I did a 'Where Now?' course with Maggies after my last go-round (yeah, lucky me, back again!) and one of the topics they spent a lot of time with was stress. Chemo brain is one thing, but just stress - and having cancer during a global pandemic has to count triple, right?! - will give that brain fog effect as mentioned below.
If it's any help, I felt absolutely the same: that I just wasn't capable of doing my job. Luckily my employer is absolutely amazing and I had the time to build back up again. It will ease, and the less stressed and anxious you are about it the quicker it'll happen - although that's probably the hardest thing to actually do!
It sounds normal to me but normal doesn’t apply in cancer world - we’re all different. Many people experience what’s sometimes called chemo-brain but, as you didn’t have chemo, I guess you go with brain fog. You have experienced a major trauma, even if you do feel blessed that it wasn’t worse. The mere breast cancer diagnosis is traumatic, followed by surgery, again traumatic, and radiotherapy (you don’t say how you got on with that). Radiotherapy can cause fatigue and fatigue... well, how long is a piece of string? . It can hit you at any time and last for months after treatment. I still can’t start a crossword - the squares just dance about - and I was writing the other day and had to google because I couldn’t remember the word for a baby deer!! And then there’s the anastrozole and, yes, fatigue is a side effect - and you are cursed/blessed with Anastrozole for several years (I have 9 to go so that’s my vocabulary on hold for a while).
I think your anxiety about returning to work sounds ‘normal’. You have the Equalities Act to protect you as your employer had to register you as disabled. It may be worth looking this up and also asking your line manager about the plans for your return to work. Is it a phased return? Can they reduce workload, delegate certain tasks? But if you don’t feel able to return to work in January, your GP will be able to support you.
Breastcancernow has information about both fatigue and returning to work, as do other breast cancer charities and McMillan. You might consider ringing one of the nurses at the number above (they are so supportive) and talking about this with them.
I hope you manage to return to your work but don’t beat yourself up about it if you can’t for a while longer. Brain fog and fatigue (which comes first?) can’t be measured or predicted so you need to go with the flow.
All the best xx
This is my first post, but I've looked at the forum several times over the last few months and have been overwhelmed by the obvious care and amazing advice/suggestions given by and to other members. I wondered if anyone can assist?
I feel incredibly blessed to have been diagnosed, had surgery, completed radiotherapy (I am one of the lucky ones who didn't need chemotherapy) and started on Anastrozole all since May and during Covid. I think I've coped relatively well and just tried to stay focused on getting through things and not putting any undue pressure on my family/friends.
Fortunately, I won't have to return to work until January, however, I have a stressful job and have to manage/process a plethora of different tasks daily. The problem is that I am becoming increasingly anxious about a) returning to work and b) whether I still have the cognitive abilities to do my job as I seem to be struggling with just day to day tasks and my memory appears to have disappeared!! Could this be a side effect of the Anastrozole? Does it improve after time? Any advice would be most welcome. Many thanks.