I am a nurse and I returned to work In December, on a phased return to which I dictated my hours, I was very lucky there. From April 5th Ive been up to my usual hours, and 12 hour shifts, and over those 4 months I felt my energy improve and now I'm "up to speed" with the fast pace of the ward. I don't think I would have coped so well on a shorter phased return, I made sure I wasnt doing too much too soon.
Bulldogbyrne, You've had a lot more going on health wise than myself, 4 ops is no small issue (I had 2 ops) plus lung ca; Be kind to yourself a bit, its still early days. I was definitely 'slow' at work, my legs were weak and i had to sit a lot, and it took about 3 months till i could even get my head round being in charge again, and Ive been nursing for 20 years!!
You are right, that the workload cannot be made easier, but personal to me, I kept my colleagues updated with everything. Whereas I can understand your reticence to talk about it as you want to forget it, having colleagues on board who actually know what you've been through, will help them to understand the reasons why you are 'slow' and assist you in any way they can. I was pampered, and allowed to sit down, and had so many drinks made for me! They made sure I wasnt handlng or bedbathing heavy patients. And gradually Ive become stronger. My arm used to hurt on just moving a bed or trolley down the corridor, I used to get so short of breath on exertion. With support in the difficult times, health levels will improve.
Charliejack, it seems so wrong what they are doing- overriding you and undermining you. I've got no great advice sorry, but I would definitely be getting my union involved. Dont let them assume that you are not up to the job just cos we've been handed this awful disease, it's not your fault!!!!!!!Why should we be emotionally compromised just cos we've had chemo and surgery? It's made me a stronger person!!!!
I had BC and Lung cancer completed chemotherapy, radiotherapy and have had four operations. The last op was in August 2011 and I am on tamoxifen. I am a nurse and had worked in a nursing home for five months in London, but I have recently relocated to Lancashire and just commenced a full time job but only fixed term contract. I have only been there four weeks but have described myself as being very slow...which is not good on a very busy ward...but as a nurse I am not sure what I can do which will be 'easier'. I feel like the world is on fast forward and I just on slow motion or even slow rewind. What I was very capable of prior seems to be the most hardest thing to do....I thought I had done well 'moving forward' but now I am not sure...I have not really told a lot of my new colleagues my history as I wanted it behind me....but now feel unsure about what to do.
You might find it helpful to read the download available from BCC, it explains the background to BCC's EMPLOY campaign, which offers best practice guidance to employers supporting staff affected by breast cancer and explains employee rights under UK disability discrimination legislation. If you would like to read this just click on this link:-
I hope its helpful.
Best wishes Sam, BCC Facilitator
I have been off work 9 months had 6 cycles of chemotherapy, 3 wks of radiotherapy daily, double mastectomy and lymph clearance. I plan on a phased return to my nursing job however when speaking to my employer have been told my job prior to BC was unsuitalbe for me to now do as emotionally too demanding, it has been suggested a lighter job role, this means that my collegue will benefit from a pay rise and grade rise as she no longer has me to compete with. They are planning to train her in areas I am already trained in and competant to do. They have agency staff doing my job in my absence so the need for someone in this role is paramount to the service. I feel very aggreived and pushed out of my job. I feel angry too and wondered what my rights are to fight this decision under the DDA, if anyone can advise please do all replies gratefully received. Charliejack
I handed my notice in the day after my bc diagnosis. I knew I would not be able to do it, as a very physical job too.
Thejob rather overtook my life and I delayed goin to the doc's for the bc, when I should have gone sooner. So, the job had already taken too much from me. However I was trying to get independant from my ex, and that's why it was So important to me, it gave me some self-esteem.
But there is a time when we have to realise that it is just not possible and we have to throw the towel in. I completely understand where you are coming from Choccie and understand your decisions and I know you have had loads of other stuff to cope with too.
Oh, dear. what a lot we have to put up with!
work gets harder not easier every day!
We have had loads of changes in the last few months and my brain can not keep up with it !
I used to multi task and not think about it now I have to write everything down.
I have to deal with the public and it is almost like everyone with Cancer homes into me!!!!
Most week ends I worry about the next week and how to get through another week of forgetting stuff !!
Thanks for the post Hymil. Will try and remember to use pencil as loads of crossing out in pen! Hoping you're doing well x
My late father who had always been a keen crossword man but struggled with all things wordy when he got secondaries in his brain, he went onto Soduku when he was doing his chemo and it really helped him stay sane. Fast forward a few years and I tried it while waiting for my radiotherapy appointments (typically an hour or so each day, they never ran to schedule) and it worked for me, felt really good when i was able to tackle the medium level and then the harder ones. It does help train you to work systematically, double check everything and not make assumptions or jump to conclusions, all essential habits in most workplaces. Little bite-size acheivements, baby steps but very good for confidence and self esteem! Tip, use a pencil and rubber, not a biro.
Hi Chalee, sorry to hear you're feeling low. I'm worried about going back to work as my memory and concentration are not good. I didn't have chemo after MX but know Tamoxifen has affected me. I have to take exams when I go back and don't think I can do it. Trying to sharpen my brain with crossword puzzles. You are not alone x
Unfortunately even 8 years since the end of my chemotherapy I still suffer from poor memory, hopeless spacial awareness and clumsiness. Resulting in lack of confidence and fairly low self esteem.
I've made so many mistakes at work it's a struggle to avoid being labelled the shop idiot. I'm so tired of it.
I had 12 round of chemo which, since reading about chemo brain, I realise has had an effect. But I think having been on tamoxifen and then anastrozole for 8 years and the resultant lack of oestrogen in my system that has caused the long lasting symptoms.
After so many years since my 'recovery' it's not something I want to discuss with my colleagues. It does sound like a poor excuse.
I'm actually having a bit of a low spell right now (hence my coming back to the Forum for reassurance!)and have had a blub reading this thread.
Thankyou ladies for telling your stories. It's good to know I'm not alone.x
I too went through this and it does get better. I'm 20 months post treatment now and just about feel I'm in charge again.I work 3 days a week but have cut my hours down and finish at 3pm. instead of 6pm. which has made a huge difference.Memory still isn't as good as before but it is getting better and takes a bit longer to register. I do still get tired and try to rest if I'm having a rough week.
There is a great article by Dr.Peter Harvey called "Life after Treatment" which I found somewhere on this site and it just explains how you feel. It will show you that you are not alone.
Give it time, it does get better but it's so frustrating. xx
Rational? I'm anything but rational at the moment, but I do put on a good show...
2012 has not been a lot of fun so far, apart from the odd day here and there (like making pancakes).
Aww Choccie, sorry to hear this. I think its because you always sound so rational and supportive of everybody that you seem so.....sheesh can't think of the word!!
I only work 3 days and have to say I wish everybody who finds full time work so stressful could do this. Its great for work-life balance and I don't get as stressed as I know I would if I was full-time. And I find working from home is not what its cracked up to be.
Hope your month off sees you right.
I chickened out and did it by email instead. I had a lovely reply, and will arrange to meet up and hand things over. I feel very sad that it was necessary, but it most certainly WAS necessary.
Still have to do a bit of a handover of the unfinished stuff, but considering the rubbish I've been dealing with (or not) recently, it was the only sensible choice and has definitely taken the pressure off. I'm going to give myself a month or so to recover and then put the work in to finding something permanent where I have to go into an office rather than working from home, as I'm not disciplined enough to actually get on and do the work that I need to do...
Hang on in there, things might improve! When I first returned to work in January 2011 I found it an absolute nightmare due to my poor memory and inability to concentrate. And since I'm an engineer working on nuclear power stuff it's rather important to be able to concentrate and remember things!
But my brain gradually improved - it's not back up to where it was before BC and the delights of Tamoxifen & Zoladex but it's not far off. Like many of you have said, initially I feared that I wouldn't be able to do my job any more, but over time I've managed to get reasonably on top of it again.
I was "lucky" and didn't have chemo, I would guess if you've been through the rigours of chemo it will take even longer to bounce back.
So give it time, if you can. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be given the necessary time to recover.
There is a 4-letter word which throws knocks at us, it begins with "L" and ends with "E" and there is a big "IF" in the middle.
We'll all muckle through , no matter what if.
That's a very big step to take, I know you have wisely given it a week to simmer but have you had any advice or help during that time or been able to look for possible compromise solutions, ways to drop the pressure at all? Basically it seems to be somthing you are being driven to for health reasons, so is there a way to make it appear less voluntary and give yourself more financial rights? I was lucky that there was an early retirement option made available to me at just the right time, but could not have afforded to just give my notice. Pension's not great (I was with them 25 years but mostly part-time) but it bridges the gap till I can work out what to try and do next. Praying all goes well for you.
A week or so ago I wrote an email to my boss (I'm a contractor) admitting failure. I didn't send it, but I'm going to have to now. I'm convinced that Tamoxifen has greatly affected my resilience and my ability to just flipping well get on with things whatever life throws at me. Going cold turkey with oestrogen must be a helluva shock to the system, and I don't think my system's enjoying it much. I feel so much more vulnerable, have no confidence in my own decisions, and find it really hard to come up with the right words - a big problem for a technical author. So tomorrow will be an interesting day as I'm going to phone my boss, who has been really brilliant through the last year, and admit my failure and my inability to do the job I was hired to do, and take the pressure off. (It does, of course, just add to the financial pressures, but I need to look at my priorities.)
I'm struggling too. I finished radio in September andI did a phased return starting at 5 hours a day but was back to full time working within 5 weeks. I was really struggling. I used my annual leave to work 4 days aweek but since Jan, I am back working full time with 2 and a half hours daily travel. I have also been 'loaned' to another department 4 days a week so I am working with new people. I'm finding it do difficult. My memory is terrible. On friday I left home and returned 4 times as I had forgot various things. I have to keep notes and reminders for everything. I get so frustrated with myself and then irritable. I just seem to be going round in the same circle. I really hope it's not the tamoxifen as I don't think I can cope for 5 years.
I have had some really good support from my local cancer support centre. They have referred me to a physiological therapies service and I have my first telephone consultation tomorrow
There is also a really good info. Leaflet on 'cancer related cognitive disorder,. It's available from www. Lymphomas.org.uk. There are so many symptoms listed that I can resonate with. It's some comfort to know that it is beginning to be recognised as an actual disorder. It does say that most people find their symptoms are much better or have gone completely a year after treatment . I was hoping that meant a year after chemo as I can see that end in sight.
I initially thought it was zoladex causing theses side effects but I think it just conincided with my return to work and me realising how poor my memory, concentration, confusion etc was...
My GP wasn't very helpful when I had a mini break down in his surgery. He gave me 3 options, continue with meds and put up with side effects, stop the zoladex or start anti depressants. I wasn't happy with any of the options, hence the psychological therapies.
Will check in and let you know how it goes
The only comment that I would make is that, for most of us, it's early days still.
I finished rads in September and was back full time by the end of Oct, but was absolutely shattered at the end of the day, found it difficult to concentrate and even forgot to write things down so I didn't forget them!
Things are gradually improving - I still have 'flat' days and times when I'm there in body only, but my mojo is definitely on its way back.
I think that I've been quite lucky all the way through my treatment - no major post op complications, no horrific SEs during chemo, etc. Also I live alone - it may have some disadvantages, but it has meant that I haven't had to cope with keeping a family going, etc. Even now, if I feel I need to recharge my batteries at the weekend, I can spend a guilt-free morning in bed with a pot of tea and a book - in fact the cat thinks it's a brilliant idea.
This is a real 'me too' moment for me. Finished treatment November and did phased return Dec to Jan. Now back to my full hours and really struggling. Most alarmingly I am now finding driving tricky. Concentration not good. Three times I drove off at night with no lights on. I've clipped kerbs several times too.
At work I am now suffering from anxiety and a huge lack of self belief but am unable to say to my boss that I am struggling. All I've said is that fatigue is making things hard. Well she has seen me fall asleep in the middle of a meeting too.
I'm 45 and was pre meno before Tamoxifen. Ended up talking with OH at weekend about either coming off Tamoxifen or retiring at 55! I cannot see a way around this at the minute.
Thank you ladies for your honesty and experiences. It's just what makes this site so great.
Sweet heart you just need to relax yourself and find a way out of you. I know coping with this situation is really hard but that not impossible. All you need is to trust your self. have faith in you and give your self a chance.
I can also relate to an awful lot that has been said here - in the last few weeks I have done so many stupid things - last week on Wednesday I left my laptop in my hotel room, and one of the local managers had to drive me to fetch it, wasting an hour of their day, then on Thursday when I checked out I left my blackberry behind - just as well I will be back there tonight to collect it, but these are just the tip of the iceburg. I don't remember things - I forget that I have been involved in meetings/decisions and will swear blind that I know nothing about it - then find an e-mail that tells me otherwise. I cannot go on like this much longer without someone picking up the fact that I am not really very good at my job anymore!I have also developed lymphodeoma, which is making me very concerned about travelling, and using my laptop. I didn't have a phased return - was back full time immediately after rads, but really feeling like I need a break now. I hadn't thought about Tamoxifen being a possible contributor to these problems...
At least I know I am not the only one that feels this way!
You are not alone, Eleni
Im still on a phased return, I deal with the public a lot. I have lost so much confidence in talking to public and staff, I find it hard to be comfortable with decisions ive made, Stupid mistakes in forgetting to sign for things and being chatty and smily for 8 hours is very tough!
When any emotive subject is brought up ( not necessarily cancer), I get all shivery and goosebumps, Ive changed so much. BUT I do love my job, and I am getting there, slowly.
I seem to need things to be on even keel lately, cant cope well with rocky waters, I often just want to be on my own away from everyone, even though I love being around everyone!
And physically, my stamina is so low compared to pre-BC.
I dont know if others are the same, but I cant cope with being thirsty anymore. I used to run around and feel thirsty at work, but carry on regardless,; now however, I need to stop often for drinks, I get a sense of panic if I havent access to drinks, I'm always carrying a bottle of water in my bag, its become more important than my make-up mirror, lol
That does sound a very constructive approach Jo, and Nottsgal you're right that Eleni's boss would probably be really upset that she has had to be so worried, as the boss does sound very supportive.
The tamoxifen affects some of us more than others, mentally; I found even the simplest tasks at work really uphill to concentrate, and when they moved sideways me to a comparable role in an "easier" sub-dept I found the transition so hard to adapt to. And yet some people sail through on it. I got an option to retire, and took it; so grateful that I got out without making any serious mistakes, but now at home I'm continually going out without my purse, or my phone, or my newish reading specs (hello middle-age!) writing my shopping-list or job-list then losing it; and getting organised to achieve anything is a huge struggle. Three years ago, pre BC, I was juggling cancer treatmnet, work, an elderly parent who needed to move into a home, and an A-level teenager, now I can't seem to get it together at all. And I'm not even on the tamoxifen anymore as I couldn't handle it. I do wonder if I'm a bit depressed and with the losses of cancer, body image, work, finance blahblah that would be quite likely but that doesn't help cope with the practicalities. I know medication would just dope me out and make me less able to cope, but CBT is a really good idea.
Eleni, for a practical possibility, would you be able to drop your hours a bit, go to four days maybe skip wednesdays and not have to do five days at a stretch? Then you would not be so tired by friday?
I know exactly how this feels. I am an accountant and oversee a large client portfolio which involves a lot of multi-tasking, organising, juggling.
I returned to work on a part-time basis after 9 months off. I went back to a lower role to get me back in the swing of things. After 4 months I was handed back a client portfolio, albeit different to the one I had before.
Over recent months I have become more aware of issues that I am having. Lack of memory, inabilbity to organise myself, probelms with sentence formation in written work. As you can imagine, these issues are causing me great problems with being able to do such a high level role.
I have been talking to my HR manager about it who is trying to see if my firm will pay for any cognitive behavioural therapy to give me some tools to get around this. But in the meantime, I am frustrated with myself and feel I cannot perform the role I am employed to do. My GP has told me I have classic mental systems of the menopause, which at 38 is not something I want to hear. Tamoxifen is the cause of this.
I have also gotten behind with my work load as it is taking me longer to do things as I find it difficult to concentrate. So do I spend my weekends working to catch up but this goes against the need to have a break from work. I find myself getting upset as I feel that I cannot perform my role as I once did.
I am hoping that they can make adjustment to my workload as I am currently stressing over this, which is something I don't want to be doing having had breast cancer!
Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I feel far less competent than before I had bc. I went back to work in June and did a phased return. I am still having herceptin every 3 weeks so I am supposedly only doing a 35 hour week.
I have made stupid mistakes - one on some figures I thought I had double checked, and once going out without my purse. I parked in a multi-storey car park, went to a meeting, then back to the car and realised no money (or cards) to pay for parking.
I felt I wasn't contributing as much as I used to but my boss said he would rather have the contribution I am making than not have me there (like when I was on chemo).
Try not to be so hard on yourself. By Friday you were probably tired and more likely to make mistakes. It's often difficult to spot your own mistakes because you read what you expect to read not what is actually on the page. If possible, when you've finished something, do something else for half an hour then print out the piece of work and check it line-by-line. If you feel you're losing concentration, look away from the page for a few minutes than re-focus. The other thing is, your boss would probably be gutted to think you'd been worrying all weekend. And you wouldn't have wanted him / her to have avoided telling you about the errors by getting someone else to correct them or something, would you?
It's hard when we're not as good as we were but I try to think that even now I'm still better than some colleagues, so perhaps I'll settle for adequate.
I returned to work 7 months ago after treatment and slowly built up to full time. My employers were incredibly supporting but I found it difficult to get back into the swing of things as much had changed in my absence. With the start of the new year I was full time and feeling really positive. However, I keep making really stupid mistakes - yes, we all do but I am not working as well as I know I am (or was) able. On Friday my boss had to return work to me 3 times with mistakes - which I had spent a long time checking and I hadn't spotted them. I am totally stressing about going in tomorrow. I hate feeling that I'm a problem but I love (and need) my job. Has anyone else had to deal with this???