Staring to feel guilty

Hi Girls

5 weeks since my Lumpectomy/Lymph Nodes removal. Scar has just about healed, just a tiny scab left.Numbness just staring to wear off under my arm and slightly painful now. Trouble is these last days have been feeling guilty about the fact I am still off work. I can do most household chores but in my own time and I know I can stop and rest between. I have never been a slacker ( about 3 weeks sick in the last 11 years) but the thought of going back to work with the pressure and stuff scares me a bit. I know I only work in an office but in can be so hectic.
Going to see ONC this afternoon should I discuss with him? I know we are all different but have any of you had the same worry?

Norma X

Hi Norma

I had the same worry as you initially - I have worked for the same company for over 10 years and my sickness absence was virtually non-existant - until I was diagnosed in April. I had a sentinol node biopsy first off, which meant two weeks off work, then my chemo started. I’ve had eight sessions which were always on a Friday, then took the following week off sick, going in to work again until my next session. I had my last chemo on Friday, so therefore I’m “off sick” this week, and will be trying to go in as much as I can before my surgery on 3rd October (whereafter, I’ll be off for six to eight weeks), then off course theres rads to follow !

I’m very fortunate to have such a fantastic employer who has been so supportive. I also work in an admin role, although fortunately 9.30am to 2.30pm each day - I do get tired by 2pm and am ready to go. My office is also busy and very stressful, and I’d told them at the begining that as much as I was going to make the effort to come into work, I only wanted menial tasks and NO STRESS. Again I have to say, they have honoured this.

Don’t feel guilty about being off work, but do discuss your worries with your Line Manager about the pressure etc. Can you maybe ease yourself into work when you are ready ? Maybe starting off part time and leading up to your normal hours ? I would certainly discuss this with your ONC this afternoon.

Don’t rush back to work though Norma, you’ve been through an awful lot, which I’m sure your employer understands - you need to go back when you are physically and emotionally ready - not just because you feel guilty (that’s told you !)

Let us know how you get on

Lots of love Julie xxx

Don’t feel guilty - there is a big difference in doing chores in your own time and having to work to other peoples time frames. I was told not to work by my oncologist because of the nature of my work (agricultural college) too much heavy physical work plus a big infection risk. Talk to your line manager or occupational health, maybe you have have your work day modified like Julie. Be careful about going back until you are ready, you may pay by taking longer to recover later or wiping yourself out and having to take more time off.

Look after yourself - work will understand
Love swanie

Ive been off sick for nearly six months now. And now am applying for Incapacity benifit as I shall finish Chemo mid September and then will have Radiotherapy starting October 3rd for 4 weeks. I have a 20 mile drive to go for Rads and with the treatment and the drive home its going to take most of the morning. And after going this morning for my pre-rad meeting , being "measured up" Im absolutely shattered.
I did think initially that I would be able to work part of my part time job (2-3 nights a week) and I felt so guilty about not working to begin with but I`ve come to terms with the fact its probably going to be the New Year before I can even consider working again.
But my company has been really good and are keeping my job and hours for me.

Take care of yourself and let others take care of you as well. There is no need to feel guilty at all.
Margaret XXXXXXX

Hello I’ve just joined but feel I need to add my comments as well. I was diagnosed beg of July and I haven’t been back to work yet. I had my operation on the 10th July and was due to start chemo on the 30th Aug. However, due to infection this has been delayed. I am now on my third week of antibiotics and it is being reviewed this week when I see my onc. I feel guilty about being off from work as I never did sickness before but my confidence has gone rock bottom and I sometimes feel as if I’ve got the word cancer written across my forehead. Before this thing took over my life I would have gone to work when others would have been off. I honestly can’t see me going back until after radiotherapy.

Hi Norma,

You have given your company 11 years of your working life, and have not taken advatage with sick leave. For most employers you would be an absolute gift! Now it’s their time to help you. So let them, and don’t feel guilty. Speak to them and see what can be arranged, as has been suggested, maybe with reduced hours or reduced pressure to start. We have someone at work who is just coming back after a near-death liver failure followed by a transplant, who is only doing half normal hours so far, as he is still on lots of drugs etc, and I have been told that whatever my treatment programme, it is totally down to me what I want to do workwise. I also felt guilty to start with, but now I feel my responsibility is to get myself better, so I can return and give them 100% when I’m fit and able to.
Take care of yourself, and dump the guilt!


Hi Norma

the last thing you need to feel is guilty, save your energy for getting better.

I was a Pilates Teacher and I have had to give up work completely as post Mastectomy and then node removal, I cannot use my arm enough to continue to teach. When I am finished with chemo and rads I would like to get back to teaching but as I was self employed I will have to start my business again. Thought I might look at doing work with breast cancer patients as Pilates has really helped me, sometimes these things can lead us down a different path, which can be a good thing.

Take care

Tracey xx

Hi, Girls.
What IS this guilt thing with us?

Over the years (11) with occassional treatment interludes since my mastectomy, I’ve also been stricken with guilt, about work, about family, about not keeping all the balls in the air!

But being confronted with some temporary and some permanent new limitations, this cancer experience has brought me to and sometimes forced me to confront my guilty feelings and eventually let most of them go as they arise.

You know - we are not letting anyone down by being human and susceptible to illness or certain degrees of disability or having to admit we are not immortal or even indispensible in most of the roles in our lives.

If we imagine that one of our closest work colleagues or friends or family members needs time out to process medical treatment and recovery from an encounter with breast cancer and maybe needs to change down a gear with an activity or change jobs or move, even, imagine how we may feel towards them and how we may respond.

I think we’d all be happy to cover for a workmate or take on extra duties for a while, be protective of them, want to be supportive and feel sympathetic. As an employer, we’d want to find ways to cope and at the same time look at ways of accomodating a longterm member of staff’s sickleave, counting our lucky stars for their previous hard work and maybe realising how much we’ve taken for granted. Nothing like someone’s absence to start to appreciate how much they do around here!

In being super-women we deny those around us their opportunity to discover their ways of dealing with someone with breast cancer and discovering through this ways of expressing their humanity in how they relate to us - both well and badly and getting into supportive and caring mode for a while.

Also this breast cancer epidemic of which we are part is so widespread that many of our co-workers will have experience with dealing with this - perhaps will be able to adapt better than we may imagine and take it in their stride.

We also don’t have to be paragons of how to live with breast cancer treatment - being yourself and how you feel each day, including guilty, is just fine. Acknowledge it and let it go if it’s getting in your way or tying up emotional energy or raising your levels of stress. There may be other more tricky emotions and feelings you are masking with guilt so you don’t have to face them - anxiety, fear, uncertainty - give them voice - if only to yourself if that’s your way to start to deal with it. In my experience, they can and do return after the great relief of getting treatment and can go underground and fester if not explored in a conscious way.

So don’t beat yourself up for being off work. Find something special each day that you couldn’t do if you were working, time to read, to walk, to gaze, listen to music, to talk to friends on the phone, let them help you out, to potter, to play with the kids, have lie-ins EVERY day, whatever, and enjoy it as the treat that it is. Spoil yourself! Enjoy the priviledges as well as the problems that sick-leave brings. You’ll be back working soon enough.

Swanie, I work in agriculture too. I wonder if you’re back at work yet. Did you know that more farmworkers/women in agriculture get breast cancer than most other occupations? Maybe it’s time to raise awareness at the college of the risks that hormone-mimicking pesticides pose and add your voice to those who prefer to work in organic systems? That doesn’t stop you from breathing in the spray drift from the nextdoor farm of course…

Wishing you all well,

Jenny xx

All you girls,

What great advice you give, you seem to touch on all the points I am feeling so I AM dumping the guilt as from now. All of you who have replied to this discussion deserve a medal even if it’s one person you touch with your comments who feels the same, your letters are a breath of fresh air and here’s one who who’s going to breathe it all in !

Bless you

Norma XX

Hi Norma & all,

I think, judging by the responses you have received, that it seems there are many of us that are feeling the same. Good on 'ya for raising the subject Norma!

Personally I haven’t worked since I was diagnosed in March! There’s no doubt that as time has gone on I have felt increasingly guilty about this, particularly as I remain on full pay until I return. I always try to pop in and see my workmates when I’m nearing the end of my 3 week break between chemo treatments. Obviously by this stage I am not looking like the bag of sh*t that I do when I have my treatment, and make-up hides a multitude of sins! Trouble is I always feel a bit of a fraud when they tell me how ‘well’ I look. I worry that they’re thinking that I look well enough to work. I’m sure thay don’t think like this at all, and they have always been sooooo supportive, but I do feel guilty at times.

I’ve now come to the conclusion though that as chemo makes me feel so crap, once I am feeling more ‘normal’ I’ll be bu**ered if I’m gonna spend my precious ‘well’ days at work! I want some ‘me’ time, to hit the shops and treat myself! Besides, my colleagues are always visiting and moaning about all the crap thats goin on at work and telling me how I’m better off out of it!

Take care all,


Hi Kelly

Had nurse round from my Company and she says I should’nt be going back yet (Health and Safety has its rewards). So back to the soaps. The article from Princess 18 re: “You look really well” seems to sum it up also. This so just shows how we women think and how strong we are, no matter how cr*p we feel we wanna look good!
Good for us I say.



Hi All
I too am feeling guilty about work but after reading these posts I don’t feel so bad now.

My employers have been very supportive. They are paying me full sick pay 3 moinths MORE than my contract states as a gesture of goodwill (9 months in all). I’m due to claim incapacity benefit as from 1st Oct. I’ve been off work since Jan 07. I’m due to finish chemo on 13th Sept then have rads for 3 weeks starting 26th Sept. I’ve had a real bad time with chemo and been admitted to hospital twice. My current sick note expires 11th Nov and was wondering whether to return then as they have been so good to me. However I honestly don’t think that i’d be ready. In fact I don’t want to return at all. My job is full-time only and very hectic meeting deadlines. I know they will break me in gently but i don’t want to do this anymore. I was wondering whether to get a small uncomplicated part time job locally. My current job involves a 10 mile round trip in rush hour and then park and ride to and from the office which can put another 20 mins on the journey each way.

Does anyone know whether there are any legal implications like repaying sick pay if i give in my notice now and don’t go back? There’s nothing to say this in my contract but it does state thet sick pay is a ‘perk’ and can be withdrawn permanently if they think the circumstances merit it.

Good luck to all you lovely ladies on your long and difficult journey through this awful disease

Sue xx

Hi Sue

I don’t believe that they can claim back your sick pay unless there is a specific clause in your contract, so I wouldn’t worry too much.Have you asked them whether you can phase your return to work - under the DDA you are deemed to be disabled and an employer has to make reasonable adjustments to help you. One of the suggested adjustments could be part time working - at least to begin with until you get back to full strength. Of course, they may want to make adjustment to your pay too but if you are thinking about part time work anyway, maybe it may not be a major issue?

I have been lucky in that my company continue to pay me full rate although I should have dropped to half pay after 3 months. However, I have been working from home on email and calls etc so in my mind, I am still working and this is the adjustment they are making for me. Oh and it helps that I am the HR Director!!! I am due to finish my treatments (except herceptin) by mid December. My plan is to go off and have a holiday in Oz to see my family there before phasing my return to the office in the new year. I plan to go in initially a couple days a week and working up to full time.

Good luck

Sharon x

Hello everyone,

I have been off for the past 9 weeks. I have had surgery and I am now halfway through radiotherapy. My intention was to stay off work until December but have had that guilty feeling for some time now and keep thinking that maybe I should go back earlier. My problem is that before I was diagnosed, work was not a good place to be and I know that if I go back too soon, I will be off again with stress as I will be expected to work at full capacity. I have not yet had time to come to terms with what has happened to me (too many family issues to think about myself) and I know that in the next few weeks I will be in a situation where I will have time for reflection. However, this may mean ‘feeling sorry for myself’ and getting depressed- I still haven’t had a good cry yet (I wrote a thread on this some time ago) and I do need to so that I can move on!

Why do women always feel so guilty!