Undergoing chemo and still working

Would be interested to hear others experiences of undergoing chemo and continuing to work…looks like I may need to have chemo.

I have worked throughout my chemo, albeit in a position to work a few days after each chemo from home. I am a company director in the insurance industry, so dont have as hard a job as many on here, its certainly not physical in any way.
The hardest part for me is in getting into London every day, train and tube… always a bit wary after chemo with busy, coughing, sneezy trains, I have tended to go in very early or after 9 to miss the rush.
The biggest mistake I have made is not telling anyone apart from two colleagues (Co Directors). This has been the most stressful for me, pretending… I am awake two hours earlier than usual, just to try and look ‘normal’.
I realise that I have been more fortunate than most, my advice would be to play it by ear… the most important thing is to listen to your own body. I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.
Best wishes and good luck - be KIND to yourself


I chose not to work, simply couldn’t get my head around the idea of the “normality” of work while my world was falling apart. I had relatively few SE’s from chemo and (physically) could have worked most of the time. THere were occasions when i felt like a fraud not working but all told the fact i didn’t push myself to work made me realise it wasn’t right for me. I had 4 cycles of chemo from March to May and started back at work on a phased return in July. Good luck with your decision.


I’m starting chemo on Thursday and hoping to continue working throughout. I only have an office job so nothing too strenuous and I only work 9.30 til 2 Mon-Fri.
My employers have been very supportive so far and all my colleagues know what is happening. I wanted everyone to know so I won’t be embarrased about wearing a wig or a headscarf. I even posted it on Facebook! Support from everyone has been overwhelming!
I have a week off after my first treatment because I know I will just be sitting around waiting for side effects to happen! Hopefully there won’t be too many!
Good luck to everyone just starting out like me

I work in an office and managed to work thoroughout my 6 sessions of chemo. I had treatments on a thursday and took the following day off too, so had a 4 day weekend every three weeks. I was tired towards the end, but for me it was very manageable, and I wanted my life to continue on as normally as possible … and never felt at any point that my life was falling apart. For me it was the right thing to do, but I do understand that it isn’t for everyone.

Like Marguerite I hoped for the best and prepared for the worse, but unlike her I told everyone at work immediately and went in bald when it was hot and I was uncomfortable in my wig. Everyone was very supportive.



I’ve continued to work throughout my chemo. I have a desk job and I work 4 days a week. I can honestly say that being on chemo hasn’t stopped me doing anything although I have had to postpone from time to time! (Not true for everyone of course) Currently, I’m having chemo (Taxol) every week on Fridays, which is my day off.

I’ve been really lucky re side effects so I haven’t had to have any days off because of chemo. To carry on working has been a good decision for me, I like the normality of it.

I realise though, that we are all different and you have to do whatever is best for you. Good advice from Marguerite, ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best’.

All the best.

Barbara x


I’ve managed to work a reduced schedule throughout my 5 FEC so far.I work it what you might cause high risk in a school envirnoment but on talking to my onc doctor ahe pointed out that I have as much risk in the supermarket.Being through the warmer months also the winter coughs an colds are not so prevelent. My se seem to impact within 24 hours so usually have a 2 days off work into a long weekend. By Monday I can do afew hours and then I’m back on par. Eveyone within my area ( about 14 ) I tld as I thought it would be odd me taking cycles of days off. They have been really supportive and along within my sidekick who I delegate stuff out to I’ve found the ‘normality’ helps me get through to the next cycle.
Hope this helps
Good luck with what works for you


I decided right at the outset that I wanted to continue working - this was purely out of self interest. I do enjoy my job anyhow which helps but I was determined that I wanted normality and that I didn’t want the treatment to take over my life.

I am lucky in that I have a really suppportive boss and team - parts of my job I couldn’t do ie there is normally a lot of travel involved which i couldn’t do - but with reasonable adjustments I have been able to do 90% of what I would normal do - and managed to get most of the meetings at my home base.

After recovering from surgery I was able to work throughout my chemo FEC and TAX although I did find that I did become very tierd on certain days - those days I worked from home. Througout the cycle I had three ‘sick’ days - days where I could not function - not bad I think and I must admit now my chemo is over I am feeling good, both physically and emotionally and will continue to work through my RADS - have managed to get a 4pm appt so I can work each day and ‘leave early’ to get my treatment.

My Onc is very supportive of me working as says if you can do it. I do realise we are all very different and have different circs and its not possible for some either due to the nature of their job, or just how their body reacts to treatment and the extent of side effects.

My advice is play it by ear - if you feel you can (and want to) work then do so. Your body will tell you when you are doing too much and then you should stop doing it. From a personal persepctive working has helped me cope with the trauma of having cancer and allowed me to at least put it in perspective with life as a whole and made me feel a lot better both mentally and physically.

good luck with whatever you decide xx

I’m continuing to work through chemo, I did make a concious decision to continue working as long as I was well, also I enjoy my job and I wanted to keep my life through this as normal as possible. I understand that some do have problems which must be horrible.
My treatment day is a Tuesday so I take the rest of that week off to make sure I recover well.

I would say that you do have to wait and see how you feel, you have to listen to your body that’s important.

Working takes my mind away from what’s happening.

Good luck
Lesley x

i am working through chemo.
i am a 43 year old, single parent and due to me being self employed im not entitled to sick pay, so have had no choice.

i work from home as a childminder (7.30am to 8pm, mon and tues and 7.30am to 5.30pm wed, thurs and frid!) caring for 5 children 2,3,5,10 and 12 years old. my children are 10, 13 and 18. so i have a house full.

i had 2 weeks off after my mastectomy and that was the worst 2 weeks of my life, sitting around waiting for my results!

i am on FEC/T x 6, have had all 3 of my FEC and 1 T. i have been getting more tired as the time has gone on, but, have not changed my life in any way.
i get my chemo on a friday morning and have suffered quite bad side effects. the first week is the worst then i pick up and start to feel “normal” again.

i have decided that i will work as long as i can, but, if needs must then i will give up. i like to keep busy to take my mind off things. saves sitting around feeling sorry for myself and keeps me going when im not feeling so good.

not sure how im going to work the 4 weeks radiotherapy yet as the hospital is 40 minutes drive from home and its every day! anyway, cross that bridge when i get to it!

just listen to your body and do what you feel is right for you. i panicked about not being able to work, as my consultant told me there was no way i could work with children. he was wrong!

take care
hugs x

Its very individual. I’m 55 and have not worked during chemo. After 3 operations and an infection at the start of all this, I wanted to give my body the best possible chance for myself and my family and I do not feel I could have coped with the stress of quite a big job while managing the side effects of treatment (8 cycles).

I realise I am lucky to have a supportive employer and also not being financially obliged to work.

People respond very differently to the treatment- some women have much worse side effects than others. So yes do take care and listen to your body.

It does also depend on your job of course, and whether you have some control over the demands, hours, physical environment etc.

Good luck

wouldnt make any plans as yet you can never prepare for chemo it reacts differently to each individual take each day as it comes best wishes

Thanks very much for all your comments! I agree that I want to keep some normality and at least try to keep working to keep sane but like many have said everyone responds differently, so I’ll have to take it as it comes. Just don’t like the uncertainty! Get my results from my op on the 10th September, so I’ll find out then what treatment I’ll be having. xxxx

I really understand your desire to keep working and keep some normality. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to as I had a severe reaction to the chemo but everyone is different and there are many women who do carry on working and looking after their kids etc. I would talk to your employers and go for the most flexible approach possible. How you feel after the first chemo might not be the same as after the third so that flexibility may be necessary. If you can do any work from home that would be helpful too.
I know we can’t live in a bubble but the other thing to think about is infection risk particularly when your white cells are at their lowest. If you have to use public transport for example you may want to avoid the time they call the ‘nadir’ when the cells drop right down. Again it all depends how your body reacts etc.

The way I looked at is was that the treatment was the priority. Anything else during that time was a bonus.

I hope it goes well and you’re able to carry on as you wish.
Elinda x

Peoples reactions to chemo are very different as are other peoples perceptions of it. I returned to work today after having a few days off after my first chemo on Friday. Someone commented in a very surprised voice that I looked “normal”! I don’t know if she expected me to come in looking bald, pale and tired already but luckily i haven’t experienced any bad side effects yet. And at the end of the day I am still the same person I was a month ago before I found out I have cancer so why shouldn’t I look the same?! Obviously I am going to look different eventually but I’m hoping to carry on my life as normal as long as my body will allow.

I am really impressed by the comments made on this subject.( I am retired so the issue didn’t arise for me: I think I might have coped OK during FEC but maybe would have needed 2 days plus the week-end to cope with Tax.)
People do react differently to chemotherapy; also the drug regimes prescribed to help with the side effects are more fine-tuned by some oncologist than others - but to continue to work , especially full-time is pretty amazing in my book . I think it is a real triumph of mind over matter; we all know how we surprise ourselves sometimes by what we CAN cope with- it is only afterwards that we wonder how we did it.
I’m sure those of you who have managed to keep on working , even if you felt pretty rough and physically drained , will have still felt a glow of satisfaction that you have shown the horrible cancer that IT is not in charge of YOU… You are still a ‘working person’ - not just a BC patient - what a boost!
Good luck to you all

I have carried on working through 3 FEC so far.
I only work part time and it is office work, so not physical. I have my treatment on a Friday which gives me the weekend to get over the steroids (which stop me sleeping very well). Have been lucky with very few side effects so far.
If you feel well enough then it keeps your mind off things and allows some normality.

Working and chemo - yes it is possible and will probably do you some good having a focus.

I had chemo. I had 6 weeks off to recover from surgery (mastectomy and then full auxillary clearance) and starting back at work 1 week after starting chemo. I have a very stressful client facing job and drive quite a bit and multi-task a lot.

First session I only needed 2 days to recover, 2nd session 3 days, 3rd session 4 days. Just felt dizzy and sick. when they changed my drugs part way through I starting having problems with memory and my feet were sore. The memory thing made it very difficult to multi-task and it was only at this point that I started to feel that I was able to put 100% into my job. So took 1 week off in 3 to cope with this.

Once i had had my last chemo session, I took 6 weeks off to recouperate - this was a good plan and was needed. After this, I was back at work normally other than working 1/2 days so I could go to Christies in the afternoons for radiotheraphy. All finished and fine now.

Good luck

I found I couldn’t work through FEC chemo. I was struck down by nausea for the 1st 3 days and for the next 7 days I was completely overwhelmed with tiredness. I would gradually get better over the remaining 10 days. Then came the next one!

I certainly never felt well enough, even though I love work, it’s non-physical and know it would have been a great distraction. Just couldn’t do it but it was initially hard to ‘let go’ and allow myself time.

Even now I am still doing part time hours despite the last chemo being in April (I also had surgery in the meantime). But I just can’t manage a full day yet, I find if I do to much I get really stressed as I get so over-tired. Luckily work have been great and paid me throughout and are letting me take as much time as I need.

My experience of FEC so far exactly , pangapanga, I am only on cycle 2 but was hoping to be able to work at least some of the time. If it continues the same I am not well enough for 1 1/2 weeks out of 3 and need that last 10 days to do everything I’ve not been able to in the other weeks.

I can’t do my job in fits and starts, I have a small team of people and deal with customers quite a lot too.

I am worried that they will do too well without me, and things will have moved on by the time I go back… Whenever that is!