I am/was a primary school teacher, diagnosed in July, had 3 out of 6 chemos, with mx & rads to follow, and right now Im am having difficulty imagining I will ever go back. I now realise that I was neglecting myself, and my family (I am a single parent) before diagnosis.
I was so uttterly stressed out all the time, and bogged down with such an enormous work load, (Our school was a cause for concern for the local council, so everything was being constantly monitored) I just not sure I could return to that life…
Im also afraid that stress contributed to me getting ill, and want to reorganise my life, post treatment, to minimise chances of reoccurance.
There is however, so much about the job that I miss, and on good days can imagine myself in a part time role. These are unheard of in my school though…
Anyway, I still need to bring home the bacon, so I was wondering how other teachers in a similar position were feeling about their job, and returning to it.
How soon were you thinking of returning to work after rads?
How long were you thinking of taking off to convalesce? etc?

Hi Tree

I am a primary teacher and I find it very hard to imagine going back. I have some significant responsibilities at work and as we are on ‘outstanding’ school I am under a lot of pressure to deliver high standards. I have two small children and I don’t really want to go back to that sort of pressure. I now want to save my energy for them. But I love my job in many ways if defines a big part of me. I have the added complication of a new head taking over at Christmas. So I will be negotiating with someone I don’t know. Also I don’t know whether to go in all guns blazing with occ health, union etc or just see how it goes. My ideal would be part time, that is not always possible as you know in small schools. So sorry I don’t have any answers. I still have one chemo to go and although these things rumble around in my head I still have to see that I react to herceptin well to make firm decisions. Godd luck with your treatment and would imagine you will have to see how much recovery time you need after chemo etc.

Take care debx

Hi Tree and Deb

I too am a primary school teacher. I took most of 2007 off for all the usual treatments for primary BC. I was quite keen to get back and had an agreeable phased return and lots of support from my school and occupational health. It was intended that I go back without any extras, clubs, curriculum responsibilies etc. It just happened that the person who took over my TLR for Maths, left our school,not long after, so I was ‘persuaded’ to take it over again and before long surprise, surprise I was back into full working mode + all the extras. I did however have a reviewed attitude and didn’t worry about as detailed planning etc and as you can imagine my reduced workload at home made no difference to the quality of my teaching!

I would have carried on like this, but unfortunately I was diagnosed with secondaries in April. I decided that as I am unlikely to have a retirement, I should have some quality ‘me time’ now + I want to be there more for my son, I don’t want him to remember me hunched over my laptop for the whole of his childhood. I asked if I could have a job share and the head was a bit evasive, then to my surprise one of the governors came to me, in confidence, to say that if I wanted to push for a job share the Govs have to let me, in this situation! After the next governors meeting I was told I could go part-time.

You are probably wondering how my ramblings relate to you, well, I wish I had gone part-time years ago! I have time for my family and really enjoy the 2 1/2 days I work. I really recommend part-time work if you can, as everybody gets the best of you! I am lucky though that I work in a large school and I am also doing a lot of supply (which I pick and choose) to top up my reduced income.

I am not an expert in employment law as I was lucky that one of the governors claimed to be! but I believe that we are covered by the Disibility discrimination act and we can ask for changes at work. Do approach occupational health, as they will help support your return to work. The size of the school should make no difference to whether the class has teachers job sharing, my Auntie works at a tiny 3 class school and she has sucessfully had a job share for years.

Good Luck with whatever you decide to do, part-time is so right for me at the moment but when I was full-time I coped too!

Take care Nicola

Hi all

Here are the links to the BCC EMPLOY charters which you may find useful as they are a guide to best practice for employers and employees:



Best wishes

I am also a teacher and could have stayed on in an outstanding school but gave renewing a contract bacause my mum was in hospital a lot and 94. You just can’t have a lot of days off. Then in September i was diagnosed with bc, then any work didn.t seem so important.I was lucky to have contacts in schools to do supply work. I had my masx and lymph node clearnace last Tuesday and am on the road to recovery. Next week back to see the surgeon!!
Good luck to everyone on these boards and keep up the good work.

I taught 16year old disaffected youth and it was heart wrenching, sad, successful and enjoyable most of the time but it did take all my time of 16hrs a day 7 days a week. stressful.

I am on tamoxifen and foggy brain, no energy and bad joints have seen me take a part time job at M&S. I go to work with hours that suit as my ankles dont work in the morning, I meet interesting people and celebs and leave the work when I leave. The pay isnt too good but I get working tax credit, tax is low - havent looked into other benefits but I should have done this years ago. 3 days off a week including friday and sunday and I get a 20% discount.
My point is I really miss the kids but not the workload, the stress or the inspections, observations and lesson planning.

I think you just need to consider how you want to live your life from now on - we have had a challenge to deal with that has left us looking at what we do and we have been given a chance to change what we want.

I also took a job with nhs professionals but the travelling was too much they send you on jobs as they come up. It was for admin and wasnt too demanding.

Perhaps you could start the research and see what will be of use to you. Think about you and be brave and go sort out the money, benefits etc., and be strong as it is hard to fight what is rightfully yours!

I have just adjusted my lifestyle to eat, drink and live healthier and that includes less stress - I dont want to go through anything like this again.

Good luck in all you do ladies.

Delphine x

I forgot to say that there is a high incidence of breast cancer (among other issues) with teachers.

It would be interesting to see the stats although this disease affects all walks of life, ages and gender.

I am a primary teacher too. My situation sounds similar I was working in a school that was causing concern and under alot of pressure and long hours as well as my own 3 young children. I had mx and reconstruction, chemo (3 FEC 3 Tax) now on tamoxifen and just coming to the end this week of 25 rads.
I have already negotiated my return with my head and I will go back after halfterm. I will be doing mornings only to start with. My head has been very supportive and has said its entirely up to me how many days I do and how I want to build up to full time again. I won’t have a class to start with just support other teachers, which I feel is a good way to get my confidence back. But like you I can’t imagine going back to exactly the hours I was doing before and I know in the new year a teacher is leaving and they want me to take over that class. I am already thinking that I want to do a 4 day week. (I am the main earner so can’t afford to do less than than).
I rang the union for advice and they were very sound. She advised getting the fit note from the doctor with the phased return box ticked and then first negotiating with the head before going down the occupational health route as there is a cost for the school if this happens, but if not getting what I wanted then this was the next step.
About part time work/reduced hours, she then suggested going back to the doctor and then getting them to tick the amended hours box on the fit note. She said my head would find it hard not to honour this under the circumstances but suggested it was done with a yearly review as at some point I might want to go back full time especially as we are now having a 2 year pay freeze.
I hope that in 3 weeks I will feel fit for work. I have been feeling great with a post chemo energy rise, but just in the last week have felt tired again and my skin is very sore form the rads.
I feel it is important for me to get back to work as I do enjoy working with the children and I need to move on from being a cancer patient and get on with my hopefully cancer free life.

It is very interesting to hear of the high number of teachers who develop BC. I am a secondary school teacher, and have been signed off from middle of May this year until January. I unfortunately have secondaries dx at same time as primary diagnosis. Work defined me quite a lot, and I have struggled to adjust. Too much thinking time. I have just started chemo, on 2nd out of perhaps 4 FEC, then Tax after hormone therapy didn’t work. I hope that chemo will do the trick as then I will have mx and full node clearance and will feel like I am getting somewhere. I will then want to go back part time, but I am thinking of a supportive role rather than actual teaching. Something on the pastoral side. My head has been very supportive and has encouraged me to drop in when I can to say hi to staff etc.School is such a pressurised place, I am HOD of the Art dept so it was difficult to let go! I don’t miss report writing and filling in the SEF.Just miss our fabulous staff and that interaction you get each day.
x sarah

I am a primary school teaching assistant, and was planning to apply for initial teacher training (PGCE) last October when I was diagnosed. I withdrew my application, had six weeks off following Mx then returned to work as a T.A. whilst undergoing chemo. It was a decision I now regret as I was so tired and am still lacking in energy six months after treatment finished. I have applied again this year for the PGCE but I do have reservations as I know how exausted and stressed most teachers get and worry that this will have an adverse effect on my health. On the other hand I don’t want having BC stop me getting on with my life. I have decided to get the qualification do my first year as a newly qualified teacher, then look for part time or job share if I feel full time would be too much. I do agree that a lot of teachers and a fair amount of TA’s seem to get BC.

It seems we need to take our individual circumstances and work towards a compromise. I think I am older than all you ladies I am 54.

The tamoxifen affects me differently every three months or so, energy, headaches, joint pain and foggy brain. I knew that a) I didnt want to go back to teaching and my onc was pleased that I decided this based on my stress levels and b) I wanted to change some aspects of my life and enjoy more freedom to wander around, shop, cook, see my grandchildren. It was the phrase “take time to smell the roses”. I had my scare and that was it I wanted NOW and got my way for once ha - what a way to change your life!

It will be different for everyone but whatever you choose to do enjoy life and live to the full.


Hello everyone,

I am a teacher in a FE college, had a management position pre dx in 2004, worked all the way through chemo and rads and then stayed fulltime. I have to say that my employer was great. Then in 07 I had a strong feeling that I needed to make a change, was exhausted all the time, worried that it was not good - so went p/t. Big pay cut, but worth it.I had a regional recurrence in 08. Am still p/t, and yes, loads of pressure on me to take more hours, … but I really feel that I’m doing the right thing. As soon as I am able to I shall take my pension. I just keep praying that I get that far, 2 more years till I can take it (at a lower rate) at 55. I keep thinking how unfair it is that after paying in all these years I might not benefit.

love, Mo

I had to make the same sort of decision after another serious illness and didn’t recognise the strain I was under… returned to work and then cracked up good and proper as I just couldn’t cope with all the responsibilities and an OFSTED.
I was disciplined for short term absences and I was devastated. I kept going down with viral infections and stress. There was no support at all only more disciplining!!!
I’d always been a good teacher (PRIMARY) and now they were trying to get rid of me…
My story is a warning because the aftermath of being disciplined wrecked my confidence and my living!
Luckily Occ Health were my only support and after more ill health I went back into associated work with children where my expertise was useful. Working with disabled children and their families, positive parenting coursework as a leader,individual tuition,mentoring, museum work with children… I have done all sorts over the past ten years and really enjoyed all the experiences but mentoring has been the best!
Money is greatly reduced but there is life after teaching in a school! I only work part-time but have a better life/work balance now.

Unfortunately,BC came and bit me on the bottom but that is a different story!

Good luck to everyone wanting to step outside the profession.
Look after yourself first and leave the stress at the door!

Hi. I was a primary school head teacher before dx. I decided to take early retirement and I am so pleased that I did. I think that the stress of the job was certainly not doing me any good and bc certainly makes you stop and look closely at your lifestyle. Teaching is a very full on occupation and can easily take over. I now have time for my family and am enjoying getting to really know my young granddaughter. I also think that not having to worry about work has aided my recovery from treatment. I love having the time to smell the roses!

I’m a primary teacher too. I had just started taking on more work when my youngest started nursery when I was dx.
I gave up work completely on chemo-just too ill- and didn’t return until a few months after rads. I returned to the same school 3 days a week last year doing the 1:1 tuition programme,and spoke to my head about doing some extension groups, which was all a much less stressful job than being in class. I was also offered cover for other teachers which I only did if I wanted the odd extra day. I don’t know if something similar would be an option for you but could be worth asking unless you want to be away from school completely.
This year I am job sharing-we both have young children, and I find I just have less to ‘give’ after having BC-so 3 days works well. I must admit I do find being back in class full on. I’ve said I’ll do another half day -that is about right for me!

I hope you find a solution that works-and if you do, please post-I’m often considering my options work-wise!
All the best with it.

i was a secondary English teacher until two years ago when i swapped to part time work as a specialist teacher - working with the Support dept in school. I got an MA in Special and Inclusive education four years ago and decided I wanted to reduce the stress of teaching full time and use my expertise. I was diagnosed this August and had WLE and SNB, waiting for rads appointments and on Tamoxifen. I am working just one day a week in school and doing private tuition outside school. Money is rubbish but the work is great and I really enjoy it. Not sure if I will be able to work through rads - especially as the round trip will be about two and a half hours! School have said I can have the time off and make it up when I ‘feel able’. Which is great and I may well be taking them up on it. I may ask my GP for a note to allow it as sick leave - has anyone else done this?
Anyway, ramble aside, I wanted to suggest tutoring and special needs support work as part time and rewarding work to try.
All the best to you all.

Many thanks for all your replies. And quite a lot of them as well!
I do wonder if breast cancer is any more common amoungst teachers than other professions…
I am going to try everything I can to return to work part time.
I had some lovely colleagues visit me last night, (who I really miss seeing everyday) but they were both so stressed out, it was frightening. :frowning:

Hi folks, Im just back to working fulltime now since Easter this year after chemo,radiotherapy n herceptin - plus got diabetis now after chem… Im glad to be back at work - but I am so tired. As a single parent with no supporting family my work (and pay!) are my security blanket and I’m finding it hard to decide what to do. My daughter has left home so I am on my own with my dogs and cat - I live in the country so a car is essential. I am so afraid to go part time incase I end up struggling finacially. How long do I struggle on with this horrendous exhaustion in the hope it will go eventually? How do others cope? At work my paperwork is way behind, and there are times I am not really enjoying my job like I used to. Then at home I just sit down and sleep! I feel I am stuck not knowing how to get over this blip… if I had the money I would love to work part time. The worry is that I won’t have a good pension if I go part time now. Help! How do others cope and decide please…?

SueBeth, this is what I do not want to go back to. Total exhaustion, mounds of unfinished paper work, accompanying guilt about that…
It’s just not worth it.
My feeling about pensions, to be perfectly honest, is that I dont know if I’ll even make it that far…Sorry to be bleak…:frowning:
Live for today, surely what this dreadful, disgusting disease had to teach us.
Live on less if you can, and strive for a better quality of life, maybe with less consumables and stuff, but what do they really matter?
I dont know, I havent decided much, but I am feeling more strongly everyday that I cannot return to that crazy full time life with absolutely no work/life balance.

Totally agree. Dx