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Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

25 REPLIES 25
jannie13
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Sorry not been on for s while...my chemo is finished no illness and continued working..I do have s Co childminder so would say if possible register n assistant and get childminder friends to help out if spare capacity and parents permission . I have radiotherapy next ... so far I had 2 ops lumpectomy and node removal and chemo and had 10 days off plus 3 weeks of holiday that was planned time no holiday but chemo 1. It was tiring and Co minder let me sleep a bit but mainly worked normally chemo 1 was harder as had to get side effects sorted. I had parents on side not bringing any sick children in and reduced numbers for chemo. I do have sole care days and was fine. ..One in nappies but used gloves and normal hygiene. I couldn't manage on benefit think the most you get is around £70 which would not cover living expense or daughter in uni.
hope this helps.
flossie101
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

thanks remel

I can totally understand the need for normality and routine - I find 6 weeks off in the summer too long a break if I'm honest! I can't wait to get back into the bustle of things lol

I had a long chat with my head today about what I may or may not be able to do. He has told me that he is more than happy for me not to teach, and for me to work with a lead teacher from another school to develop my role as maths coordinator - only coming into school for things like book scrutinies if I feel up to it. Otherwise, the other teacher will carry out tasks like that on my behalf. we are expecting the dreaded inspectors and as I'm new to the role there is an awful lot of behind the scenes things to do! That should keep me busy without being in contact with snuffly children (and adults!) over the winter months.

I'm really in two minds about actually being in class myself, so I'm happy to follow the docs advice for now, and see how I feel once the treatment starts.

I have to say, I admire you being able to stand infront of a class all day with all this going on in your life!

remel
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi Flossie

Re: Stage/Grade etc. I had lumpectomy and full node clearance on 24th Sept (5 nodes positive, lump 17mm, Grade 2, ER+ and HER2+). I went back to work (as secondary school teacher)12 days after op. Over half term I had CT scan, Bone scan and MUGA Test - all ok - and finally first Chemo on the Thursday. Went back to work for start of second half term on the Monday. See post below for more info.  The Royal Marsden have been supportive of my decision but would sign me off for 6 months if that was what I wished. Will be off from Wed this week for 2nd Chemo and recovery but hope to be back in teaching next Monday.  I don't know if I will keep it up but currently feel I can manage.  Our school secretary had BC 6 years ago and worked throughout, so a precedent has been set. She too was under the Royal Marsden.  I think the Royal Marsden have a very Can Do attitude and generally respond to what the patient wants rather than dictating to them.  I have downloaded leaflets given by hospitals from around the country which seem very draconian. I read one which said "your Oncoligist will tell you when you can go back to work"  as if you the patient have no say in the matter at all.  It seems very old fashioned and patronising. The local hospital where I had my surgery was against the idea, but they send all their Chemo patients to The Royal Marsden which is how I am now under them.  The Royal Marsden only treat Cancer patients and are leaders in their field, and seem to recognise that every patient is different. It was a great relief to me that they okayed me to continue to work and working definitely helps me to cope, as I have a degreee of normailty and the support of great colleagues and students alike.

Best of luck. x

flossie101
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Thanks skinnyminx. As you say, lots to think about in the days ahead x
skinnyminx
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi Flossie

 

I think as with most things, oncologists opinions vary on working through treatment, not sure it bears any relation to stage and grade.  Obviously the prospect of working/returning to work is very different if someone has surgery e.g. lumpectomy and no other treatment, compared to someone having a mastectomy, chemo and rads.  

 

Personally I didn't even ask "can I work", I just made up my mind on how I was feeling.  The GP and hospital team were happy to sign me off for the duration, if that's what was required.  Frankly there was no way I would have been able to work throughout chemo (FEC-T100) as it was way too debilitating and radiotherapy which followed quickly thereafter knocked me sideways too.  If you are able to fit in some paperwork done at home that might work (I studied for and submitted work for an NVQ whilst undergoing treatment).  However, if it's urgent work that your employer needs done to a set timescale I would caution against agreeing to take too much on in case you don't feel well enough and end up putting yourself under pressure and impeding your recovery.

 

With hindsight I should have stayed off work longer than the 8 months which I took, I think it would have helped my long-term recovery.  My employer's sick pay ran out after 2 months, after that I was able to claim ESA (in spite of the fact we have savings and my husband has a well-paid job).  I realise that it's early days for you having just been diagnosed but if finances might be a concern if you're unable to return to work when you wish, it's well worth a call to Macmillan who are very clued up and helpful with regards to what can be claimed and the best way to go about it.

 

Wishing you all the very best.   

June_BCC
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hello Flossie101

 

Welcome to the forums, I'm sure other users will be along to support your soon.

As well as the forums we also have a support helpline where the staff can offer emotional support as well as practical information. The free phone number is 0808 800 6000 and the lines are open Monday to Friday 9.00 to 5.00 and Saturday 10.00 to 2.00.

 

Best wishes,

June moderator

 

flossie101
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Sorry to jump on your thread and add to your confusion -

I was given my diagnosis last week, and told I will need chemo, surgery, tamifloxen, herceptin if I have receptors and radiotherapy!

Almost the first thing I asked was "will I be able to work?" The doctor asked what I do and when I told him I teach 8 year olds he said no. The risk of infection with chemo and all the drugs would be too high. The speacalist nurse agreed with him.

It seems different people are being told different things! I wonder if it is related to the stage/grade of the cancer or to the therapies you are likely to be having?

I have told my head that I intend to work until I start chemo, then stop teaching. However I am happy to continue doing paperwork for my role as numeracy coordinator for as long as I feel up to it, working from home. He has been very supportive about my decision, as have my colleagues. I am a single parent so fingers crossed I can return to work before my hundred working days sick leave given to teachers!

Good luck with your treatment. I'm sure you will make whatever is the right decision for you x

Picklepants
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Thank you skinny minx. i know you are right.I have decided to concentrate on the garden and redecorate the spare room.all v slowly .the girls at work are all my friends and have all made plans on when to visit etc.I already went back to work too soon after both surgeries and was in pain,my own fault entirely.I know you are right, I must stay well to get treatment done on the right days! It is good to hear your story a few years on.Glad that you are happy too,in your new job.
skinnyminx
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Picklepants - I think this sounds like a sensible decision.

 

I've only just caught up with this thread so I hope you don't mind my butting in...

 

I had chemo in late 2009/early 2010 so quite a while ago now.  At the time I was in a job working "hands-on" at a residential college for teenagers and young adults with disabilities (my job included, amongst other things, toileting, other aspects of personal care and minor medical procedures).  The job was full-time, shift-work and physically demanding.  Whilst I too thought I'd go mad if I didn't go to work, in retrospect I am very glad that didn't.  To be honest, it would have been a complete faff getting signed on and off sick anyway as I didn't really know how I'd be day to day, administratively massively inconvenient for my (very supportive) employer and also for me.  Staying away from all the germs which readily spread in such a setting was also beneficial in the premium season for coughs, colds, flu and swine flu.  I managed to avoid getting any infections whatsoever and every chemo cycle went ahead on time as a result.  As it happened, I found the side-effects of my chemo regime (6 x FEC-T100) too debilitating to have been much use in my job had I gone in anyway.     

 

I didn't go mad and enjoyed keeping in touch with what was going on with work colleagues by email, phone and Facebook and visiting occasionally during my "good week" and once chemo was finished.

 

I had the full house of treatments and was off work for about 8 months - with the benefit of hindsight I went back too soon so would encourage you not to rush back.  Like you, I was lucky that my husband earned enough, so the reduction in what I was bringing in really wasn't a big deal.

 

I never was able to return to the job full-time, my energy levels were so depleted by BC treatment plus subsequent prophylactic BSO.  After a couple of years back there working part-time I decided to get a less physically-demanding, part-time job much closer to home.  I was sad to leave the college but have definitely benefitted from the change and I love the job I do now.

 

Sorry, a lot of this post is about me but I thought it might be useful for you to have some thoughts from someone who is a few years post-treatment.   

 

I wish you all the very best with your chemo.

Picklepants
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Thank you everyone for your replies.I had my first appt with onc.I explained that after both surgeries I went straight back to work as it helps me to be busy,plus if I don't work I don't get paid.I work with a small team and I feel that I am leaving them in the lurch,they just want whats best for me.The Oncologist and my breast care nurse said no.I know what they are saying and I am very reluctantly following their advice.I am very upset about it though.They said that working so closely with children ie; changing them if they had accidents and dealing with first aid etc plus the chance of them carrying a host if different bugs,it is too risky. I am lucky in the respect that my husband earns enough to cover bills etc while i'm off work.Madamjojohunt can you get any financial help at all?i hope so.I had mri,ct,bone scan, mine was to be absolutely sure about my diagnosis.I know it is very stressful for you but at least you know they are doing the very best to care for you.good luck for weds.I am sure you would entitled to some help.Macmillan I think can advise you.Take care xx
madamjojohunt
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi janine im a childminder aswell. Im debating wether or not to give up while im having treatment. Im gonna lose my total income. My partners is not enough to cover all the bills. Im not sure how the chemo will effect me amd when ill be at high risk to illness etc. Ive not got my chemo plan yet either im seein onc on wednesday. Im a bit aprehensive about it to as ive had an xray, ct scan and mri scan in the meantime so ill probaly get the results for them which im dredding more bad news
remel
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi all

I am a secondary school teacher and am continuing to work.  The Oncologist at the Royal Marsden said if that was what I wanted to do then that was fine.  Her advice was that as long as your employer is flexible, understands that you will be off for hospital appointments etc.then this was fine. Regarding infection: the advice I have been given is it is not viral infections that are the problem (colds etc.), it is bacterial infection.. Therefore the advice was to wash all fruit and veg thoroughly, have a "pregnancy type diet" (no raw or undercooked food, no shell fish or unpasteurised cheese etc), use your own crockery and cutlery at work and if your temperature goes up to 38 go straight to hospital.  Currently every 3 weeks I am off for Wed, Thurs, Fri (W: bloods and Onc, Thurs: Chemo, Fri: Sick!) I recover over the weekend.  I am not doing any after school activities, home by 4.15, bed for 1 or 2 hours and then I get up for Dinner (to make it or eat it!). Managing so far and it is a genuine pleasure to be working and keeping things normal. Many people would not want to do this I know (or are too ill), and some work places are reluctant. But just thought that I would let you know it can be done with an Oncologist's okay!

Good luck everybody.

jannie13
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

I'm a childminder onc said as long as I avoid the children if signs of illness use gloves if I need to change them I could work if I felt well enough...I normally have assistant so can opt out if I want. worked through resting when I needed to. The only thing that kept me going if I'd had nothing to do but think poor me I would have given up.
Lingriff
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Picklepants, I also work with children, in Primary school. I haven't worked since early June. I have finished all my chemo, 2 FEC & 4 T and about to have a mastectomy on Friday. I can honestly say no matter how much you want to be at work, I haven't had a temperature, cough, cold or anything during my treatment. I have my shopping delivered and only go out to hospital appointments. To stop the boredom, I have produced a spread sheet monitoring my progress, side affects and how I am generally feeling, also I am writing a journal about my experiences and day to day activities, which include visits from friends and family. I would hate for you to become ill and pick up any bugs. Good luck. X
Mel66
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi Picklepants
I've just had my 4th round of chemo. I'm not working but still got shingles after my first round and ended up on antivirals, then a massive infection after my third and ended up on high dose antibiotics and was almost kept in and put on an IV drip.

Whilst many people will get through chemo without any problems like this, it is really is pretty common and it would make sense to be very careful. Your immune system is going to be taking a real battering and a school environment is full of potential bugs waiting to pounce. When you get one of these bugs whilst on chemo, it's not like everyone else gets them.... they hit hard. There's then also the risk of chemo having to be delayed whilst you recover... so prolonging the whole thing.

My advice would be to put up with the boredom and know that you were doing everything you can to protect yourself. Yes, you may manage to work and get away with it.... but is it worth the (really quite high) risk? x

Mysticalmoo
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi. I am a primary school teacher and was told that couldn't go into school for the duration of my chemo to avoid infection. To be honest I was way too fatigued anyway but they were really strict. I was not to go to the shops, public transport or have too many visitors on my high risk days on the middle week! I was too scared to do anything else! I had the neulasta injections on each cycle and had no infections at all... Good luck with it x
Picklepants
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Thanks for the advice Ladies.Have just had my second op and apparently will start chemo in 4 weeks.spoke with bcn and she said wait til i have had first cycle to see how I go.Will just have to wait and see! Take care
Rodent
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

The difference between Onc advice seems to vary widely!!

 

I've just read back on the letter my onc gave me for work and she actually writes "Unless X feels unwell or has a particuarly low blood count then being in contact with children is not particuarly risky" as well as "on the whole she should be fit to work albeit less intensively"

 

I deal with 4-7 year olds!!!

 

I was however determined to carry on as normal as I feel it keeps me in control and that was very important, that I controlled the situation, not the cancer. She was fully on board with this so thats possibly why she encouraged me to work and cycle to and from.

SML1903
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi Picklepants. I started my chemo in April so have finished now. When I first saw my Oncologist she asked what work I did and when I told her I taught children aged 3 years to 6 years she told me It was too risky to carry on working. She said that I was at very high risk of picking up an infection while having chemo. I am waiting to start radiotherapy now follwing surgery and I still have not returned to work but hopefully I will be able to after Christmas.  I honestly think you need to think of what is best for you and chemo is hard enough without running the risk of getting an infection which could land you up in hospital. Good luck with your chemo.

Picklepants
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Thank you Lynn.good luck to you too.x
LynnAnn
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi Picklepants

Advice on this seems to vary so much! I am a business manager in a primary school and was advised not to work. Personally I was (and still am) in two minds. I have followed the advice given to me partly because of internal politics in school which means that I couldn't rely on support if I worked part time. However I would have preferred to go in on the high immunity days. Am also dreading going back after being away for so long.

As with so much of this journey the decision is yours but it sounds like you could do one week in three?

Good luck with it all.
Lynn
X
Picklepants
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Thanks for the info.I think I will have to decide once I have the first lot out the way and will go through the practicalities of it with BC nurse. Thanks again x
Maryland
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Hi Picklepants.......I worked full time throughout chemo and radiotherapy from March to August over 2 years ago, as a school business manager, with the full support of my Onc.

Due to my working environment, she was very strict about the days I didn't go into work, the 'nadir' or low white blood cell count days. I had FEC-T. For FEC it was days 10-14, although I was extra careful and used loads of anti-bac hand sanitiser on days 8 and 9 as two of the FEC (can't remember which ones) have a very slightly earlier 'nadir' start date. For 'T' (Docetaxol, Taxotere) then the 'nadir' days are a little earlier on 5-9. The advice she gave me was that we are more at risk from ourselves than others during these low periods as even with the most meticulous care, avoiding crowded places, people with colds etc.....germs are everywhere!!! I followed a 'pregnancy' type diet i.e. no shellfish, unpasteurised foods, runny eggs, soft cheese etc., wore gloves when doing housework or gardening etc. to avoid cuts and grazes; drank plenty (cranberry, barley drinks) to help prevent urinary type infections, and kept mouth scrupulously clean as mouth ulcers can quickly become infected (particularly if masked by oral thrush). I did tend to avoid very crowded places but as germs can live on most surfaces for many hours anti-bac became my best friend! I managed to work for approx 8/10 days out of 15. As the effects of chemo are cumulative, and when I changed from FEC to T, I did get increasingly tired and more slow towards the end. The best advice I can give is to do what feels right for YOU. Give working a try if you want to......see how it goes and adjust if you can. There was no way I could have been signed off for months, as I needed to retain a level of control as my body felt like the property of the hospital!!!! In hindsight I wouldn't change my approach as it worked very well for me. The Deputy Head was very supportive and I occasionally went home early, came in late or just worked half a day when it got too much! Staying at home brooding and worrying would have driven me loopy......Hope that helps, at the end of the day though it is YOUR decision and yours alone. All the very best for your treatment and hope that whatever you decide works well for you.......take care x

Picklepants
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Thanks for replying.I hope I can feel well enough to maybe do one week out of each cycle! Fingers crossed!
Rodent
Member

Re: Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

Ive been a busy poster these last few days but similar situations to mine keep coming up!!

I am a school secretary and I also have a 1 year old. I have worked throughout (although there was 5 weeks of summer holidays during my chemo) and I have been (touch wood) fine. My last one was Monday and I haven't caught anything bad yet! You need to be a bit more aware in the middle week of chemo as thats when your blood count is lowest. But its certainly not impossible.

I too would have gone MAD being stuck at home all the time as if I was with my little girl and not working we would have been out to playgroups so work has the same pitfalls!

Depending on how you get on with the side effects however you may need a week or so off each cycle dependant on your reactions. I was lucky and didn't suffer too badly so didn't need days off, but some people aren't so lucky!

Picklepants
Member

Working with children whilst having chemotherapy

I am due to start chemo in Dec and was wondering if it is possible to work at least some of the time.I look after 3-11 year olds in an after school club/holiday club.My best friend is also my manager and she is adamant she doesn't me to come in to work as she is worried I will catch bugs off the kids.i think I will go mad if I stay home though and I find working ,for me, is a great distraction.Please can someone tell me honestly,am I being unrealistic? Thanks.