I've since had a really good heart to heart with my line manager and she's made it abundantly clear that she's not expecting me back any time soon. She's told me to take as much time as I need and to stop thinking about work (and stop looking at work emails which I've been doing). She was really understanding and reassured me that In the grand scheme of things work is not important. She told me to focus all of my energy on getting well again, both mentally and physically, and that when I decide I'm ready to go back it will be on a phased return at my pace. She also said I'll be welcomed back with open arms because everyone has really missed me. She made me feel so much better, as have you guys with all of your responses.
Great advice already in this thread, but just to add my own tuppence. Four years ago I was off work for a lumpectomy, but thought I'd escaped lightly not needing further treatment. Went back to work after 3 or 4 weeks, and first conversation was with a cheery boss happy to have me back, trying to give me a pile of work - I totally freaked and ended up needing to be off for quite a bit afterwards, just to deal the the psychological side that I really hadn't. Ended up finding a really great course called 'Where Now?' (through Maggies) that really understood that finishing treatment can be almost harder than going through it, on some level.
So, yeah, cut yourself some slack. Cancer is vicious and scary and the impact is physical and mental and if an extra week (or six!) now leaves you in a better place then hopefully you'll be able to take them.
Hi Lou, sorry to hear that you're having such a tough time at work. I'm lucky in that I'll be paid 6 months full pay and then 6 months half pay so I can afford to take the time off I need it. If I was in your position I don't know how I would have coped. Take care of yourself and good luck xx
Thanks for responding Jaybro and for helping to give me some perspective. You're right, I don't know how I'm going to respond to radiotherapy and to the biphosphonates so it's too soon to be making plans about returning to work. I had a good talk to myself after I read all of the responses and decided I need to cut myself some slack. Regardless of the level of treatment I'm receiving this is still a big deal and I need accept that things have changed. Problem is I'm my own worst critic and it doesn't help that I've been telling everyone that I'm okay. And don't get me started on the side effects of the letrozole. I managed to sail through menopause without a single hot flush and now I have a fan in every room in the house! xx
Hi Kitkat, good to know that the time I'm taking is not entirely realistic. I had BC previously in 2011 but it was, like you, a very small low grade DCIS for which I had a lumpectomy and no other treatment and on that occasion I was only off work for two weeks. And I think that's what I'm comparing it to. I don't think I've got my head round the fact that this a completely different ballgame and it's affected me a lot more emotionally this time. Probably because I didn't expect it to come back. But now all I can think about is it coming back! I feel as if I've dodged another bullet and it's only a matter of time. Emotionally I'm all over the place and work seems so unimportant.
I work for a large company and there is an HR and Occupational Health dept if I need them but to be fair to my line manager she has been really supportive and told me to take as much time as I need so I may well be projecting my own feelings onto her.
Thanks for the advice and for reminding me that I need to put myself first. I hope your treatment third time round isn't too bad and that you manage to have more good days than bad xx
Thanks for taking the time to respond, I really appreciate it. I think I'll probably do as you suggest, take another couple of weeks to see how I am after the radiotherapy and then think about a phased return. Hopefully by that time I'll have my head on straight and feel able to deal with thinks.
Take care xx
Read this with interest
i have worked from home through treatment (the whole co has been at home) but we have a minimal sick policy but the deal was we'd manage it but having been asked a week or so after surgery was i back full time and last week being advised to use up accrued holiday if i need time after radiotherapy, has made me quite anxious 'to be seen'.
SSP would not pay my mortgage and i've needed the mental stimulation but at times it would have been good to not have the added worry esp as i am on my own.
if you can i would take what you need - we should not be made ever to feel guilty or a fraud but some co's and bosses do seem i have decided to be better than others.
First of all, sorry you’re feeling so down and so pressured. There’s no hierarchy in breast cancer and anyone who competes should feel ashamed. The diagnosis of breast cancer is terrifying and wreaks its havoc before some are fortunate to get a kinder diagnosis than others. So we all suffer. As for chemo, there are some women who sail through it and maintain part-time work while others are wiped out. But their cancers are the same. It’s all the luck of the draw.
You don’t yet know how you will respond to radiotherapy so it’s far to soon to be making plans, even tentatively. If you do have a plan and then can’t manage it, it will just add to a sense of failure or, as you say, feeling a fraud. I sailed through radiotherapy with just a mild itch and more severe pain a couple of months later (chemotherapy turned me into a zombie) but I know of others who suffer extreme fatigue and physical difficulties.
The same goes for the zometa infusion (biphosphonates). You might need a few days off each time as some women get flu-like symptoms. Personally, I get a kind of fatigue for about 4 days. Plus the hormone therapy side effects. So you haven’t got away with it you know 🙂
It may help to know that your employer already has registered you as disabled, required by law since 2010 (Equalities Act, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act) and your rights are protected by law. By all means Google it but you might find it more useful to ring MacMillan, whose helpline has an option related to work/benefits etc. They are very knowledgeable and may well be able to give you greater confidence about your rights and expectations when talking with your line manager (who sounds like she’s playing games with your conscience). Please don’t even attempt a phased return till you are clear that you know what YOU want and what you may be able to handle. It’s not just physically, it’s psychologically challenging.
Take good care of yourself x
Hello Maggles....don’t be feeling guilty for being off sick....and certainly don’t be feeling a fraud....and you not letting people down by being off sick....don’t ever think that.
ive had BC 3 times now....first time I had 3 months off ( V small low grade DCIS) , lumpectomy and no other treatment needed.....2nd time I had DCIS again( larger and high grade) and had mastectomy and then tamoxifen.....I had 6 months off this time as I really struggled with tamoxifen side effects at first And emotionally it took its toll...l.and I didn’t even have radiotherapy like you’re having....so you doing great and if you need longer off then that’s fine.
i was lucky in that my line manager was and is very supportive and has always said ....take as long as you need.....it’s just a job. Have you got an occupational health at work that can support You?
This 3rd time round iM having chemo rads, biphosphonates and letrozole and will probably take a year off And then go back on a months phased return ( I’m lucky that I get sick pay for a year and I know not everyone does) ....but I certainly won’t be telling myself to ‘get a grip’.....and neither should you.
the thing with going back to work is....once you are back....you are back ....and the expectation is that you fit to get on with it like you did before.
Look out for number 1 Maggles.... and go back when you are ready.
take good care x x
ps....remember.....’guilt is a wasted emotion’ !!
Don't go back till you feel like work would be manageable for you physically and emotionally .Once you are back - people forget very quickly what you've been through and expect you to just carry on as normal which in my view is just not possible after all you've been through .Cancer gives you a good old kicking even without chemo .Dont feel like a fraud you've been through a lot .Radiotherapy can make you very tired and the effects continue for 2/3weeks after you finish .I would ask for another 2/3 weeks and then negotiate a phased return and see how you feel.x
I had a mastectomy on 15 June to remove a fairly large lobular tumour (approximately 10cm) but thankfully both the margins and lymph nodes were clear, and the oncotype recurrence score was low, so I don't need chemotherapy. I'm due to start radiotherapy on 1 September (5 sessions over a week) following by a bone strengthening infusion (every 6 months for 3 years). I'm also taking letrozole and have been told I'll be on it for at least 5 years, possibly 10.
I've been off work since I had the mastectomy and my latest sick line ends on 7 September (last day of radiotherapy). I don't know whether to take more time off or to try to get back to work, possibly on a phased return. The problem I have is that I'm already struggling with the medication and I don't know how the radiotherapy is going to affect me. I'm already experiencing fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and my confidence and self esteem is at rock bottom. I don't know if I can face going back to work.
I've been in regular contact with my line manager and although she was initially sympathetic I get the impression (although she hasn't said anything) that she's getting impatient and thinks I should be back at work. She keeps telling me how busy everyone is and how good people have been at picking up my workload. If I go back with another sick line I don't know how she'll react. After all if they've managed without me for this long then maybe they can manage without me full stop.
Bottom line is I feel a bit of a fraud because I didn't have to have chemotherapy and I should maybe just pull myself together and stop letting everyone down.
Sorry for the rant but I don't have anyone to talk to about this who would understand how I'm feeling.