when to return to work????

when to return to work???

when to return to work??? I was dx last November 2005 with early stage breast cancer and my GP signed me a note to claim Incapcity Benefit so I could concentrate on treatment. Following three lots of surgery, I completed my chemo in April. I was looking forward to trying to find some sense of normality again after the chemo (whatever that is??) but I feel terrible. I have trouble rising before 10am and By four ’ clock I feel so fatigued I have to have another lie down! Emotionally I feel all over the place. My GP is putting pressure on me to return to work but I dont feel ready. I feel that if it wasnt for the fact that I am claiming incap benefit he wouldnt be dropping hints all the time. Its got to the point that I dont like going to the surgery beacuse I know he will bring it up and make me feel like some kind of fraud or weakling. The thing is I couldnt afford to do part-time (I would be better off on benefits) and I dont think Ive got the energy to do full-time work ither and Im only aged 30!!! I was wondering when other people returned to work and if your GP put pressure on you to do so.

hi stella i was dx in january with early stage breast cancer, i had wle with lymph node removal about nine i think, luckily they were clear. i had five weeks of radiotherapy, finished four weeks ago. i didnt have chemo. now taking arimidex. i havent been back to work since being dx. just been docs yesterday and got a sick line for another two months. im on half pay from work and also getting incapacity benefit. i feel very emotional too and still getting pain in boob and arm. i also feel quite low and get sore joints and stiffness due to the tablets. i seem to be getting worse instead of better!! you really shouldnt feel pressurised about going back to work, its up to you and how you feel, recovery can be a long process. everyones different but you have to listen to your body and do whats best for you. my doc at first ended my sick line two days after rads finished!! but i said i wasnt ready so she gave me a month. saw a different doc yesterdsay and he had no hesitation in giving me one for two months.
and please dont let the doc or anyone make you feel like a fraud or weakling, ok!! you are not.! thats whats great about this site, we all understand each other.
my work is good, i know people who have been off for a long time and went back part time, but on full pay, until they got back into it. but dont know if a lot of places do that. anyway, stella, be strong and know that we are all here for you. take care.
annie x

work Hi Stella,
I was dx last sept,had chemo first finnished end of jan,had wle & node clearence end of feb and just finnished rads,i have been on sick leave for 9 months and was going to try and get back to work part time the end of august but like you i have trouble getting up and getting motivated.im so tierd all the time and need a nap in the afternoon so i carn`t see how i can go back yet,i think most people have 12 months of.
I am lucky that my employer has been very understanding,and have told me not to go back until i feel i can and then they have agread that i can ease my self back slowly by doing part time,if i can shake the fatigue id be fine,bluebell.


I was diagnosed July 05 but as I was currently on maternity leave - this meant my “sick leave” didn’t kick in until my official return to work date of January 06. I finished chemo end of Jan and rads end of March - I went back to work on a 3 day week (2 days working 1 day holiday) end of May.

For me I now know I went back too early - apart from the fact that I would have loved to spend some quality time with my daughter (as last year was taken over with hospital etc) but as I’ve gone back to work part time and I was on full time - I’m picking up less money by going back to work than by staying off a further month.

With hindsight (and isn’t it a good thing!) I should have had at least one-two further months off. I only really had 5 months off with my “illness” and as I’ve booked a holiday for July - maybe I should have gone back to work in August to give me more time to come to terms with actually going back.

Take as much time as you can - it’s not as if we wanted to get this disease. The only other way I would have taken time off work is if I won the lottery - and that won’t happen as I don’t do it!


returning to work Hi Stella
Just be careful and don’t return until you are ready. I finished FEC chemo in February and returned early March then started on Herceptin every 3 weeks for a year at end of March - now in July feel completely drained with millions of emotions - just be careful i’ve now had to have a couple of weeks off to get my head straight.

I now money situation is hard but your health is more important
Hope this helps

Permitted work! Hi Stella

I finished my chemo at the end of April this year, I lost my last job through BC and never thought anyone would employ me again. I was on incapacity benefit and 2 weeks after finishing treatment I was offered another job! I perhaps started back too soon, but was frightened that I wouldn’t be given another chance to work.

So I am now doing 2 days a week, max 15 hours, and I am able to still get incapacity benefit so long as I dont earn more than £80.00.

I know that it isn’t much but it all helps. When I do the full 7.5 hours I am very tired and all my bones ache (Im on Arimadex) sometimes when Im filing and its quite low down I have a job getting back up again!

I must be honest, it isnt easy, but when I am at work it is the only time that my mind doesnt start to wander, and I do feel slightly more ‘normal’
for a short time.

Only you know when you are ready, but perhaps if you are allowed to slowly get back into it through permitted work it will help.

Good luck

Debbie x

Hi Stella
Your post made me cross and I just had to reply. I cannot believe your GP is being so awful. Mine was fab. I was off work for 1 year and 2 months and returned in Feb. this year. I’m 37 and a teacher. The headmaster at my school was great and gave me a phased return so I built up to full time over about 6 weeks. Not everyone in work was so understanding and someone asked me in november why I wasn’t back yet if the treatment was over and successful! I finished for the summer last week and I’m shattered. I went back because of money but my GP felt I should have been off longer and even said that if I was still asking for sick lines in a year’s time, he’d be more than happy to write them. I am trying to move on mentally from BC but physically it takes a long time and I really think you musn’t go back until you feel well. Perhaps there is another GP in the practice you could see. They really should be more understanding.
Good luck


I think the work issue is quite complex. Some have mentioned they actually feel more tired and less able to work the longer they are away. I think this is common, regardless of the treatment or illness we suffer from. The evidence suggests that the longer people are away from work, the harder it is to go back and the reasons for not working often change from physical to emotional.

I know we are all different but I think we have one thing in common, that is we want to move on from this illness and return to normality. I think the GP who is encouraging return to work is trying to help you achieve this and they may have your best interest at heart.

Ask your GP for more help to feel in the right frame of mind to go back to work. The Department for Work and Pensions also have people who will take a personal interest in helping you. You’ve done the really hard bit already, remember. Good Luck


Hi Stella Hi Stella,

Dx April 2003. Had mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the last of which finished in January 2004. Went back to work in March 2004. In hindsight it was too early; I should have taken another month off.

I’ve talked to a number of people who have returned to work exactly a year after diagnosis.

So, it’s not surprising that you are still feeling fatigued.

Ask your oncologist or breast care nurse about how long people take off work. They may give you more realistic expectations than your GP.

What you don’t want to do is to go back too early, get exhausted and then have to have more time off. That would be bad for your health and would mess up your incapacity benefit.

And consider changing your GP for a nicer one. You don’t have to put up with him.

Best wishes,


phased return to work I went back to work after each operation and worked thru radiotherapy although I only had 2 ops and no chemotherapy. My employers were happy to pay me full time for reduced hours from Feb when I returned to work after the second op until June when I returned from a week’s holiday which helped me to regain my confidence. I found it very difficult to go back into the office after I’d been diagnosed, for emotional reasons, but everyone was fantastically supportive, and it gives you less time to dwell on illness and also job satisfaction and companionship outside ill health. Having said that, I was able to work indoors in an excellent office close to where I had radiotherapy, in fact within walking distance. If you have a physically strenuous job it may be different.

I was very anxious at times, cried with my boss as well and did some work from home. But I am still glad I went back to work so soon. I needed the money too. the worst thing about returning to work was the feeling I wouldn’t be able to cope with people all knowing about the breast cancer, and wondering if I’d cope. There were new people around who knew nothing about it so that was good, although I had to catch up on them all and learn new names.

Good luck, if I were you I’d ask to see occupational health at your workplace and discuss a phased return,


tough question I would say don’t go back to work until you feel ready.

In hindsight I think I went back to work too soon. I was dx may 05 and had chemo first starting june05. I worked through chemo having one week in every three off and my employers let me do reduced hours.

I had a mastectomy in Oct 05 and rads started in Dec. I finished rads in Jan and went back to work ONE week later on a graduated return, building up to full time by March. I have to say, I’m really struggling. At first it was through tiredness but now I’m starting to feel stressed and it’s more emotionally challenging. I find I’m slower at my work that I used to be and my concentration and thought processes and memory are much slower.I’m on tamoxifen so that may be the reason but I burst into tears at the drop of a hat and I tend to do it if I get stressed at work - it happens quite frequently at the moment and is getting quite wearing now.

I’m wondering whether to get signed off again, but part of me worries, as someone has mentioned, that being off work for an extended period may make it difficult to go back again.

I really would urge you not to go back too soon.

I strongly urge anyone to think carefully about returning too soon. I only took a month off after bi-lat mastectomy & worked through chemo & radio. I felt reasonably ok then but mentally am now awful. Everyone believes that you are back to normal and you dont seem to get much understanding if problems kick in at a later stage. I feel the emotional effects of BC are much stronger than I would have believed.

Hi Stella,
like you my doctor is keen for me to return to work – and I haven’t finished chemo yet. I took 4 weeks of for the operation – then returned to work. I had planed to work through chemo, however I wasn’t well enough. My doctor originally signed me of for 2weeks, when I went back and asked for another sick line, he asked were I thought all the time off was leading to. I managed to get another doctor from the practise for my next visit- she expects me to be off work for at least another 6 weeks. So if you use a big practise try and get another GP – it might help.

Best wishes Glo