Self employed gardener struggling with planning return to work.

Hello there, this is my first time on any kind of forum, hope it’s in the right section. 

Bit of history, had a mastectomy and axillary clearance in September and today I had my fifteen and last radiotherapy session. Waiting for oncology appointment to start anastrozole meds.

There’s been different advice/opinions from surgeons about my occupation, as a gardener, and the high risk of lymphedema as to whether I should find a different occupation or not. I’ve been a self employed gardener for over 35 years and hoping there was anyone else out there that has some knowledge or experience of this kind of work that could help. I work alone and had to basically make myself unemployed as I went into surgery. There is still plenty of determination in me to return to gardening work but the risk of lymphedema in my dominant arm is concerning.

I’m trying now to plan a kind of future to help the overwhelming  anxiety I feel from time to time over how I’m able to support myself financially, this far outweighs any thoughts of cancer and recovery.

Grateful for any advice.

Hi Iris

Congratulations on completing your hospital-based treatments. It must be heartbreaking to be faced with losing an occupation you love after 35 years. There’s a big difference between gardening and being a gardener so I can’t help in that respect. Have you established what the cautious consultant considers to be the risks? Usually it’s the risk of infection from cuts and scratches (relatively easy to avoid with slight changes in practice) but perhaps it’s to do with carrying weight or awkward movements? If you know what they think you should avoid, you should be able to do your own risk assessment. You might also be able to access some kind of occupational therapy to strengthen your arm and reduce risk.

In the end, it will be your decision but only you and your team understand your arm and how high the risk is if you continue with heavy work. I’m 4 years on from my primary treatment and my arm is still troublesome. I struggle to prune a rose bush now, let alone trundle a wheelbarrow! I would get together some specific questions to ask at your HT appointment and, if that doesn’t help, ask to be referred to the lymphedoema team for an assessment and maybe some preventative physio so your livelihood isn’t overturned. You’ve had enough upheaval as it is.

Good luck x