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any advice on going back to work please?

31 REPLIES 31
LouB
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hello
I finished treatment last July (mx and LD recon for DCIS with microinvasion) - although I have some more corrective surgery to come this summer. I was just starting to return to something resembling normality when I was forced to take another three months off for hip revision surgery and am only just mobile again.
I've gone back to work because I'm self employed and have no option. It's been really tough as I've lost several retained clients since January. They won't say it's because of my absence, but it can't have helped. I need to be 'visible' and not being able to drive to client appointments etc has hit my little business hard. I'm feeling really fed up about it all at the moment as although it's great to be on the mend I do worry about my income. Is anyone out there in a similar situation regarding self employment? Mine's been a 'fazed' rather than 'phased' return - although hearing some of the stories from fellow cancer patients, it seems some of you in employed posts don't fare much better when it comes to job security or lack of it. I know I'm fortunate not to have undergone rads and chemo but can't help reliving this time last year when I was first diagnosed. Part of me would like to dip into my small savings pot and put work on hold for a couple of motnhs but |I'm scared that if I do that the remaining clients will think I'm not up to the job and abandon me! Any advice much appreciated. Lou x

Janesi
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

I finished treatment on Dec 31st - 6 x chemo and 25 a radiation. I went back to work on Feb 15th! I started at 3 hrs a day for 3 weeks and then increased to 4 hrs a day for a further 3 weeks. This week I have worked 6 hrs a day and to be honest I am absolutely knackered. When I came home at lunch time I was sorely tempted to curl up on the sofa and have a snooze.

If I was able I would have stayed off a little longer and I would have worked fewer hours for longer times, but my company has been very kind and paid me in full throughout, but to top it all my boss has now got bowel cancer and is off work going through chemo herself. There are only the two of us in our department, so I was required to go back, probably sooner than I was ready.

Take Care and look after yourself.

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi lorna45 just wondering how your first week went.I hope the energy i sent you worked xx

Jo_BCC
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi 26Pammy,

After reading your post I have put for you below links to 2 of BCC's publications regarding employment and BC. If you would like any further information regarding this, please do give the helpline here a ring, they're here to support you through this.

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

Info for employers:
http://www2.breastcancercare.org.uk/publications/financial-practical-support/employ-charter-informat...

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,
Jo, Facilitator

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi Charlotte sorry your post came through as mine did.Thanks for the good luck.I went back yesterday and felt quite tired after a few hours but i coped lol. Im back tom for another half a day. I am going to do two half days for about 3 to 4 weeks then go to three half days ,then try a full day.The end of the day is our worst time as all mopping sweeping act has to be done in mega quick time.
Everybody keeps telling me they love my hair and it suits me short(i hate it ) but yes this old man came in who hadn't seen me for a while and said what on earth have u done at your hair i didn't recognise you. When i said it was just growing back after treatment he shrunk!! Sure there will be more moments like that but i don't let it worry me too much
It sounds as though your employers were very understanding ,i hope mine remain to be .Thanks for the advice and glad to hear you are going along ok .Love Sharon xxx

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

hi 26pammy, so sorry thats happened to you thats awful. To be fair I thought you had rights and that they had to try to accommodate you .Not sure how you go about putting that into practice though maybe you should seek some advice .
I have been very lucky i don't think my work knows how to handle it really as they haven't had many people work for them with the big C. We are very short staffed and even though i only went back test someone suggested to the boss that she asks me to do extra shifts but the boss said no .How long they will be understanding for i don't know but when you go back its very tiring .
I hope you manage to get something sorted .love Sharon xxx

charlotte_e
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

hello lisha, just want to say good luck, I too work in a busy cafe, b4 BC i was mainly in the kitchen, but since being back I am out front just as much as in the kitchen... I went back at beg of sept just 3 weeks after chemo ended, but that was just for 3 hours as the boss had a wedding!, over the next few weeks I did 1 then 2 days a week,then it went to 3 leading up to xmas, and now due to someone else being on sick i'm doing 4 days,.... although they could do with me doing more they are sooo good about what i can do. When I went back all staff knew what I could/couldnt do and have all helped me, even now.I found it best to be honest and just say, if your tired and need a break i'm sure they will let you and, and if your regular customers are like mine they will be more than happy to have you sit with them and share acup of tea!!!!....just beware you will get fed up with saying "yes my hair is growing back"...x

26pammy
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi everyone,I was summoned to work two weeks ago to 'discuss my future'and as I tried to explain that I was still having my Rx I was very tired and felt worn out most of the time and also suffering from chemo brain that I didn't think I would be able to go straight back to my old duties that I used to do before last May when this nightmare started, so perhaps they could find me an easier role to start with until I feel more myself again(not that I can remember that person). I was told they would try to sort something out for me so I left it at that. Two days later I got a letter from work saying that they could not find any lighter duties for me to do. So that was that now I am jobless and at 61 not much chance of finding employment elsewhere. I expected better than that after everything that has happened to me.Lots of Love to you all out there.XXX

Mazzalou
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Well done Lisha and now it's your turn to sit down, put your feet up and have a nice cuppa yourself. Mind you, I think that you certainly deserve something stronger!

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

lol hymil ,thats just what my sister said .I couldn't tell her for laughing and she thought i had forgot my pants !!
Hope your day has gone well lorna45 .I enjoyed being back.The tearoom was busier than i expected but was ok .I only worked 9.30 till 2 but by 12.30 i was feeling tired lol.I didn't expect that!!.Back again on wed so hopefully it will get better each time .XX

hymil
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Lisha, just don't do what I did forty odd years ago - we saved time at the pool by travelling in our swimsuits with just a dresss on
top... guess who forgot her knickers to come home in... !!!

So yeah, hope it goes swimmingly!

Mazzalou
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Good luck to the pair of you and try not to overdo things.

As for chemo brain, it could have been worse Lisha - you could have forgotten your swimming costume!!!!

Lorna45
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Yeah , I'm having a staged return , maybe bit much as its mon- wed t first . If I'm too tired I will reduce it. Best of luck,it will be good to get back to something resembling a normal life.

Energy on its way......

Lorna 🙂

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Thanks Revcat i will try not to push myself too much. I am really excited now ,how sad am i ? Will be great to get back to some sort of normality .
Lorna brill ,what an achievement .Back to work .Hope you have a great day.Are you going back on reduced time too? I will certainly send you some energy ,i hope i remember where i work though lol .Good luck
Sharon xx

Lorna45
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Lisha, just found this thread . I am also returning to work tomorrow after 8 months , chemo, mx, rads, I will send you energy if u do likewise....lol. as for chemo brain.......who am I????

Good luck

Lorna xx

RevCat
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

That's great news! Hope your first day back goes really well and you return home with a big grin on your face. Don't push yourself, and don't be surprised if it takes a bit longer to get going again than you hoped, you'll get there soon enough. Enjoy!!!

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Just to add not sure how my workmates will cope with me as i have bad chemo brain ,went swimming last week and to my horror forgot my towel lol. Thats a first!!!! xxx

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi everyone ,just to update i am going back to work tomorrow.Two half days a week to start with .I will go 9.30 till 2.00 .I am really looking forward to it now. I remember ironing my overall 7 and a half months ago and crying believing i would never get back again. Im sure we all go through that .So i feel its quite an achievement to be going back and what with the snow it will be a quiet first day. For once things might just be on my side 🙂 xx

nic71
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

I was told it can take a year from the end of treatment before you feel pretty much normal. Everyone is different but don't knock your pan in to meet what you feel are the expectations and needs of your colleagues ,you may feel that you should(I certainly did) but I'm sure your work won't want you to. My brain was still chemo fried at the point your at, so your recovering a lot quicker than I did.Phased return is definitely the way to go.The best advice I can give is listen to your body very closely when it says stop do it. I went back a year after treatment ended to a very physical job,( I was an auxiliary nurse in a surgical ward and out patient clinic) and still found it very tiring, I also found I was very sore and was back on the pain killers within 2 days. As I said you sound like you have recovered very quickly which is great but don't put your recovery at risk. If your not under pressure to go back then take advantage of it and set yourself physical goals before going back to see how much you can do before you have to rest. It might make it easier to go back if you have a good understanding of how quickly your body is catching up with your brain.
Let your body rule your head for a while.

hymil
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

How times change: fifty years ago a woman would have a baby or two and take twenty years off, now she has a life-threatening illness and is expected to carry on like there's no big deal...

Girls, guys, be kind to yourselves!

herbidacious1
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi all, have been reading this thread with interest as I have been having a mental struggle about going back to work as I,ve felt really well on second half of first cycle. I have been feeling people will think I,m just being lazy as I,ve bumped into colleagues in tesco. I spoke to the nurse at my per chemo yesterday and she said, just do what you feel, some people like to work, some people need time and rest but whatever you do DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP about it, it,s a really small part of your WHOLE life so take your time. It just helps some times I think to have someone say it,s ok to stop for a bit. It helped me anyway,
Herbi x

Mazzalou
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Good luck and let us all know how you get on please

Mazzalou xxx

lisha
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Thanks ladies ,i think i am expecting too much too soon maybe yet know deep down that it will take time .I will def ask for a phased return and i will also ask for light duties and i will take it slowly xx

moorcow
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hiya, I found it great to be back at work - but really take it slow and easy. My GP said to me right at the begining " because you are going to have operation, chemo , rads you need to plan to be off for about a year" I thought she was crazy but she said no - this is what other women have told me after their treatment. I thought ...it won't take me a year, but you know what, I was still on phased return a year after diagnosis and glad of it.
best of luck with it, Nicola

hymil
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Just a small suggestion to add: if you work the morning there is a temptatoin on both sides to ask about staying for the afternoon, so try and do afternoons only (unless your cafe opens evenings as well, in which case start with the tea-time/early evenings, but maybe not the last hour when all the tables & chairs have to be put away! Lunch cover is really useful too eg 12-2 doesn't sound long but it will be really busy then and it makes sure all your colleagues can get their break. Tills, people skills, I'm sure you haven't lost that at all! Find, borrow or invent a (grand)child to collect from school, so you don't think of staying past 3pm!

You're doing great getting back, do be gentle on yourself as it is a shock going back after any break, even without illness and reduced physical abilities.

Mazzalou
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi Sharon

Congratulations on going back to work - a milestone!

As 'theloner' says you are protected under the Equality Act 2010 and your employer has to make certain adjustments to enable you to return to your work. I am sure that if you contact the Helpline here on 0808 800 6000 somebody can advise you more fully as to what adjustments you employer should and could offer you, as could somebody on the Macmillan Cancer support helpline on 0808 808 0000.

I think that it is very important that you know what your rights are before you do return to work, but as you say, your employers have been great up to now so I think that they will be more than reasonable in coming up with a phased return that suits you both. They probably don't expect you to work at full pelt right away anyway. I think that you should see what ideas that they might already have, and if they sound feasible suggest that you give it a trial and perhaps review it at the end of the first week back to see how you feel, and making any adjustments that you both feel need making if any.

I am so lucky in that I have been off work now since mid-April, although I do have a work lap-top which enables me to log-on to my emails and keep in touch as well as do some work from home. I have been signed off until February now, but I have another op which may mean that my sick leave will be extended. I have been told that once my sick leave is over I am to take my annual leave before starting a phased return-to-work which will be spread over 8 weeks.

I think that a phased return is an excellent idea as at least it will ease you back into work and it's routine more gently than being thrown back in to the deep end, particularly if you have been off as long as you have. You need to build up to your full hours gradually otherwise you will soon find yourself exhausted, let alone work extra hours. As for being short-staffed - that really is not your problem, but one for your employer to sort out and not you.

Don't forget that somebody has had to do your work whilst you have been off anyway. Perhaps you can suggest doing the more light-weight parts of your job to start with that demand less physical activity and tot up how long these would take you to work, and perhaps taking on board some of your colleagues lightweight tasks too rather than do the more arduous work until you are back in the swing of things and capable of more later on. Perhaps there are things that you could do that might not necessarily be your normal work, but which you could do instead and somebody else could do your work in the short term.

I'm sure that both you and your employer can come up with a solution that suits you both, but make sure that you do discuss it beforehand and that you agree with the plan before you return to work as well as regularly review how things are progressing and how you are feeling.

Good luck

Mazzalou xx

theloner_com
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi Sharon,

As bumblybee said I think an occupational health assessment is a good idea and, in fact, I believe it's a legal requirement under the disability act that your employer has to consider making suitable adjustments. My OH has just had an assessment done and they have recommended that she adjust her hours, is allowed to take extra rest breaks etc.

Good luck!

bumblybee
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi Sharon,
Maybe your employer could organise an occupational health assessment. As well as looking at your return to work and the hours you can do, it would look at what the job involves and recommend suitable adjustments. Another advantage of this would be that your employer shouldn't then ask you to work any hours over and above what has been agreed.
Might be worth raising with your area manager - you could make him/her aware of any weakness, lymphodeoma risk, pain etc. when you put the suggestion forward. My job is much less physically demanding than yours but I still find the idea of going back to my full hours exhausting. I've been working all through treatment when I feel well enough, but now my employer wants to have an occ. health assessment before allowing me to increase my hours.
Take care

alesta29
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi Sharon,

I went back to work after 5 months of chemo on a phased return just before Xmas. I work as a nurse specialist so don't do any lifting but usually do quite a bit of walking and talking to people. I usually work 2 days one week and 3 days the next (9-5).

The first week I was shattered and found I was quite breathless. I went in around 10am and was ready for bed by 2pm! It was great that so many people were concerned about me, pleased that I was back and asked how I was but that in itself was tiring, going over how I was, what I'd been through etc...

I think it's better to under rather than over estimate what you can do, especially in the first week back. I'd aim for no more than a couple of hours on your first day and take it from there. Useful to check with your doc or nurse what is realistic for you to do physically in terms of lifting. As RevCat suggests, maybe light duties if possible, so no trays in both hands at the same time!

Good luck!

Laurie x

hattiecat
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Lisha, I have been off work for 10 months now and going back in March on phased return. My union say I can have 12 weeks for each month I've had off i.e. 12 weeks (I have worked there for 25 years so my contract is a good one). They suggest 2 days i.e tuesday, wednesday 10-2 first week, building up. Make sure you have union rep when you negotiate your return if possible because once you are back at work it will be like you've never been away. Any physical or physcological feelings will not be taken into account. I'm not a militant person but just feel that you need to take full advantage of what you are entitled to because it is important that you cope with your fatigue, side effects, feelings etc. without colleagues forgetting the reason you have been off, (as we know, its not the flu!). x

RevCat
Member

Re: any advice on going back to work please?

Hi Lisha/Sharon,
how great is that to be going back to work! Well done you.

It's really hard to advise, especially on a job that is pretty physical, and without knowing what your treatment was (I'm too lazy to read all the threads to discover!). I think it would be worth checking with a BCN or surgeon or physio what level of lifting and stretching is OK for you - I know what limits I have due to my surgery and would not be able to do the work you describe. It probably makes sense to ask if you can go back on 'light duties' - no heavy lifting - for at least a while. Everyone seems to have to work out their own phased return - and it's hard to tell until you try it.

Is it maybe possible to go in for one or two half days and see how you go and then increase from there?

I hope you find the right balance for you and really enjoy getting back to work again.

lisha
Member

any advice on going back to work please?

Hi everyone i finished my treatment on 20th dec .I had 7 months of treatment of which i was on sick from work.I had op chemo and rads .
I work in a busy tearoom and it is quite a physical job including things like carrying trays full of pots to and from the dishwaher ,putting all the chairs up ,mopping ,sweeping ,cleaning and the normal tearoom duties.
I have been there 14 years this year and hardly ever had a day off sick so i thought i owed it to myself to take some time off.My employers have been great ,the area manager says to go back when i am ready even if i take a year out and that i can go back on a phased return. I have decided i want to go back at the beginning of feb as it will be hard and i will have to build my strength up wether i go back now or in a few months.
How many hours should i realistically be thinking of doing ?I am only part time ,employed for 16 plus hours but usually do a lot more.They are short staffed too so i don't want to go back and be expected to go at full pelt straight away .I have always been independent and always worked hard when I'm there so I'm gonna find it hard taking it a bit easier.I go to the docs on fri and I'm not sure what phased return to ask for.
Apart from hot sweats , being tired some days aches and pains and not quite being able to straighten my arm yet i am ok .
I would appreciate any advice .Many thanks Sharon xx