Returning to work!

Couldn’t face going into work to keep my boss updated so we agreed that we’d use email which has worked out quite well. Now I am nearing the stage of 6th months off an need to think about returning. This bit is really quite stressful and got myself into a right old state plus have gone down hill fast with belated rad burns so this is putting off the date of return.

Well actually this has worked well in my favour because feeling particularly ‘poorly’ I rattled off an email to her and she offered to come to my house for a ‘chat’. Now this was seriously helpful - much better than a hot office where we get interuppted all the time.
The outcome - I was reassured that she didn’t think I was malingering, I was assured she would find work that would be tailored to suit me with hours to suit ( even if I only did a couple of hours). This has been seriously helpful in my recovery … will let you know if it actually happends!!

Hi Lazydaisy1,

Great timing! I’m off to see my employer to discuss returning to working this Fri. After just over 8 months of sick leave, I’m quite excited about going back to work. I’m not sure what will be the outcome, so will keep you posted.

Isn’t it great we can always find someone in this forum who’s “in the same boat”!

Hope it works out for you. Your boss sounds really considerate.

Hi there. Well done on considering going back to work but you must do it gradually. I’ve been back 6 months full time now and really struggled in the first three - mainly trying to cope with tasks with deadlines. My Line Managers and employers were so understanding and all it took was a chat with them and Employee Support and the things that put me under pressure were removed. Much better now so maybe what you should do is prioritise and find out what is putting you under pressure, making you tired or anxious. Really all you need is time to come to terms with everything and it often happens after all the treatment which is hell. Hope it gets better for you. S

Hi there, I am due to have a meeting with my boss about returning to work, he phoned me yesterday and advised me when I return I need to attend a 3 week course away from home!!! I am seriously considering delaying my return as I know there is no way I could do this as there will be assessments and exams to sit at the end of it, my brain couldnt cope!!!

Im all confused now and hardly slept last night thinking of it, help!!!

Pleased to see some of you have nice understanding bosses making your return a bit more easier,


Carol xx

Bosses have a duty to make reasobale adjustments to allow you to adjust slowly back to the world of work, 3 weeks away certainly sounds very UNreasonable. Cancer is covered by the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) in this regard.

Been off since July, had meeting with my boss & HR last Weds re a phased return to work. My office is upstairs, but a lot of my work is downstairs, so I may negotiate the stairs a dozen times a day or more. There are no lifts. Even the coffee machines/staff canteen are downstairs. I explained that this will be my difficulty, & asked if I might be moved to a downstairs office, of which there are several empty, & you would have thought I’d asked for the moon. Apparently if they let me move I won’t have my p.c & when I asked if it might move too, apparently someone would have to come from IT (hundreds of miles away) to move it. They have now sent me a letter setting out what we discussed & saying I asked about this move, & that they’ve explained they will look at this once I’m back. I’m not happy with this as I would rather it was settled before I go back, as otherwise I don’t think it will be. I saw my onc today & she’s putting something in writing for me which I hope will help. I haven’t mentioned Disability Act to them yet. I know I’m not going to get this unless I force it. If I don’t, I may struggle to cope, but if I do the atmosphere will be awful. My boss only has 1 style of management - bullying ! And I am such a wimp.

Seriously good luck to all of you negotiating returning to work. It’s incredibly stressful and boss’s who are shall we say alittle less than helpful need a real sorting out and as we are all very fragil emtionally and physically we are not necessarily the best people to do it. I’ve heard on other threads that there are charities who will negotiate on our behalf but it’s all stressful isn’t it.

Im due back to work next Monday after being off sick since my diagnosis last July. I work 4 nights a week in a care home. My phased return consists of first week 2 nights (split up i.e. Monday and Thursday I think). 2nd week 3 nights (hopefully split up). After that full time. Am wondering how Im going to cope as I still feel so tired a lot of the time as it is without having to go to work (is that a side effect of tamoxifen), so will probably have to go part time.

Main reason I decided to go back is that my pay goes down to half pay after six months plus I had 4 weeks holiday to use up before end of March or else I would have lost it.

I’ve been to see my boss this week about returning to work. I work in a school & I am hoping to go back after the Easter holidays.

My headteacher has been great. He has suggested a couple of hours a day for 2 days the first 2 weeks and then a very gradual build up from there, planning to be back to full hours early in June. However he has said that if I find myself stuggling then I must say and we can cut the hours back again.

He is also arranging for me to work in his office to start off with, rather than in the school office, so that I don’t have hundreds of questions. I will also have a few set tasks to do rather than turn up and see what is thrown at me. He is aslo keeping on the extra staff he has taken on whilst I have been out, to cover me, so that I have less pressure. I think I must have one of the best bosses around.

I had mx at the end of Jan but have been very lucky to escape chemo. I had an immediate recon which will require nipple recon in the future etc.
I have been off work 7 weeks and am dreading returning to my job as a primary teacher. I am recovering well physically, so look well, but have not coped well with dx and mx emotionally. I haven’t seen any of my colleagues since the op becuase they’ve been busy preparing for an inspection - yes, I’ve managed to miss that thank goodness, the only positive part of my dx. Last Fri I was helping my teenage daughter with her Physics GCSE revision, books everywhere, me with papers in my hand looking very industrious when my OH ushers in one of my colleagues saying,here she is doing school work. I could have killed him. A comment was made about that and how well I look and now I feel fraudulent I’m not ringing up to say I’m ready to go back after Easter. The thing about teaching is the work I do at night, that’s what I can’t bear the thought of. Working in the day and then marking and planning for the next day at night is more than I can bear to think about it. Now that the inspection is almost over, my colleagues will be calling in their droves, especially over Easter and as I look so well it’s going to be difficult to talk about extending my sick leave. As they thought I was going to have chemo they think that everything is ok now and all I have to do is get a bit of rest and be back as I was before. If only they had called in the early days after my op!! I know I can’t be forced back as my GP is very understanding but the guilt feeling isn’t going to go away!
Annys x

I know exactly know how you feel. I too was very lucky and didn’t have chemo and everyone thought I should be back at work even after 3 ops. Little do they know you still feel shattered etc. Went back to work earlier than my GP wanted but I had holidays to use up before the end of March and had worked out a plan with my line manager. When I returned to work I was told I couldn’t get phased return. I felt this wasn’t fair as I had been off 7 months. After saying this it was reviewed and will be again in a few weeks but it is mainly holidays I am using. While it is nice to be told your looking well if folk had a closer look they would see the cracks and I don’t just mean the extra make up!

Hello Annys,

I am a primary school teacher too. I worked when I could during chemo and rads but have been off work since January as the fatigue was overwhelming and I needed time to recover. I have asked the doc to sign me off until Easter and I hope I will be fit to return then. I think I will be on half pay any day now.

An odd thing about us, after all the treatment and trauma is that we can look really well. I have never looked ill at all, but I think people would not be so complimentary if I presented without wig or make up!!! I just react positively when I am told how well I look. I will let the doctor make the medical judgements! School is very stressful and I do not intend to launch myself headlong back into it until I can work at full strength again.

One thing I have learned is that we need to be kind to ourselves and not be pushed into action by others who have not been on this particular fairground ride! Good luck!

I also teach and to add to my last post I made it clear I could’t be expected to put in the hours at home. Head said she quite understood. However we all know it;s pretty impossible not to . Have never coasted in my life but will def. pace myself. I owe to not just me but to my family who have been so supportive,

Oh yes can so identify with OH putting their foot in it - I’v e baanned mine from saying anything to anyone!

I am a primary teacher as well and have just had my mx and will be starting chemo soon. I just wanted to ask any teachers your experience of working through chemo and if it is worth it? Did you work full time and have a class? I’ve indicated that I probably won’t work as I don’t want to stress myself (work in an inner city underperforming school so lots of pressure)but also worried about pay as I am currently the only earner in house at moment as OH was made redundant last year and still not back in work.

I’m a primary school teacher too. I went off sick after my primary diagnosis 5 years ago on the advice of my onc and had a phased return but did more than I should - I felt pressured to - and regretted it.
A year or so later I decided I didn’t have the energy to continue full time so managed to get a job share, 3 days a week.

Following my diagnosis with secondaries last May,I continued my 3 days a week. I started chemo in August and continued working until the middle of November when I really couldn’t take any more. I was spending 4 days in bed just so I could get to work for my 3 days most weeks!

I have been seen by an Occupational Health Nurse twice who helped plan a phased return over 6 weeks which I will start on Monday. I think all teachers are entitled to this.

I love my job but do find it stressful and tiring. I’m going to see how I cope full time for the Summer term and then decide whether life would be better with work or without.


Quite a few of us I see!

Cat, I worked during chemo, but I don’t have my own class, so that made it easier for me. Originally my Head said I wouldn’t have to take any classes but that lasted about a fortnight and suddenly I was covering for sick teachers! It was winter and I felt too vulnerable when my immunity was low so I had time off when I needed to.

I finished chemo and rads by January and have been signed off since then. I intend to go back after Easter but want a phased return… need to find out how. Kelley, how did you get to see occ nurse?

Good luck to all my fellow teachers and school staff.

PS Cat, your school sounds like mine!

Sheila x

O.K the first thing is be honest NOT BRAVE - insist on a gradual return ( I believe that Occi Hth will support you on this) even if it is only a few hours in the morning. I know teaching is a vocation but at the end of the day you , me and all the others teachers, T.As etc are more important to our families - what do we say …Family First. Keep repeating that. Education is a horrible machine that will eat you up and spit you out so don’t be self sacrificing. Righto lesson over now to the nitty gritty pay. You should qualify for 6th months full pay and 6 months half but do check with your union and local auth. It is horrible being forced back because of financial worries - some of the girls on the employment and finacial site offer very good advice if you look back. Don’t forget your protected by the Disability Act use it it’s there for you as is constructive dismissal if they wont play ball . O.K here endeth the lesson . Try and have a good weekend girls let me know how you get on.

Im a TA and have been off since Nov 2008, still having treatment every three weeks (herceptin).
My headteacher has been awful, no support , phonocalls or anything.Have been to occ health, and she has said I’m not fit to go back yet, going to see councillor tomorrow to see if I can get over the stress and worry, constantly thinking its going to come back etc.
I’m getting to the stage where I don’t think I will ever feel like going back, feel like I’m being victimised the whole time and because I don’t look ill now should be back at work. I’m lucky that I’ve been put in the ESA support group so at the moment money isn’t an issue. I still feel tired and at present can’t get motivated to do anything.
Sorry rambling on a bit, just glad to know others are experiencing the same feelings

Hi all - had to post as I’m a teacher too!!! Do you think we caught the big ‘c’ off the kids?? Lol!!

I have my own class and I taught through my 6 cycles of chemo ( 6 x fec). It was my choice to work and I took the week of chemo off and then went back for 2 weeks each cycle. I found that it kept me positive and I did forget all about treatment when I was working. I’m lucky as I live very near to school and my hubby is assistant head, so I wasn’t allowed to take on too much.

I took half a term off for rads ( which finished 2 weeks ago) and am now back full time. I’m listening to my body as am well aware that fatigue could set in, but so far I feel great.

Hope this helps


Just ask your head. I thought you had to see one if you had been off for some time, before you went back. My head asked me while I was still at work if I wanted to see one. But I think you need to see one.