for days, you can only sleep sat up or propped up for 2 weeks, this makes for restless nights. You’ll be on painkillers for at least a week afterwards, if you don’t take them it’s likely you’ll be in pain.
It was 3 weeks in all and I was tired - your body is heavily on the mend and it takes it out of you.
You’ll not be bouncing back to work in 2 days.
Blunt but likely true.

We all cling to normal life and want things to carry on just as they are. DO NOT feel guilty for what you can’t do and your OH needs to understand that you have this all to deal with and then you’ll be nearer to normal once all treatment done!


I am sorry but the other girls are right.
Work can wait - really.
You don’t say what kind of op you are having. I had full mastectomy and reconstruction and was in hospital 6 days
You will need at least 2 weeks to recover after op and will be feeling tired and sore. There was no way I could have gone back to work for at least 3 weeks - you will be knackered and with 3 children even more so
Your OH needs to understand this is a big thing and will have to help out even more now than ever. Assuming your are not S/E are you not entitled to sick pay?
You can get through this but things will def not be normal for a while.
You don’t mention Chemo so assume you are not having this? I haven’t started Rads yet hear this is also very tiring and can be sore so be kind to yourself and sit down and talk this through with OH.
Good luck
Ginge xx

I have just had rads, chemo and mast. In reverse order not worked since March. I’m keen to get back so I’ve been asking what it is about rads that’s tiring. Apparently it’s both the daily traveling and the fact that good and bad cells are killed ay the radiation and the good cells repair themselves quickest. The body is putting energy into repairing those cells. For you, it depends on what your surgery is and how big am area is radiated, and you’ll have to play it ay earwhich is really hard when you’re used to being so well organised and planned. Jane

Just another point. I don’t get a penny. I have no savings and i’m skint.
Just had more surgery so still can’t move on and i’ve been home 7 months. It’s much deeper than money!

Hi small1

As Simone says the only person who can tell is you - and you certainly shouldn’t feel pressurised.

However it is possible to work through rads. I had two weeks off to recover from WLE in July and have then worked throughout - just about have come to the end. All my appointments were after 5pm - so I just called in on the way home. So if that suits you it is possible

All the very best


agree with all of the above.

some practical things-- you will not be able to pick up your 2 year old for a little while. Check now with your breast nurse how long that will be

Even once you are physically capable of driving (depends where scar is and which side) you need to check with your insurance company about driving after and operation and after breast surgery. Some have a fixed time limit, some say you need to be signed off by doctor. If someone bangs into you and it is discovered you are breaking your insurance conditions you could loose your licence.

you might be lucky at your hospital and be able to pick and choose your appointment times for radiation, I could not, and i did not know when the times were until the week before. I was given a list each wednesday. I asked for before 10am, my times ranged from 9 am to 12.30.

You might be lucky with radiation side effects but if you get nerve pain or skin damage you mind find it hard to work without being able to grab your breast to stop the twinges or throw your clothes off to get air to it. They said they thought i would not get tired because i am active, but at the end of week three it hit me. I had to go to bed, I had to get my band to carry my drums and could only get up to perform for two hours and then drive home straight to bed. That lasted for about two weeks.

you cannot plan how you will feel or react. some women are back in the saddle a couple of days later and sail through rads. But I dont think that its mind over matter, its just how your body reacts. do you have family who can come and help with child care if needed??

I would suggest you and your OH have a talk with your BCN Breast Cancer Nurse. This is not something you can take lightly, you owe it to your health and your children’s future to care for yourself through this experience.
I was expecting to be in hospital for 2-3 days,it ended up being a week.
We are all women who are used to juggling busy lives and trying to satisfy other people’s expectations, but sometimes it’s more than determination you need.
It is unlikely you will be ale to sail through this without adjusting your family routine.

Dear Small1
The only person that counts in all this is you. You have BC and like me (and all our forum buddies :)), you have to deal with it.
I had MX in March was off work completely for 3 weeks. Went back to work part time from home - mornings only, I was exhausted and slept most afternoons. Once RT started it was a good routine - a few hours work in the morning, RT early afternoon, sleep/rest afterwards, and continued. Having always worked getting back to work was good for my brains and my self worth - I was still contributing and staying in touch. However after 21 doses (out of 25) of RT I was exhausted, very sore and loosing it in my head (I was starting not to cope). I stopped work completely for another 2 weeks and then restarted part-time building back up to full time over 3 weeks. In general this worked for me and having a supportive boss/employer helped. My Mom lives with my partner and I and though they did all sorts of stuff (housework etc) it was good to get back into our regular routine. Flexibility is the name of the game. I feel I probably went back to work too soon, am now looking at re-con which will be a bigger op and am planning on taking it a little bit more carefully!!
Please look after yourself - you are worth it.
Hope that helps, ask any questions you want.
BTW is your OH putting pressure on you because he is worried/scared too?

Many thanks for everyones comments. Consciously or subconsciously I had left this open and my oh read it all. We have had a chat and hopefully sorted his expectations out. I can take lots of time off work, paid, and so I couldn’t understand why he was so keen on me returning, he thinks I will get bored (!), not working.

All your posts have really helped, I think that because, as yet, we have no experience of what is to come, it has given us both a good understanding of the different experiences people have.

Everyone’s journey is their own. My OH has been fantastic, really. But there are times where I knew he just wanted us to do something “normal” and I wasn’t quite ready. But then there are times when I feel like doing something outrageous and he doesn’t get it! :slight_smile:

All the very best

So glad that you’ve been able to discuss it small1. We all try and guess what the other person thinks and feels and most of the time we don’t get it right. My OH finds it difficult to discuss my BC so I have arranged some counselling. Start tomorrow afternoon, never done it before. Wish me luck…
Quite agree with loppy. It’s different for each of us.Good luck.

Hi I just wanted to add my experience I had been self employed for over 20 years n never had time off had 2 kids n was bac at work asap I was diagnosed dec 09 they said they’d got it early n wud hav lumpectomy n then rads my op was 3 days b4 Xmas so didn’t get results til 7 Th jan but they told me it had gon into lymph nodes so had t hav 2 nd op auxiliary clearance. N 8 chemos n month of rads only finished all treatment a year ago hav been doin bits but only now feel like I’m ready t get back into work properly again. N still feel tired. So PLEASE don’t expect 2 much of yourself n I hope everything is ok but I wish I’d prepared myself for if I had t hav chemotherapy n wen I found out it devistated me so build yourself up n hav plenty of rest b4 and after look after no 1 cos they will all need you well. Let us kno how ur doing xxxx

Doesn’t it depend on what operation you are having?
I had a WLE and node biopsy and was back at work (only office work) after 3 days. But was fit before hand.

BUT I’ve got to have a mastectomy and reconstruction early next year and that will be several weeks or months.

Potentially I think chemo is the worst for needing time off. I am in the middle of chemo and can only work half time - 3 short days per week. But the dear old employer in their wisdom decide to cut my pay by half. I think it should be half sick pay, half work pay but they have never heard of that…g rrrr

But everyone is individual - what ever is right for you…
All love anyway


As everyone else is saying it varies hugely. I think any pressure that you’ve got to go back will feel unbearable as you try to recover. Remember that there is a huge psychological impact with breast cancer treatment, it’s not like having your tonsils removed.

Also the effective can be cumulative. It’s not just an operation, it’s then the rest of the treatment. Radiotherapy can make you feel progressively tired, so even if you feel okay the first week you might not the second.

The other thing I was told in a support group was that quite often, women who go back to work quickly find it hits them a year down the line and they end up having time off then or feeling unwell for longer.
Far better then to take your time getting a full recovery particularly as you have young children. As others have said, listen to your body, you’ll know what’s right for you and trust in that.
Hope it all goes well, Elinda x

Just to add, rads can you make feel quite sore too. I would think with the travelling to get there etc, it’s probably quite unlikely you’d want to work a half day. Where I had rads, I wasn’t given any option on times but it’s always worth asking.