Working during chemo

Having read through the posts it seems that some of us can work throughout chemo and others are not so lucky. Does it depend on the type of chemotherapy drugs or the individual? I am a journalist for one of the tabloids and am not sure if I will be up to it. I would welcome any advice.



Hi Amanda

I was not allowed to work during chemo for my protection. I am a children’s nurse and they did not want me catching any bugs when my immune system was going to be comprmised (nor me!). I feel that i could not of worked the day of chemo and for one week after, but could of worked weeks 2 and 3 (infact I did - doing paperwork from home). I think it really depends on how you are feeling from the chemo and what sort of hours you will be doing. Personally I needed some work - just to keep me going and having some sort of normalitly - whatever that is.

Please take care, love

Anne x

Hi Amanda

I was signed of for 10 weeks post mastectomy which included the first epirubicin but returned to work part time the week after it in Feb and now do about 30 hours a week. The steroids which I had to take for the first few days threw sleep into disarray and I settled into waking v early, so I start work at 7.30 am and finish by 1.30ish. I also work at home three days a week. I am tired in the afternoons and sleep sometimes then. I def go to bed earlier than I ever did.

I investigate complaints for a living so my job is largely paper based but my boss recently suggested i could pick up an investigation that needs fieldwork - interviews with people and travel time of 6 hours in total. Err… I don’t think so… i’d be asleep.

As you’ll find out from browsing threads, chemotherapy is incredibly individual in how it affects people. In all honesty, I don’t think you can decide till you have one and see how it feels.

Don’t know how you find talking about it but maybe you can sell the editor a series of features on what breast cancer is about for people doing it… i definitely flinch every time i hear refs to being a victim. Cancer is a careless thorn but it doesn’t have a brain so it can’t choose who it hits… it’s not torturing prisoners - they are victims etc etc…

I know BCC have started a new campaign re employment - maybe worth looking at? My employers were supportive but not all are.

Take care


Hi Amanda

i was very lucky in that I work for an independant family owned company who were happy for me to do pretty much whatever I could manage. On the FEC I was off from Friday [chemo day] till the Monday week and could then do 2 weeks before the next round. I was changed to TAX after three and this wasn’t so good cos the side effects were different and dragged on longer. I went back to work during rads but was then off over Christmas and the whole of January cos of the crippling tiredness that got too much in the end. My doc was happy for me to put myself on the club when I needed to so it worked well for me although with hindsight I think I should have given myself more time off than I did, I was obsessed with being normal and thinking I was fine when really I wasn’t.

I am back to work full time now and although shot to bits on Friday night am coping Ok


Hi amanda
I was just thinking the same thing - just started my chemo this week and thought I would wanna be right back but right now couldnt do much but depending on how it goes I might consider going back part time for the 3rd week after the 10-14 day thing.
Hope things go well for you

I have worked through all my chemo and had 4 lots so far. And I work full time. i usually have the day off when I actually have my chemo as I am at the hospital so long but if i finished early I would go into work. I felt a bit yack one day and went home early. But in 12 weeks that is it. I think it takes my mind off things too. I had FEC first and am now on paclitaxel.

I am so impatient - I want to know everything. I will just have to wait and see how it affects me.

Hi Amanda

I don’t know what kind of articles you write but based on what I’ve read if you do the hard science style colums (sorry am a new scientist reader rather than tabloids) then you might find some of the chemo brain syptoms lead to maybe wanting a second set of eyes proofing for you. If you work in an office you’ll want to be careful about infection but if you work from home and the writing isn’t too mentally taxing you may be able to work a bit.

I start chemo very soon so can’t give the benefit of personal experience yet but I do a very mentally challenging job from home so I will be working as much as I can (self employed, no sick pay for me, that and I love my job) but I’ve told all the people I work with that we’re all going to have to be flexible about what I do and when until we know how I’m personally reacting to the drugs.

That said I have chosen to take supplements to help my analytical brain functions stay in top top shape through chemo (I’m a web programmer with a strong bias in developing systems on the web, ie the kind of systems that build websites rather than websites themselves, 1 wrong semicolon and I break it all :wink:

So try and get some latitude until you know how it affects you.

Do you know what chemo combo you’re on yet?



Hi amanda

We have our own business and i work - I am in the closet re: bc

When i started this i was all for working. Apart from anything else I needed it to keep my brain going as i couldn’t see myself vegging all day.

If you are going to work it’s very important that you can have a flexible arrangement as you simply will have to do what your body says.

E.g. for me
FEC/ Epi
week 1 awful
week 2 very good
week 3 not bad

week 1 good except last day
week 2 awful
week 3 quite good

other people are completely the reverse on the same drugs
some people have a lot of pain on TAX which i don’t get at all

until you start you won’t have a clue how you’ll be. Some people can function completely normally on FEC - I couldn;t have got to work in week 1 as any movement made me feel very sick

you will have some good times and others that are less good and you need to learn how you’ll personally react and until you’ve had it you won’t know …

your brain will go fuzzy from time to time …it’s like premature senility … but it comes back …

I do have to say though … there are major problems with working for me …

* when you are knackered and tryng to work there is no time or no energy left for anything else. I mean housework, going out, anything at all. This is boring and gets you down
* if you have deadlines to meet in your bad week it’s a nightmare as you just don’t/can’t function so it’s mega stressful - doing my quarterly accounts was horrendous

the good thing about it for me is …

* keeping going is good as it’s business as usual and I think it will be easier at the end of this to get back on with normal life
* working motivates me to get up (often with the alarm), put my makeup on, look presentable and just get on with it

I am also lucky that as I am based at home I don’t get exposed to office colds - or have to get on sardine packed trains - these are all considerations too

I also think you need to consider your position and your prospects and how management will react …in some ways it could be better to keep going - on the other if you are going to seriously underperform you might be better off staying away completely… it really depends on the culture of your company and whether you can do a smaller role than usual quite easily

lots of things to consider … it depends on your circumstances really …

good luck
let us know
love FB xxxxxxxxx

Hi, sorry to hear you have joined us but you have a lot of friends now to support you if you wish. Good luck to you.
I am a secondary school teacher and no way can I work because although I am only on my first dose, I cannot predict how I will be at all. The kids need teaching cover so it is easier if I just say no. I cannot change my mind at short notice and not turn up, if you can and have flexibility then you may be ok. I wouldn’t take on anything to huge or different but for some that provides the distraction to help pull you through a wild and reluctant period of your life. I am on the second year of a masters in my spare time and I am finding I cannot read enough or fast enough to keep up my pace. As the others say it does depend on your drugs and the dose dates cannot be moved much to help with deadlines. Depends if you want to nurture yourself or fight like crazy against it?
Lily x

Hey Amanda,

Haven’t had too many probs with work (chemo started March), and cycling to work every day, but slowed down a little on the social side!

Are you freelance or PAYE? You could try negotiating on hours. I’ve sorted things so that I can work from home if I want. But physically being at work has been important in staying focussed and engaged. I don’t like the thought of staying home staring at the walls, but if I need to rest, then that’s what will happen, and it’s all been explained to understanding workmates. Hasn’t happened yet apart from hiding from the rain this weekend…

Don’t take this in a negative way, but if you’re an employee (and you may legally be even if you think you’re freelance) and diagnosed with the b*****d BC, then you have rights under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Are you an NUJ member? Might be worth having a word with your rep re what’s possible in terms of managing workload.

All the best, whatever.

L. x

Hi Amanda

I took the whole of my first chemo cycle off ie three weeks as I thought this would give me a fair assessment of how I was going to be with the rest of the regime. It did, and I found that I was able to work week three of each cycle and do some stuff from home on week two. I must say I am finding the travelling a lot more tiring though.

Louise x