Teacher and chemo

Can I teach through chemo? I was planning not to, but a colleague has said that I will be able to as their friend did. Thank you.

It depends, as each cycle can be quite variable and you don’t really know how you will feel until you are there. I’m a nurse and had a couple of days after each cycle and worked in between. The 5th cycle took me a bit longer to come round. If your employer is flexible, I’d say see how you go. Good luck.

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Thank you. I don’t want to work through it. Feel like it is expected by my workplace because they know someone who did. Good to know that you felt well enough to work though. X

Everyone is different and you have to do what is best for you, and your employer should support that. Hope it speeds by for you and you are out the other side soon. Best wishes.

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Put yourself first! Your health and well being is the priority. Also chemo types vary hugely and some are far less toxic than others. That said things like losing your hair and fatigue all take their toll. So think about not what another person has done but what is right for you. For some it’s a nice distraction to work for others it’s more stress.

Best of luck.

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Hi,

I’m a primary school teacher and ending up having to take 9 months off- chemo, surgery and radiotherapy. My medical team said there was no way I could work during chemo due to low immune system and all the bugs kids inevitably bring into school. Also during chemo no way could I have taught. My cycles were 3 weeks apart- maybe could have taught for 1 of the weeks but even that would have been pushing it.

Don’t let anyone pressure you- Everyone experiences chemo differently. Some people fly through it with minimal side effects but that was not my experience. Could barely stand up for a good week after chemo to be honest.

Check with your medical team too!!

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Without meaning this to sound like a rant - did that person have the same chemotherapy, diagnosis and underlying medical history as you? I’d say it’s not relevant what some other teacher did, what’s important is you and how you feel. We all know that each of us react in differently ways to our treatment plan and you must do what feels right for you. I’m not a teacher but my concern (apart from the side effects and fatigue!) would be your reduced immunity and close contact with all those young people, making you extremely vulnerable to picking up every infection going.
I’d suggest you speak with your team and seek their advice, sick leave may be the way to go and will allow your school to make plans to cover your classes until you’re properly well enough to go back to work. Good luck with your treatment :+1:t3:

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Thank you @altoan and @fhs92. Your replies have confirmed what I was thinking. In teaching, you are kind of expected to show up on death’s door. My bcn said I shouldnt work through chemo in the school. Too many germs, plus it’s not a gentle place to work if you’re not feeling well. You can’t reduce people contact or have a quiet five minutes. Thank you. Hope you are both well.

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So the person who said this to you has no experience themselves, and possibly doesn’t know all the details of the friend’s diagnosis and treatment. I’d take the comment with a large pinch of salt.
If they get arsy with you maybe ask what they know from personal experience.

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Hi,

I would say no. I am a Speech and Language therapist and the risk of infection from the children was felt to be too high. If you get ill it pushes back your chemo this affecting how long the whole treatment takes. I felt very rough for at least two weeks of the three week cycle. So much adjusting to do as well to the hair loss, dry eyes, bowel issues etc etc. Teaching is high stress and high energy, it’s not like working from home for example. Forget what your colleague said. Who knows what regime that person was on. Your job is to get better and that’s all. Good luck with it all xx

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Hi, I’m not a teacher but also work in an environment where risk level high from infection and can’t really amend my role much. I totally agree with @altoan and if I’m being honest I think the comment you got about still teaching was ignorant. I got some of the strangest comments from people at my work from people who just didn’t get it or didn’t have any personal experience and I just ignored them.

I would also say that aside from the usual considerations of fatigue and infection risk, i have found being off work has allowed me to focus on me and my own physical and mental wellbeing and I also have a list of all the tablets etc I have to take for side effects I have at certain times and take my temp regularly etc. Not saying that stuff isn’t doable at work but certainly a lot easier to stick to properly when you’re not stressed about work and trying to juggle your usual day! Between that and appointments on certain weeks I know it’s a lot easier with work out of the equation for now☺️

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Ooh this one has touched a nerve with me! What an ignorant comment from that colleague. No one knows how they’re going to cope with chemo until they’ve actually started. Some breeze through and others dont. Please ignore the cancer muggles who assume they know best and just concentrate on you and your health xx

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How dare that person tell you what you should and shouldn’t be able to do.

They have no idea what drugs that person took or how often.

I’ve have EC and then Docetaxel and there is simply no way I could have worked full time throughout. I could have maybe done 3/4 weeks of that kind of work since mid-March and not predictably enough for a rota to be formulated and stuck to.

I’m so sorry that you’ve received such little support.

People are so ignorant. I even had an A&E nurse say “Oh, I didn’t realise Chemo was actually painful!” the other day :woman_facepalming:t2:

Chemo for breast cancer is horrific and exhausting and painful. The nausea (which everyone assumes is the worst part), is the smallest part of the whole thing. It’s physically and emotionally draining too. That’s before we even discuss the emotional side of having cancer and the battle that comes with that.

That woman and her comment need to fck the fck off.

Wow. That touched a nerve :flushed:

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Physically, emotionally and mentally you might think work is a distraction and will help you but with infections being an every day worry id say dont

You need to look after you

In between treatments you are going to need to rest , have blood tests, take steroids which keep you awake for days, inject yourself which can make you ache and tired and have any PICC line flushed

Treatment effects become culmative so the first might be a breeze but by the 4th , 5th or more you are going to be very fatigued and thinking about work is an added stress you really don’t need

Ask your team to sign you off, apply for PIP if you need it and take care

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I’m a nurse and my ward sister - who has also had treatment a long time ago - told me not to. It was 2021 too when covid was about.
I’m glad I didn’t and not to have the worry of if I was going to feel ok, struggle through or let my colleagues down.

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That’s a really good point on immunity. I missed all the school get togethers to protect myself and like you I didn’t fly through it was in bed a lot on the week I was treated. No way could I have worked.

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I would take advice from your oncologist. I am a lecturer and I was advised that if I did work I would be risking exposure to all sort of infections which could then delay treatments. In reality chemo is about 15 weeks and so not that long to be away. I returned immediately after radiotherapy.

Good luck in whatever you decide.

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Hi @bluesatsuma

Firstly so sorry to hear that a person who hasn’t got cancer has said this to you!

Im a HLTA and I’ve not been in the classroom for a year as I’m still on Herceptin that can weaken my immune system. I had 12 weekly Paclitaxel and there was no way in hell that I would have been able to get up and go to work, let alone deal with 30 children from different households (imagine how many germs and infections can come from this)and the planning and preparation that is required to teach.

Everyone within my cancer centre rolls their eyes when you say I work in a school as it’s full of germs and infections. I know people encouraged better hygiene during and after Covid but by the time I was diagnosed last May, children ‘forgot’ to wash their hands after the loo and we’re merrily picking their noses and wiping it everywhere! Not to mention while I’ve been off there has been chicken pox, scarlet fever and measles all would floor you during chemotherapy. My school recently sent out a local health board letter offering all school staff the MMR as measles is so high.

I’ve decided to take redundancy and decide later down the line what I want to do. Herceptin finishes in September and I would like to do some nice things without worrying about appointments and catching infections.

As has already been said, my blood is boiling that someone dare say to you they knew someone who worked through their chemo. Was their friend also a teacher? I was on a monthly chemo starters group ( link below for June, it was great to be with people on the same journey) and some people did work a bit and their bosses were very flexible but they all worked from home, and known were full time.

You need to get through your treatment, take all the medication to stop sickness, diarrhoea etc, rest, eat when and what you can. I found that some medication made me so wired that I couldn’t sleep and then I felt so rough. Chemo can sometimes cause ‘Chemo Brain’ which means that you can become muddled, forget things, say totally the wrong thing, not something that can happen in a classroom.

You need to put yourself first, school and your job second. Do you have a union rep you could talk to? I would suggest that the suggestion that you can work through chemo is bullying and under the Equality Act 2010 you are now classed as disabled and it could be seen as discriminatory behaviour.

My oncology team were happy to sign me off work until my Herceptin finishes at the end of September and 6 weeks extra to allow my immune system to recover. I’m sure yours will too.

Again I’m so sorry :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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I hear you @andreag - I’m a paediatric Occupational Therapist working with under 5’s…first thing my manager said to me was that it was too risky (as well as physically challenging) to continue to work. We don’t need any moral or emotional baggage from our employer at this time, just support :heart:

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Hi I didn’t work through my chemo. Tbh I didn’t feel that great physically with the side effects and mentally I don’t think I could have coped with work. Although some people can and do work doesn’t mean it may be right for you. Good luck.

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