Returning to Work


I’ll be returning to work some time in April. I actually work in Saudi and have been staying with family whilst having treatment in the UK. I’d just started a new job before I was diagnosed so I’m returning to a job that I’ve never really done before. I question whether I’ll be able to cope/manage. Alot of my job involves problem solving …but gyawd I get so overwhelmed by my own problems that I’m just not sure I have what it takes to do the job anymore.

I’m wondering if anyone else experienced similar difficulties when returning to work?

Lisa :slight_smile:

Hi Lisa,

Just replied to your other query in a different thread, so thought I might as well reply here too. I can’t comment on returning to work, as I worked all through treatment. But I am coping at work much better now than before. I had a mastectomy in March, 4 x FEC, 4 x Tax, and 20 rads, finishing mid-November. During treatment I sometimes sat at my desk and didn’t do much - my bosses were very understanding, I think they took the view that I did, that it was better I did some work than none at all. Now I am completely back up to speed (tho’ I still get more tired than before). As my memory is so hopeless now, I write myself notes all the time - all my files have yellow post-its on them to remind me where I have got to with each job.

As long as your employers know of your situation, hopefully they will be sympathetic. Can you arrange a meeting with HR to discuss your fears? If they understand that you will need some time to get up to speed (but that you WILL get there), that should take some of the pressure off.

Well I returned to work after chemo and radio therapy- then got told I needed herceptin. Initially I coped well and then I kind of crumbled. I am now off work until my treatment ends. I know people who work all the way through herceptin and even chemo!!! Don’t ask me how.
Just wanted to say don’t be hard on yourself- I would even say that you should maybe go part time to start. Starting a new job is difficult enough. It is definitely true that you can develop strategies like the post it notes tip above. I carry a spiral notepad and jot things down- use my diary as a planner…
I think you should not be too ambitious to start- have you lived in Saudi before?

You will probably be absolutely fine- I am a teacher of difficult teenager (is there any other kind?) and coped to start with and then it all got on top of me. Just don’t try to do it all. Be kind to yourself. By the way the chemo brain thing has gone now. There is hope!

I started a new f/t job recently on a temp to perm basis, but I had to leave as I could not cope. The organisation I was working for had 6 weeks to get all the stuff like training and support in place, but when I got there they didn’t even have an office sorted out for me. As the days went on I got more and more stressed out as I was not being given proper training on any of the procedures. It all came to a head last weekend and I suffered an emotional breakdown. I left and put my reasons for this into writing, not knowing that this would trigger the grievance procedure and I’m now in limbo until they send me this in writing. My GP refuses to let me go back on a medical certificate and says I have to register as unemployed; I can’t go to the Jobcentre because I’m technically still employed. I had an oncology appointment last week and the consultants are all for me having 2 sessions of counselling to get me through the last of my treatment, but they need the permission of my GP and he is saying I don’t need it. As I have done really well all the way through my treatment and have been very emotonally strong, he has said he thinks I have given myself a fright by taking on more than I could cope with and I have to now move forward and get on with it. He gave me 2 weeks supply of tamazepam to help me sleep, but I hate them, they make me feel hungover. I was very surprised at his attitude as he has supported me all the way through as have the rest of the surgery; one of the receptionists has BC as well and I hav sometimes spoken to her on the phone about how her treatment is going.

I’ve been in bed over the weekend as I am not coping well at all, floods of tears and I just want to sleep all the time. My OH is self employed in Web Design - he is very busy and is finding this all very difficult.

I finished chemo in October, then had lumpectomy early Nov. I’m struggling back to work - my employers are very supportive, as are my colleagues. Currently I do 3 or 4 half days - I feel I’ve only got half my brain cells and half my physical energy, but would rather work than not - and a bit of me is better than none at all - but like you my job involves a lot of problem solving and basically I don’t yet trust myself to do that effectively - so I get colleagues to double check stuff for me.
I try to sleep when I get home from work as I find that really helps.
I too cry a lot, but as I’m 47 the chemo has brought on the menopause, and coping with all of this is hard work. Have been offered counselling, but am not depressed, nor do I want sleeping tablets or anti-depressants - you do get better but its much slower than I thought.
I worked all through the chemo but I’m finding this part much tougher than the chemo - but the chemo was a slow decline and I’d expected to bounce back by now !! But I am improving.
I find doing physical stuff helps - yoga, walking, stuff you can do at your own pace.

But do try to start back to work part-time if you can

Thankyou all so much. I feel much more reasurred by your posts.
Yes, I have been living/working in Saudi since 2001. They actually misdiagnosed bc in the first place, then whilst on hols in Cyprus 8 mths later a doctor noticed lump and I had a mastectomy there and then. I fought with the company I work for to approve an out of Kingdom referal so that I could have my treatment here in UK. They eventually agreed. I know in myself that I need to start developing some quality of life again. I’ve taken a total time-out from everything as I’ve felt shocked to the core by everything that’s happened. The company have kept my apartment and job open and although I was determined to have a reconstruction before I returned, I think I’ve just come to a stage where I’ve had enough for now and want to give living another go. I’m not discounting my time out mind you…I appreciate it a great deal. I also feel that I need to be easier on myself (my bc nurse said the same thing to me only yesterday). My job is very fast paced and I think if I remember that ‘its entirely up to me’ as in …I can only go at my pace whatever that may be, then I should be able to cope a little easier. I’ve no idea how my employers are going to be when I return and in that respect, if I feel its too much …then I’ve made a bargain with myself to resign. It is my life and my body after all …I’ve just got to remember that.

Many thanks again - love Lisa xx

Hello Cherub,

I read your post and felt very angry for you. I feel your GP is being VERY hard on you. I can easily think of a reason for you to have a medical certificate. Can you not go to a different GP? and as for him/her not agreeing to refer you for counselling!!! wtf?!?
I’ve seen a couple of posts in different discussion threads containing links to different sites that offer advice and support. Maybe the administrator of this site can suggest one that could help you. In my mind, your choices and decisions do not depend on one GP - the cheek of him/her.

I’m so sorry to hear that your initial return to work didn’t go as well as you’d have hoped. That said, maybe you have a valid case concerning the grievance proceedure??

I actually have something similar going on with the company I work for…because of their negligance in the first place. It’s not like I need another battle (good lawd no!) its just that they so blatently screwed up on three occasions that I feel I can NOT let this go. (Medical care is included in my employment agreement you see). I can’t say it doesn’t race through my mind every now and then, but now that I’ve actually set the ball rolling I feel quite relieved. I’ve done my part and I feel much better for it. I know you didn’t intend for the grievance to happen and that’s the down side. Maybe your employers are very much in the wrong and its an issue they need to address about their own behaviour/practice?? They obviously didn’t offer you the support that a person in our type of situation needs. I know that this happens across the board but …I’d say that’s bad practice. Dontchya think?

I know this is that last thing you need so I really feel for you. I wish you all the best and hope you stay strong…you still have choices :))

take care - Lisa xx

OH! I meant to say earlier …(see, I’ve got it too - loool) , yes, the chemo brain thing does concern me somewhat. I did read about it online whilst having chemo and thought …hmmmm …what’s that all about? I mentioned it to the lovely discrict nurse who used to come give me GCSF injections. She said …‘ooooh Lisa, and you’re not used to feeling like that are you?’. I was thinking - well, we all have our moments I suppose but surely it can’t be that bad - *cough-cough*.

Well, what on earth?! Sometimes it feels like I speak complete and utter gobbledygook (a very naff word but …very apt). I forget mid-flow …and sometimes come out with really dumb things …or in the context that I say them …they seem very dumb. I get a good laff out of it most of the time, I must admit. It does concern me with regards to going back to work though. I mentioned it to my bc nurse yesterday and bless her …she said (very gently) …you’ll probably not be able work full speed for a while Lisa. after such a long time out your concentration isn’t going to be the same. I know myself as I had a long time away from work once and I couldn’t even write a full page in one go when I first returned. (bugger! I thought…that’s bad! …and having that ontop of chemo brain). Her main advice was the same as yours …don’t be so hard on yourself.

thanks again for your posts - I’m not the only one after all :)) xx

Hi Whitehlx,

the organisation I worked for has now sent me the letter detailing their grievance procedure. At the end of the week I typed up a diary of events as they took place and I’m going to edit that today as I have an appointment with a colleague of our solicitor who deals with employment law tomorrow - not saying I want to go don the route of a case or anything, I just want him too look over it. TBH, I would be happy if they offered to pay me for the length of the temp part of the contract as I took the job on in such good faith. They have said in the third paragraph of their letter that they are sorry things worked out like this, but as far as they are concerned they were not aware I would need any training on returning to a job after illness. I am not sure that is right given the law, but will find out tomorrow.

I’ve been on the website for the DDA and there is a questionnaire you can fill in and send to your employer and they have to fill their comments in and send it back to you withing 21 days. On the basis of their answers you can decide whether they have any case to answer, it says on the site that a lot of people get offered a settlement after submitting the questionnaire. I suppose big organisations don’t want the publicity and this one is the third largest of its type in Scotland. It’s also had a load of bad press in the papers last week about other things.

Hi Cherub,

Well, good for you. I hope it all works out and you at least get the wages you’re due.

Let me know how it goes - Lisa x

Hi Whitehix,

took everything to my solicitors this afternoon and the employment expert has told me to follow the grievance procedure and run with it as in his opinion I could claim constructive dismissal if it was to get as far as a tribunal (which I don’t want). He is wording a statement based on a 6 page one I have written myself and is aiming to see if they will stump up compensation - he told me most employers he’s dealt with in this situation pay up to make you go away.

Thing is, I had other job interviews lined up but didn’t attend as I was offered this one. I already know I’m not entitled to JSA and I will need to fund any courses I want to do in terms of retraining for something else.

Hi Cherub,

If your solicitor turns out to be right …then that is great news! Did he give you a timeframe?

You’ll need that compensation to help get yourself back on your feet. You’ve got to look after number one. Were your other job interviews with the same company/different departments? If you feel up to it, you could start applying for other jobs again.

I know you said you’re not entitled to JSA and you’re not receiving anything from the company you worked for either - have you checked with JSA people to see if you’re entitled to anything else, just to help see you through this? I knew someone who was going through something similar and although she wasn’t allowed to actually work, her employers had to continue to pay her wages until everything was sorted. I wish it was the same for you. I’m sure you can claim something. I’m trying to remember what its called …I might be wrong but it could be Income Support. So long as you can provide evidence (bank statement/wage slips) to say that you have no income, I’m sure they can help.

I hope you hear some good news soon Cherub. Let me know how is goes - Lisax

The guy I spoke to told me that once you have stated a grievance you have 12 months from the date of appointment to bring a case. If I apply for other jobs in the future I’m only going to look for p/t, but my OHs business has gone ballistic recently and he would prefer me to retrain so I can work with him; there are also aspects of the business he doesn’t enjoy and I could take those on (he is a web designer/developer btw). TBH, I think this is maybe pushing towards something new which is why I’m looking at courses and stuff.

I can’t get JSA because I have a 3 month gap in NI from when I was looking after my late dad. I don’t qualify for anything else because we have some savings, but if I can sign on I can get NI paid (playing the system I know), but it would keep me up to date until I can go self employed.


I’m a web designer/developer and am about to have double mastectomy and lord knows what else afterwards. I’m hoping I’ll be able to work through it. I do love my work so that may help me.

If you want any help with training etc or opinions on what to learn then let me know, I am apparently at the top of my game so any questions ask.

We women are often really good at the old logic stuff. And I do work from home so I can collapse into a little heap whenever I need to and the people I work with are being really supportive so based on recent experience it’s a great industry to be in. I don’t have any security ie sick pay etc because I’m contract though so there are some things to weigh up but even perm jobs aren’t guaranteed for life are they.



perfect job really- I am assuming you can do some work from home?
I am a teacher and the thought of going back to work scares me- I did go back and it all seemed to be going well (but I am still having herceptin). i just had a day off every three weeks for thr treatment and a few other appts. Then I jsut could n’t stop crying and now feel totally incapable of being in charge of 30 teenagers. (though they are actually more supportive than the staff).

My GP is great and agreed that I should n’t go back until my confidence is back- I suppose it does take a bit of a bashing.

I suppose every one has to play it by ear.

Love Debbie

I can spell by the way- just can’t type!

Hello again cherub,

Well, that sounds alot more promising! thank gywad!

I too am goner push it and suggest I go back to work very gradually. Although, its all quite up in the air right now ,.that’s how I feel. Part of me feels they are as apprehensive of me returning to Saudi as I am…and good enough for them!

For me right now, its all about focussing.and preparation…and lots of medical appts in between. I know from past experiences to not expect anything …sooooo, it, really is up in the air for me right now.

Lets just wait n see :)) x