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Return to work? when is the time right?

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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Another update as a lot has happened since my last one. My phased return was going OK. After Christmas and New Year I had 2 weeks holiday during which I caught 'flu, then developed a chest infection and ended up in hospital with exacerbation of asthma. It took me another 2 weeks on steroids and antibiotics before I was able to return to work and I have been struggling since trying to increase my hours each week as planned. I twice had to cancel meetings with my manager and HR re my return to work. When we finally did meet I was told that due to my sickness record over the past year and the fact that treatment is ongoing they considered me unfit to return to my contracted hours/duties and would be terminating my contract. This was a huge shock. The good news is that they have offered me a new contract with reduced hours and lighter duties so I have taken this on and will start in a new role next week. I am very sad at leaving the team and the job I have enjoyed for the last 12 years but I feel I have to start making my health and family more of a priority now. Money wise it cuts my earnings to 1/3 of what they were but we will just have to manage with that.
Jo_BCC
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Posted on behalf of new user Jacqui - Jo,Facilitator

I am an Occ/Health Nurse and am off work curently following a Therapeutic Mammoplasty and symetry on 31st January 13. I start Radiotherapy in 6 weeks but hopefully go back to work in 3 weeks or so on a phased return. After the first week I kept in contact with my colleagues at work and they thought I was crazy but I do believe it is better to keep in touch so that when you do return, you know roughly what is going on. Otherwise you can be like a fish out of water when you do go back. I know we are all different but I do believe that work is good for us when we are up to it. Our bodies will soon let us know so we must be sensible. Don`t forget that once we are back, we are back and we must not overdo it otherwise colleagues will assume we are 100% better,so be fare to them and let them know when you are not feeling too good. They are not mind readers and you owe to yourself.xx

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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Just a bit of an overdue update!
The meeting with OH went well, she was brilliant. We drew a plan for a staggered return to work, starting with 4 hours a day for a month, then gradually increasing it. Last week was my first full week back, which is ok, but I know if I've overdone it.
rosebud50
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi
No one mentions the huge impact all this treatment has on us all and we all react differently.
Going back to work can be a big deal and you should only return when you are ready. Some of the things that helped me were:
1) Go into work for 1/2 day to clear emails with a vague commitment of return in a couple of weeks. This helped me get over seeing everyone again and working out if I could sit on a chair for a few hours. It was nowhere near as bad as I feared.
2) Go back mid-week so the weekend appears quicker
3) Reduced hours help- I go in 1 hour late and leave 1 hour early. Amazing the difference it makes to having more time to sleep.
4) Better weather - the sun today definitely helped. Going to work in the light and coming home in the light.
I find the routine of work helpful in regulating energy and providing something to do. It is a good distraction from all the other medical stuff. It is a deskbound job and I am on light duties. I also try to let people know how I am feeling, so if I am slower then they know and understand. Have had moments when I could not remember anyones name, and moments when I just could not figure out the work. It did pass.
As to feeling guilty, frustrated, ... about not returning. It's enough just to cope with the mechanics of all this treatment never mind all the head stuff.
I hope you feel more energy in the near future and find the right time to return.
drdspg
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi, I am currently feeling rather guilty that I am not back at work and that I am feeling pretty tired (are you a wimp or a bit of a slacker? my inner voice keeps asking) I had a bilateral mastectomy last May and some very complication ridden chemo which had to be stopped early (September) and required further emergency surgery but am on Herceptin and letrazole. I have met with HR and Occ Health who have been helpful and thoughtful. Logically I know what the impact of this kind of treatment is but just feel SO guilty. I was working full time with oncall before the diagnosis. Its also a bit scary jumping back into the water even though it is a job I love with a great team.

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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

You should certainly be referred to Occ. Health. They should ensure that your rights are preserved. In my job I was responsible for staff absence and those who had a legitimate reason were always sympathetically dealt with.... a phased return to work and meetings to deal with any issues that they had.
When I was dx 5 years ago, I too was referred to Occ. Health and they were absolutely brilliant, basically taking their lead from me. If I wanted to go into work they supported me. If I didn't, they supported that too.
I worked in a school and you should have a meeting (under DLA) with your managers who should make provision for your phased return to work. That may mean reduced responsibilities, helping with a comfy chair or a new desk, fewer hours on a sliding scale........whatever.
That's not just in schools. It applies in every workplace.
HJU63
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

No, not in Preston but in the Midlands and being treated at UHCW in Coventry.
As my hair is just sprouting and so just visible I have found a really fabulous wig that I wear out of the house - however, this seems to fool people into thinking that I have not been affected by the treatment, some have commented on how lucky I am to not have had chemo or that I have kept my hair - neither of which are accurate. A great comment on the wig but it does make me feel angry - sometimes I would just love to whip off the wig and tell them about all the delightful SEs of Tamoxifen etc.
I have had time to stop panicking about the return to work and plan to assert myself if I feel the GP is trying to sign me back before I feel I am ready - after all, I have got myself through all this treatment so I know my own body.

JCJ
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I know what you mean about the 100% thing! There's no sitting quietly with a coffee and reading emails while you adjust to being back at work, for us, is there? Especially not with 30 lively 6 year olds!

I have had to bite my tongue a number of times at the (seemily) constant "You are looking SO well" from colleagues. Occasionally I have succumbed to temptation and said "I wish I felt it" because I still get more tired than I used to, and I have less patience!

Do I remember rightly that it was you posting 'anyone in the Preston area?' If so, are you at UCLAN? My daughter did her Psychology degree there! Graduated 2005.
HJU63
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Thank you JCJ. I work at a University, as a lecturer, and so spend much of my time teaching and working with students (often when there is a problem). I suspect that when I return to work students will expect me to be 100% for the time I am in. Colleagues I have met recently (who have not seen me during treatment) seem to think that as I look ok that it is all behind me. I think we have an occupational health facility so will talk to them too. I really don't want to return too early and end up going sick again as management will not cope well with this.

JCJ
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Expect your tiredness to get worse for 2 weeks AFTER rads finishes. Most of the literature states this, and I certainly found it to be true. For me, I was most tired about 10 days after. Indescribable tiredness the like of which I have never known - and I didn't have to have chemo!

I made sure my employer knew this. I started back to work (I work in a school covering classes, by myself, whilst the teachers have their prep time, so there's no going back gently!) 3 weeks after the end of rads on a phased return. I did Tues & Thurs of week 1, Mon, Wed & Fri weeks 2 & 3, Mon, Tues, Thurs & Friday of weeks 4 & 5 and then full time for the last week before we finished for the summer holiday. I then had 6 weeks to properly recover and have been back to my normal hours since September.

I was very nervous about going back too. It felt like starting a new job again, but it was fine and my colleagues were all very supportive, and it was nice to have been missed!

When I saw Occ Health, they said that this was a good phased return and would have suggested something similar, if my HT and I hadn't already come up with it. It helped to not do more than 2 days together, as it gave me time to recouperate in between. My GP didn't want me to even start going back to work until 4 weeks after rads finished, but agreed to 3 weeks, as it meant I could start at the start of the school half term, provided I promised to take it gently and come back for another sick note if necessary.

Rads damages many thousands of cells, which your body then has to go into overdrive to repair - this is why we feel so tired, quite apart from the daily hospital visits - so take time to rest. If you don't allow yourself time to recover properly, both emotionally and physically, you will be playing catch up for months - (or even years!) to come.

It might also be worth mentioning that most of us have a bit of a mental 'blip' when active treatment finishes. A bit like post traumatic shock - when you start to realise what you've been through now the roller coaster has stopped. Returning to work and some 'normality' helps with this, but of course these emotions add to the fatigue.

I hope it works out for you. Don't be hard on yourself and be honest about how you are feeling - you are more likely to get support if you don't pretend everything is just fine, when you are actually feeling kn***ered!
HJU63
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I have been looking forward to returning to work for some time; I have even had discussions about what projects I might work on if not working full-time initially. I guess that I am surprised by how tired I feel just half way through my 20 rads. My family and BCN have been telling me I am pushing myself pretty hard, to slow down and the meeting experience seemed to support their views. Maybe I am just losing my nerve now that the time is getting closer.

SamLee
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I went back to work approx 3 weeks after rads whilst I was about half way through 12 months of Herceptin. I work in an office and went back full time straight away. I also have a 2 hour round commute train journey into London. To be honest I found it very tiring initially, by the end of the week I was totally shattered, so I made sure that I had help with cleaning, washing, ironing etc so I didn't have to worry about any house related stuff.
I used to dash out every third Wednesday for my Herceptin and then go back to work. It was very hard at the time, but I wanted to get back to work so much I persisted.
I didn't work through any of my other treatment as when I had chemo I had it every 2 weeks, not 3 weeks.
You can only listen to your body and if you don't feel up to going back tell your GP. She may be right though, when you get back into work you will be tired but I found I coped because I wanted to be back at work.
Sam

HJU63
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I am currently having RT which is due to finish 21/01 and am signed off work until 07/02. I have not been well enough to work during my treatment which started in April 2012: 2 ops, chemo, 9 weeks of pneumonitis and now rads. Went to see my GP today for more tamoxifen and she was talking as if I would be back at work from the 08/02. I am stunned, and pretty worried as my energy levels and stamina are very low. I popped into work for a 2 hour meeting the other day and was incapable of thinking and speaking at the end as I was so tired. When I told her this she said "You will be more capable than you think once you get back". I feel she is not really listening to me and not appreciating the impact of the treatments over a long period of time. Has anyone else had to deal with an unsympathetic GP? How long after RT did people feel OK to go back to work? What sort of phased return did you have (if any) I am feeling pretty pannicky as I want to be able to return to work and maintain my return in a healthy way. Advice please.

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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Just to update - work has been hard going. I am nowhere near as fit as I thought I was! Even doing minimum hours I am exhausted and feeling quite pathetic.
I'm pleased to say DLA award came through today at higher rates until 2015 so that takes a lot of pressure off me financially. It came as a nice surprise after what Macmillan had said. I may now be able to work less hours or take the retirement option if it all gets too much. It's always good to have options.
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Ist week back at work went OK I think, it was great to catch up with everyone and feel like 'the person who works at . . . . ' rather than 'the person with cancer' for a change. It was hard mentally and physically and adjusting to being an employee rather than a patient wasn't easy. Even though I only did a few hours I was floored by Thursday, very tired and sore.
I also found it more difficult than I thought speaking to people who didn't know why I'd been off. It's hard to know just what to say to people, I'm sure they all thought I'd just been held up at the hairdressers when my new hairdo had taken longer than expected 😉 I've stopped explaining that it's a wig, just can't be bothered, so when anyone comments on my 'do' I just smile and thank them for noticing. I shouldn't let it irritate me when anyone says I look really well and I'm sure they don't mean it that way but I can't help that to me it sounds like they don't believe I am ill. It all adds to the stress.
My chemo brain didn't help me at all. I found myself staring blankly at a computer screen more than a few times and even the simplest tasks were a strain. I can't believe how much I have forgotten in these months and there have been so many changes which I am having to learn all at once. I'm not coping well with going from being one of the best in the business to a clueless newbie. My confidence has definitely taken a knock.
Another positive I have spoken with a Money Matters benefits adviser and she is helping with a claim for DLA. She couldn't understand Macmillan saying I wouldn't qualify and thinks I should have no problem. My GP was happy to complete DS1500 (I didn't read it) so it will go through under special rules. If DLA comes through that will really take the pressure off financially.
catseye
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Best of Luck for next week Weepixie, hope it goes well.
x
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Nina, I had a Macmillan adviser out to talk about DLA and he didn't think I qualified. It may be an option for the future though.

I discussed my return to work with my manager today and agreed I will start back next week on a phased return. We will just have to see how it goes. I have a ton of annual leave owing so I will use that to make up for the hours I don't work. I will have 4 days of public holidays over Christmas/New year and have a 2 week holiday planned in January too so I hope that will ease me back in gently.

On one hand I'm terrified I am going to seem pathetic and useless, on the other I'm quite excited about reclaiming something of my old life and catching up with people I've not seen in a while. I loved my job and I do miss the routine of working. Health wise I fear (and my onc agrees) that I may not ever feel any better than I do now so if this isn't successful or my health worsens I will reconsider the option of ill health retirement which has been left open to me. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I finished chemo and rad mid May after have op on 7th nov 11 I started back on 10th of June only after speaking to my manager who was very surportive, and was paid full wages even though I was on rehab for 4 months working in retail. I was lucky to be able to work at my own pace really only in a surportive roll to others.Don't rush back to work untill you really feel able to I was surprissed how much the treatment had taken it's toll on my body after the first 4hours of working, I know money is a problem I was not able to clam a penny while others not as bad as myself managed to get everything really annoys me. But you must think about your health first.
Jayne_m
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Catseye, to be honest the first week after chemo is foggy and I tend to monitor emails on the smart phone and pass on any that need actioning to a comeptent person. I am normally ok for the 2nd and 3rd week but dont do full days and have lots of tasks that I can do at my own pace with no deadlines which helps.

I have been lucky in the the SE's havent floored me as much as they have many others - mainly just tiredness and foggy achy for the first week of the cycle, I am on 6 x FEC (no T for me).
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

WEe pixie - have you asked re DLA? Some people qualify even if 'only' primary if it debilitates them enuf.
Generally - I was pushed into redundancy / retirement in May 11. Developed secs in aug, and now can't physically work, so don't regret what happened but did at time.
Very difficult cos yes there is disabilty legislation but you need to be strong to pursue it and you're not generally. I recommend a union if you have one or CAB or MacMillan - get someone on your side to do the fighting for you. Don't go back too early whatever you do - it will destroy your self confidence if you 'fail' - don't perform as you / they expect and that a major hurdle to get over. One of my deciding factors in 'accepting' my employers kind offer was that I realised they didn't want me and if they were forced to take me back I'd be watching my back forever - I decided this I couldn't cope with so went with the flow. As I said I don't regret it now but did at the time - just goes to show how things change.

Nina
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I am at the stage where I'd like to plan to return to work but really not sure how I will cope. My GP and onc are happy for me to decide when/if I want to return. I have been told I would qualify for ill health retirement if I feel that's what I want to do. Unfortunately my husband was made redundant the same week I got my diagnosis so the financial situation couldn't be worse. We just can't survive long term on my sick pay or pension payments. I have metastatic disease and other health issues so will always be on active treatment of one sort or another and will probably need more time off at some stage so hoping to 'save' some sick pay. I hope to orgainse my return in the next few weeks and will use some annual leave so I can return on full pay but work minimum hours to begin with.
So far my managers have been supportive but are very keen for me to return and I do feel under some pressure to do so. OH have fully supported me while I have been off. We have discussed a phased return and a possible change of duties to help me cope better. The OH doctor I saw recently has outlined in a report to my manager that the Equality Act will apply. I would urge anyone contemplating a return to work to use OH services if available.
catseye
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Thanks Jayne, and well done on working through chemo...my brain was just full of fog!!
xx
Jayne_m
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi Catseye. I am an HR Manager so as well as being in a similar situation, WLE in September and half way through chemo then will have rads, I have spent a lot of time working with people who have had long-term sickness. The thought of returning to work is scary, will I cope? Wil things have changed? Etc. The best way in my experience is to phase your return gradually over a period of weeks starting with short days and not every day and see how you get on. Trust me, once you have made that first move, you will be fine.
Darzet Dumpling, normally a referral to occc health is to help you and the company plan when and how you will return to work. your boss is not qualified to make that judgment so I suspect that is why they have set up an appointment. Occ health will support you and the company to make an effective return at the right time if they are doing their job properly.

Personally I am working from home through chemo doing as much as I can when I can. I go into work for one day on week 3 to keep in touch and I am always nervous until i get there and everyone is so kind but it is difficult.

if you want to PM me for more of an HR perspective feel free and good luck whenever you do return to work

jaynexx
catseye
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

No, three months doesn't seem like a long time at all....what did you decide to do?
I have been off since March, having had WLE, chemo and rads. My job is quite stressful and needs good concentration and communication and to be honest, I still don't feel up to it mentally. My memory isn't great and I sometimes struggle to find the right word for things!
The thing is, I feel well physically, apart from getting tired easily, so am starting to feel like a bit of a fraud. I can't decide whether to get one more sick note from my GP or stop being such a wuss and just get on with it.
Anyone else been in this situation, and what did you do?
X
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

This is something that's bothering me too.
I was diagnosed 27th July, had WLE & SNB the 30th July. Didn't start rads till 26th September! Didn't go back to work as I was still swollen underarm & boob & any movement caused friction.

After explaining that, at work, I would constantly be moving my arm back & forth, my Dr said I was unfit for work, even thought my boss thought I'd be ok. (Her friend has been throught the same & you'd think she was superwoman!)
I finished rads on 19th Oct, so , once again, my underarm is sore
My boss has told me I have almost four weeks holiday to still take & that if my Dr put me on a gradual return to work, I could work one day then have the next day off as holiday, or take two weeks hols & then come back. Putting the emphasis on how my company sick pay has now ended, so I'll need the money!
Now I know my department is very short staffed at the moment, so can see why she's so desperate for me to return, especially with Christmas coming.
Saturday I had a letter from work, with an appointment to see the Occupational Health Advisor, strange how nobody from work has mentioned this before? I just feel they are trying to rush me back to work & I will not go back untill I think I'm ready.
Is three months really too long to have off?
xx

wintersocks
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I had to resign from my job (it was lottery funded) as I was backed into a corner. I wish I had had the wherewithal to take it to ACAS as Chocciemuffin says. But, by the time my head was together I was too late for the time - frame (only 2 months or so in which to bring the case)

So consequently, as many posters have tesified the financial stuff is just too massive a hill to climb with everything else we are going through.
I am currently trying to get ESA and DLA - never mind the mobile phone calls expense 2/3 times a week to these agencies.

WSx

Louise_BCC
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi ladies

Just wanted to let you know that Macmillan have lots of information and support around financial issues on their website. Here's the link, I hope you find it useful:

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/HowWeCanHelp/FinancialSupport/FinancialSupport.aspx

Kind regards.

Louise, Facilitator

ChoccieMuffin
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Just read all the posts on this thread and I'm horrified. For those affected, if your boss tries to bully you into going back to work, or doing stuff that you are not fit for (as documented by your GP's fit note) you only need to use two words: DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION. If push comes to shove and you do feel you have to resign because of unrealistic expectations on you, you should speak to ACAS regarding constructive dismissal. The thing is, though, that is all yet another fight, and after all we've been through, sometimes another fight is the last thing we need.

I was a contractor doing a few hours a week when I was diagnosed in Dec 2010. During chemo I attended 2 interviews, bald head an' all, and I actually took on one of the jobs I was interviewed for, part-time, while also keeping the other contract part-time. It was too much for me, and I should have slowed down a bit, as the new job really knocked my confidence as I was incapable of absorbing anything. The people there were lovely though, but I was feeling a lot of financial pressure because as a contractor I wasn't entitled to any sick pay - no work, no money.

I left that job and the other contract at about the same time, other stuff happened, and I was simply not fit to work at all. Eventually I went for another interview, while still having Herceptin, and got the job. It would have been fine and was well within my capabilities (which was what I needed) but with the other stuff that was going on in my life to deal with, and the 3 hours a day travelling (if I was lucky), and having to make up the time I was taking for medical appointments, it was just too much to deal with it all, so I resigned.

Third time lucky, I hope, I've got a second interview tomorrow for a job that is much more local for me, and I'm hoping I can get back as financially I'm in dire straits.

Ho hum, people tell you about the physical effects of cancer, but I never dreamed the financial effects would be quite so serious.

spookymoo
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi all. The whole financial issue has been really stressful for me. I was self-employed working as a registered childminder working full time, 5 days a week looking after x3 under 5 every day (my own children are 10 + 13). When I was diagnosed I advised Ofsted who informed me I, as I was due to have chemo first, I would not be able to work, as itwould not be safe for me or the children. I loved my job and was very good at it. So I stopped work and have had a significant loss of income. I do receieve ESA but I used to earn more in a day working as a childminder than I currently receive in a week! Given on top of that additional costs for car parking and petrol to hospital on a regular basis, as well as trying to pay the bills, mortgage and feed two teenage children it is a financial nightmare. Chemo has taken its toll on me and I have chemo scheduled until mid- December. I still have surgery and rads to go in the new year so pretty much doubt I will be well enough to even think about going back to work until May / June time at the earliest if I am lucky. And not sure I will be able to go back to what I was doing - and what employer will take me on given my medical history? So pretty much screwed financially! Have worked all my life, paid taxes and nat insurance contributions, never claimed a penny, and find myself struggling to get any benefit at the moment - I earned over the threshold last year (just!) for Tax Credits so have to wait until April 2013 before I can even put a claim in. Not entitled to Jobseekers as not in a position to work. Have had to sell my 7 seater car as too expensive to run and bought a cheap car on its last legs. Dishwasher broke down 3 months ago and can't afford to fix it! Christmas pretty much cancelled this year as will have no cash. Can barely afford to feed the kids. Probably going to have to sell my house - great my kids have enough to deal with without losing their home - as not sure how long I can carry on with the bills. Its hard enough having to deal with all the stress of treatments, being unwell and looking after my children, hospital appointments and scans and the uncertainty of what is round the corner and the whole "cancer diagosis" without all the financial stress.
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Elli i no what you mean about slackers getting everything i had my op on 31st aug my rads dont start till 14th nov i dont get sick pay from work and the dwp told me im not entitled to anything so everythings a real struggle which is not needed on top of this and with 2 young children it makes you wonder why you bother working.
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

i am due to start my chemo soon and then rads, will be off work for about 7/8 months in total with phased back to work, problem is i hate my job i work in a hopital and would really like a change, i feel that now is the time to take a less stressful job, but im scared about the financial side of it. not sure whether to try find another job while still on the sick then leave or go back when the time is right and see how i go. i work 12 night shift and im thinking it might be too much for me to go back to and i defo dont want days on the ward. anyone else left there job and then gone back to work.
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I'm finished chemo now, on half pay and am gutted to the point of tears that I might need to go back before I'm ready. It's the finances. My work are good enough... I think you should be allowed the time you need to feel physically and mentally well.

I'm waiting on an ssp form, then an advisor may come out and see me... Benefit project agency has taken over the finances in my area from McMillan nurses and to be honest while the lady on the phone is lovely, I dont think is the same. I dont think it's someone in your corner doing their best for you it's Form filling. So I may or may not get assistance enough to cover bills to enable me to be off till jan. That would be my ideal... New year, new start. A month after rads to get my strength back..

I can never get over the fact some people (slackers lol ) get everything then people like me that have always worked, never had ssp in my life, can't get a wee hand when they need it.

With any luck, I'll get sorted long enough to get a wee bit extra time.

hazelmary
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hello,
I had my treatment in 2003 but I didn't go back to work until after the rads. I had a fulltime job and also travelled 1 hour a day to get there, it all adds to the day. When I did go back is was for about 4 hours a day for about a month. It was very tiring. I did meet someone who travelled into London to work whilst on chemo so everyone is different.

Lilac51
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

I've just started back to work after being off for a year. My employers have been supportive and originally we discussed my going back while I was having chemo. I was all for this but Occupational Health said I shouldn't go back until I had finished chemo and rads. As it happens this was a wise decision as he chemo really knocked me about and I wouldn't have been much use at work. I work for social care in quite a stressful environment. Financially I didn't suffer much. I was on full pay for 6 months, then half pay for the next 6. I also received contribution based Employment Support Allowance. I'm back on phased return, working up to full time in 8 weeks and so far everything is good. I've found it quite easy to slip back into work mode even though I've been away for such a long time. I know everybody is different but I think this was best for me.

Janet_BCC
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Posted on behalf of new user Margaret

I am in the same situation as not sure when I should be ready to go back to work. I have just started, day 2 of tamox , but am waiting for my dates for rads. I have been off work for 6 weeks since I was diagnosed with bc, and have had 2 operations in this time. Although I sometimes feel ok not sure that I could be in work yet. I work for the NHS so they will be understanding regarding my illness and I know I will be on a phased return to work when I do return. I also would like some advice from others in this situation on how long I should be off work for and when I should be looking to return to work. I work full time in a stressful environment. Thanks Margaret

Guest user
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Thanks for your wishes. Unfortunately I am feeling under pressure from work yet again! They have emailed me today to ask me to get my GP to convert a 'may be fit to work' to an 'unfit for work' note to cover SSP. I've checked direct.gov.uk and I think (as does my GP) that my current note is OK. Anyone else in a simalr situation? I'm getting to the point where I feel I may have to resign but can't really afford to.
Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks. Nicola x
Maggy1
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Your G. P. should keep giving you notes until you feel well enough to go back.I think McMillan have a booklet re your rights. Anyway under the Equalities Act cancer is considered to be a disability. When you feel ready ask for a phased return You should definitely ask yourself to see an Occupational Health person to be arranged by Personel as they are very supportive and are genuinely impartial. Your employer is acting in a bullying manner and I am shocked as it is a government dept. You can also get advice from your union. Hope this is helpful1

moorcow
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

HI all, another Nicola here - the best advice my GP gave me was take your time and don;t go back to work until you really really can handle it - and go for phased return - so that you can fit in siestas as required......my treatment lasted 8 months and she said take a year ...which I could NOT beleive to start with but in the end I took 14 months.....now 2 years on I am back in full action, loving my work again,..so hang in there and take your time - we don't seem to have convalescence any more in our world but our bodies and minds and hearts need it,
all the best Nicola

Guest user
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi Michelle
I know exactly how you feel! I had bilateral mx and axilla clearance in April and no chemo or radio (thank god) and am now on Tamoxifen like you. I have a senior role in my company and tried to go back to work on a part-time basis in July but only managed 2 days. I couldn't cope with the noise and the numbers of people around me. My GP and the breast care nurse have told me that a) I need to give my body time to recover both physically and emotionally and b) the Tamoxifen will make me tired. I have only received statutory sick pay throughout my time off so you can imagine it's hard financially and my boss asks when I can go back to train staff (I think to take over from me) so all in all not a nice situation.
My point is this - we are all different and our bodies cope in different ways BUT we have been through an awful lot with diagnosis and major surgery and our bodies are now having to adjust to hormone therapy. Take your time, don't be rushed as I was. Try to be patient - it's really hard when you're used to being active but you must learn to pace yourself and listen to your body. I've found it really hard and am only just coming to terms with the fact that I can't do what I used to do YET. I'm sure we will get better bit by bit but take time for you. It's so hard to accept at 43 that sometimes you feel like an old lady but I've found that a siesta helps to recharge my batteries ready for the next bit. We're only young and we WILL get better.
Hope this helps - you are not alone!
Nicola xx
GMT
Volunteer
Volunteer

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Just wanted to say you are not being dramatic! You have every right to feel upset. Your employers sound heartless, uncaring and downright insensitive. I can only assume your boss has been in the very fortunate position of not knowing anyone close to them touched by this horrible disease and let's hope to god they never have to find out the hard way. I am assuming you work for the public sector if it is to do with the government . I am a teacher and can have 6 months full pay and 6 months half pay. I am sure even if I was unable to return to work at that point, it would be extremely hard to sack me. I will be able to have a phased return to work, this is something else you need to look into.
I am so sorry you are having such a horrible time. Do seek some advice from Macmillan, don't do this alone. Also if you are in a union, ask their advice and don't attend a meeting without them. Dont let your employers dictate timings of meetings, you need to try to feel in control. Sorry if this sounds a bit bossy, but I feel so cross on your behalf. As others have said you also need to keep your GP informed, even if OH is expected to toe the line, they should not be able to ignore medical advice and your sick notes.
Take care, try to get some advice when you feel a bit stronger.
Gaynor xx

Guest user
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Agree that Occupational Health Depts are who one should be dealing with but I'm just sounding a note of caution. Some OH advisers who are employed directly by the same employer may be more biassed towards the employer and try to pursuade employees to return too early. This used to happen at my workplace a few years ago until the directly employed OH adviser was replaced by a self-employed adviser whose services were contracted in, the latter has no "axe to grind" and is excellent at balancing the needs of the employee with the needs of the organisation.

A union rep, Macmillan, your GP should all have your best interests to the fore and advise/represent you accordingly.


Whether we work in the public or private sector we all have the right to be treated fairly. Whether male or female, public or private sector - this boss's behaviour sounds morally unacceptable and legally very dubious.
SamLee
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hobo,
First of all it is not you, you are not being overly dramatic. Your boss is a bully, pure and simple. It is out of order for him to harrass you when you are legally off sick. Of course you can (and should go through occupational health). It is actually nothing to do with your actual boss legally whether you are or are not fit for work. Breast Cancer is covered under the disabilities euality act (not sure if that is the correct name these days).
As Puffywhiteclouds says your best bet is to speak to Macmillan who are the experts in all things like this. They can point you in the right direction and advise the right course of action to take.
I know its easy to say but please try not to worry - you boss is wrong pure and simple, he is not allowed to threaten you like that. He knows it which is why he came to see you and did not conduct this in the workplace.
I was off work 9 months and again my diagnosis was a lot less serious than yours, I had chemo, a WLE, rads and 12 months of Herceptin. I had no node involvement.
So once again, please say to yourself that it is not you it is him. HE IS A BULLY.
Sam

Guest user
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi Hobo,

I am no expert but your boss's behaviour sounds well out of order and in contravention of equalities legislation.

If you "feel harrassed" then you are being harrassed.

Macmillan are really well clued up about employment issues for people affected by cancer so I'd advise a call to them (they have a freephone helpline number). Also, do you have union rep you could contact about this?

Has your boss provided any written records of the meetings you've already had about your return to work? It may be worth keeping a detailed record/timeline of time/date of all contacts (face-to-face, email, phone) that your boss and anyone from your employer has had with you and what was said by both sides and what was agreed to. If you have a dictaphone or similar you could ask your boss if you could record any future meetings and you could also have someone with you e.g. union rep.

I realise that having the strength to stand up for yourself and keep detailed records is a real challenge when having chemo etc (I'd have been completely incapable of it as chemo and radiotherapy wiped me out). Unfortunately I think some employers realise how debilitating cnacer treatment can be and take advantage by bullying affected employees into returning to work too early or resigining.

Just as a (admittedly totally unscientific) comparison, my diagnosis and treatment sound less serious than yours and I was off work for 9 months. My contract only entitled me to 2 months full pay and 2 months half-pay so I pushed to return to work and, looking back it was probably too early. A year would have been more realistic health-wise.

I really do wish you all the best with this. I'm lucky to have an exemplary, supportive employer and it makes my blood boil when I hear of people being treated so shabbily.
Lucy_BCC
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi Hobo

I am sorry to read that you are having such a difficult time, you are welcome to call our helpliners to talk through your concerns on 0808 800 7000, lines are open 9-5 weekdays and 10-2 Sat

BCC have published the EMPLOY charter which you can read about here, it will help you to understand your rights at work, there is also a copy for your employer in the second link:

http://www2.breastcancercare.org.uk/publications/financial-practical-support/employ-charter-bcc167

http://www2.breastcancercare.org.uk/publications/financial-practical-support/employ-charter-information-employers-bcc168

Best wishes

Lucy BCC

hobo
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi Ladies,

I have a issue and would like any help with this. I was diagnosed early march but have been signes off since feb as i had painful symptoms. I had a masectomy, 11 of 17 lymph nodes affected and to make it worse im 33 and was two weeks away from beginning IVF treatment so this devastated our world as it does everyones. Anyway i had a bad time in hospital i had to have 3 blood transfusions and was in for 9 days, two days later my boss came to see me and told me the aim is to get me back to work within 6 months! if any longer i could lose my job. I was absolutely petrified and traumatised by this conversation and still am. Anyway the 6 months is approaching me in August, i still have 2 more chemotherapy sessions and 4 weeks of rads yet but this morning (i had chemo yday) my boss rang wanting another meeting!! are they allowed to do this, i have a occupational health person cant i just go through them? i feel harrased and i even work for the government. They just dont understand im not even thinking of work until my treatment is over and even then il have mental issues to deal with as the IVF plans has really devastated me as il be on tamoxifen for 5 years. Please someone help me realise its not me being dramatic, i just want no pressure on top of all this cruel hand we have been dealt. Thank you hobo xx

Elsa
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Thanks L..that does help...the side effect sounds like an added bonus!! I wasn't given the option of an immediate reconstruction but can have this in a few months if I want. I haven't decided what I want to do yet...think i need to get myself on an emotional even keel before i make any decisions! xx

Guest user
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi Elsa
I am on Amitriptyline and it has helped a lot. I still have some sensitivity but it is much better than it was even a week ago and I can now wear a bra for longer which helps. I started on 10mg a day and increased to 20mg a day which seems right for me at the moment. The beauty of this med is that you can go up to almost 70 mg a day if needed though it takes about 10 days to notice a difference so give it time as you don't want to take more than you need. An added bonus is that it also helps you sleep well.
Hope this helps and good luck
L

Elsa
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Hi .........just read L's post and was wondering if medication has helped or not as I am considering this option if things don't improve. I've been off since the beginning of January as I had a WLE and SNB then went on to have my mastectomy in the middle of Feb. I just want to be able to look outwardly normal and feel that this sensitivity issue is preventing that at the moment

Guest user
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Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

Dear Elsa, Ruth and TTM
Just seen your posts and sounds just like me.
Had mx and immed recon with implant end Jan and lucky enough not to need rads or chemo. Had a haematoma whilst in recovery that required another operation within 24 hrs which did not help and main physical issue at the moment is sensitivity as the nerves knit back, am now on meds to help but will try TTm's tips as well though my Surgeon has said that he doubts any massage will help at the moment..
Been off work since the 20 th Dec following my SLNB and various dental issues then the mx. Current sick note to 30th March but likely to be extended to after Easter on latest advice from Surgeon. Work have been very supportive but feel very guilty at length of time I have been off and I certain,y don't feel ready yet, physically or emotionally. I held it together after dx and was so strong but now find myself a lot more emotional, not helped by being so lopsided whilst I wait for the implant to be filled and get my good side reduced to match, that will require more time off work later this year so more guilt... My job requires a lot of international travel which also does not help.
Hopefully things will improve over the next couple of weeks.
Best wishes to you all, and anyone else in a similar position.
L xx

tommyticklemou
Member

Re: Return to work? when is the time right?

i am having my physio at hospital. she comes to breast clinic once a week for a morning. just ask your bcn if you have one there, there must be surely. it was surgeon who had a look at my scar a week after op, and asked to see how i could move my arm/shoulder and said to bcn that it would be good idea to see physio. i got leaflet as well, i had been doing some of the exercises slightly wrong, but she went through them on leaflet but also gave me some new ones specifically to help me where i have lack of movement/stiffness. when she massage mine in one area first week it actually made me want to be sick it felt that horrible. they are sensations you cant explain to people who havent had it done.
you dont realise how much movement/stiffness you have until you compare how you can move your good arm.

sending you my best wishes and hope you have some improvement soon.

TTM