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Chemo and work

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Member

Chemo and work

Hello Everyone out there,

 

Did you attempt to work during your chemo, at least part-time, and if so, what was your experience? Did you find it possible, and if so, how hard was it? Did you succeed? I saw my oncologist this morning and he said it would be possible to continue working if I wanted to, but clearly there's no predicting how I'll respond to the chemo.

 

If you did continue to work occasionally, how did you handle sick/fit notes? And was your employer happy for you to work while somewhat under par, or would they rather have seen you disappear for the entire period of your treatment?

 

I'm finding it very hard to decide how to handle this - would really value your experiences. My job entails a lot of creativity and generating ideas, as well as contact with people from in and outside the organisation.

 

Thanks to all who feel able to help!

13 REPLIES 13
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Community Champion

Hi Stella

Don't beat yourself up about returning to work. Be kind to yourself and allow plenty of time to recover. You are not letting anyone down and don't allow people to make you feel like that. You are going through a lot of treatment which can be physically and emotionally draining. 

Is there anything you can do at home, which you can do at your own pace and make you feel productive?

Sending a hug x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi just wanted to say how much it helped reading your reply to this.  I am having #7 of 8 chemo treatments next week.  I was determined to work through  my treatment but after the first one was hospitalised with infection and have been unable to work since.  I have been feeling like such a let down, and so guilty about being unable to work.  Whilst I am sorry to hear your experience had been similar to mine. It's good to know I'm not the only one.  So many other people seem to cope with the chemo better than I have.  My oncologist says I have had a particularly bad reaction, but I still feel like a total let down to my employer and my husband. At the end of my chemo I have mastectomy surgery and radiotherapy so my return to work will be some time away yet.  I still can shake this feeling of uselessness .

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Member

Thanks to everyone for your helpful responses. I'm now a week into cycle 1 and have decided to work from home as much as I can, but not brave the rush hour on the tube in the first instance (Central Line means standing room only at most times of day, and I just don't think I have the strength).  I hope that'll be a viable solution over time - so far the chemo has not made me sick, but chemo brain fog was there full throttle on the first full day after!

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Member

Hi Marie, i had my first chemo about three weeks ago, i took 3 days of self certified sick and then worked from home. I have an understanding employer and they're happy gor me to do what I can. The advantage to working from home is that i was able to have a nap in my lunchbreak :-). If I couldn't work from home I think things may have been different, i had upset stomach and nose bleeds so commiting would have been horribly stressful and potentially very icky ;-). I hope to keep working throughout the chemo but will take it each round at a time....if my side effects get worse then i wont work as much. My advise would be speak to HR and be open with them, try to keep managers up to speed with what you think you'll need off and explain this might change. Hopefully you'll have an understanding employer, and do what feels right for you. We need our strength to fight this! (Hope that helps, and good luck with whatever you decide)
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Hi Marie,

 

I am FEC T and have just had my first chemo 2 days ago.

 

I work for a big family owner company and as soon as I was diagnosed asked me to speak to their out sourced Occupational Health company. I was really reluctant to do so at first, as my original treatment was was lumpectomy and radiotherapy which was not really have caused.me much of an issue as fitted with in t 😕 heir sick leave entitlements. Since my treatment now includes chemo and more surgery I have had a very long chat with my line manager, completed HR forms and the OccH as well. 

I work as a Mortgage and Protection broker based in a busy town centre estate agency branch typically working 10 hour days. It is open plan so the risk of infections is quite high so they have agreed that it required I can move to another branch that is smaller and has a separate office with in it for me to work. I call all client as before appointments so am able to check if they have coughs cold etc before they come in and can reschedule than with a colleague if they  have.

They are also happy form me to work from home on days when I am not 100% as a lot of my work is paper work and online. When it gets really bad they are happy for me to mentor some of the new advisors and work as a team with them so that they can help me too.

 

My advice to you would be to have a good chat with your employer, either with or without HR to see how flexible they can be. OccH have been good as they have sent out guidelines to them regarding their legal obligations t  me under the various acts as well as guideline on how to deal with employees with  cancer. Also as my company only have 28 days standard (full sick pay) then SSP, with some additional pay at the managements discreation (very open and vague) OccH have asked them to be more specific as I am the main bread winner and need the peace of mind of knowing how much I will be paid and how long for. The company have now done that and have been horrendous considering I have only been with them a year. They treat each case on its own merit so because I have performed well they are looking at the long term benefit to them of looking after me now.

 

Hope that helps a little,

 

Regards Fiona x

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I'm the same combo as yourself  Marie Else,

 

Finished FEC-T now but continuing with Herceptin.

 

Hope it helps.

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Hi Marie. I had the same chemo combination - 3 x FEC, followed by 3 x T with Herceptin, followed by 15 x Herceptin only. I worked throughout my treatment, but I am fortunate in being able to work from home if needed. With FEC, I worked from home for the first 3 days after the treatment, mainly because of nausea and indigestion. I also felt a bit spaced-out for the first couple of days. I did the same for the T part - no nausea but bone and joint aches with that one. I was fine with the Herceptin on its own. I think my advice would be to see how you feel once you start your treatment - everyone reacts differently and it's impossible to predict how you will feel, or what SEs you may or may not have. Another thing to consider is that chemo causes fatigue, and that's cumulative over the treatments. I have a desk job so it's not physically demanding, but I did struggle with fatigue towards the end of my chemo. I wish you all the best for your treatment.

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Member

Thank you for all your responses. I should have mentioned that I'm going to have three cycles of FEC and three of T and Herceptin. Clearly people who have responded so far have had quite a range of different treatments - anyone with the same combination out there who can tell me about their experience?

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I have my final chemo on Friday (4x EC + 4x Accelerated Taxol) and have worked full time throughout, with one day off sick when I felt really tired, and the occasional day working from home.  I sit at a desk all day so getting up and coming in to work is not really a problem.  I did feel awkward when I started wearing a wig but no-one commented and not many people at work even know I am going through treatment.

 

I have adjusted my working hours so that I work 10am-6pm to avoid the really crowded trains at rush hour so I can get a seat on the train as well which helps. 

 

I'd echo the comment below about the benefits of *having* to get up and go out.  For me not working at all has not really been an option as the chemo has gone on for five months anyway and I can't last that long with no money!

Member

Hi Marie Else

 

I am half way through 4 cycles of EC chemotherapy and am managing to work - I am self employed so needs must and all that!

 

As with Sarah04 I find the first week after treatment a write-off and am no good for anything until day 8/9. After that I can make it into the office and work every day from 9:30-2:45. I work in a very small office and most of the time am on my own, so no risk of infections.  My job is also mind numbingly boring so I dont need to worry about using my brain too much 🙂 If it were any more challenging I'm not sure I would cope.

 

I definitley think that HAVING to get up and dressed is actually quite helpful and stops me from being a weepy sofa-bound mess (although I don't admit that to myself very often)

 

Good luck with whatever you decide.

 

Jo x

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Member

Hi Marie

I am working through chemo. I do only work part time though (2 days a week)and I am office based. I don't work the first week but I work weeks 2 and 3. The chemo side effects last till about day 9 so the first week is a write off. For me personally work is a bit of a lifesaver. My husband works 11 hour days and most of my friends work too so if I didn't work I would spend a lot of time on my own. Work gives me that sense of "normality" .
I am very lucky that my employer has been fantastic. I'm on full pay and have felt no pressure at all to be there.
I would say see how you feel and if you don't feel up to it then take the time to rest and don't feel guilty if you find you can't work. We are all different and what works for one person won't work for others. I have been lucky so far, apart from the side effects the first week, I haven't suffered any infections etc although the fatigue has increased with each round.
Good luck with whatever you decide
Sarah x
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Member

Hi Marie Else,

 

I wasn't able to work at all through Chemo even part time. The side effects, for me, were so severe I was bedbound for most of my cycles. In addition I was in hospital for an infection in the first cycle and then had infections on the following 2. 

 

The cycles were supposed to be 3 weeks with the third being a "recovery" week, however I never recovered so we changed to a 4 weekly cycle.

 

Dealing with the side effects for me was very hard. The worst was nausea and vomiting and fainting. Although there are drugs to counter the sickness I found it hard finding anyone willing to work through all the alternatives to find one that would work. It was a huge learning curve for me and I had to fight hard.

 

There is no way I could have worked even though my job is mainly at a desk and parts could be done at home. Even if I hadn't been so sick and weak, my brain was full of the cancer and chemo. My mood was good but the whole cancer "thing" took up all of my available thinking. Every step had so many choices or things to learn or things to buy. I would have been rubbish at work.

 

Another thing to bear in mind is how you will feel losing your hair over the course of chemo even if you use a cold cap. Finding wigs and scarves etc takes time. It's just another hassle that may make you self concious and not want to interact with strangers. 

 

Some people manage though. Some have no choice of course and force themselves to do as much as they can. I take my hat off to those who can work through chemo. I couldn't even look after myself, 

 

From these groups I gather some people are able to work on the third week and some are even OK all the way through.

 

Wish there was some way to know in advance how it would pan out.

 

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Community Champion

Hi Marie

I've just finished chemo ( 4 cycles, every 3 weeks) and chose not to work during this time. My job was very physical and I didn't know how reliable I was going to be. And I'm glad I made that decision. I found, and reading on here a lot of others find that the first week after treatment, is extremely tiring. Some days all I wanted to do was sit on the sofa! However, the following 2 weeks are ok, so if you're employer is ok to work with that then go for it. The other thing to consider, is that you must be aware of picking up infections. My job involved working with children so it was a big no no for me! If you work with a lot of other people, you may want to consider that.

I hope this is helpful.

Sue x