Home General discussion

Newbie - and finding it hard to go back to work

roserose Member Posts: 34
Hi everyone

First post and I'm glad to be here. I was diagnosed 2 months ago, had surgery a month ago, and am starting radiotherapy in January. I've been lucky as my cancer was caught very early. As for everyone, this has been a rollercoaster. I was elated that I didn't need chemo; but am hugely depressed at the thought of working. I had 3 weeks off and am back working. I work from home a lot in a job I used to enjoy (mostly), even though I worked 60-70 hours a week, week in, week out. And now I can't do it anymore, I just feel like going back to bed. I'm on a return to work plan in the new year, but am currently trying to work full-time, and the work still keeps coming. Most of my colleagues seem to have forgotten that I've recently had cancer, and expect me to be the same workaholic I always was. I just can't do it. I think about changing careers, but have no idea of what else I'd like to do. I've been seeing a cancer counsellor, but the sessions are just traumatic, and I'm not sure they're helping. I'm so tired, and have run out of resilience, and really just don't care about working... 

Any thoughts welcome. Thanks. 



  • j9kj9k Member Posts: 98
    Hi @rose, sorry you have had to go through this. This horrible BC turns your world upside down. It usually comes out of nowhere and from diagnosis to treatment is a whirlwind. It is completely understandable you are finding it hard to return to your previous normal. It's only 2mths since this all started for you. It will take time to find your new balance, which may mean you re-evaluate things in your life, or at least need some time out. People talk about a new-normal, and it may take some time to find that. Be gentle with yourself. You have had something happen to your body, but my experience is that it takes a while for the mind to catch up. You go into survival mode to get through the intital stress of diagnosis and then I believe the mental aspects of that process start once you are through that initial crisis. Are you able to take some holidays to give yourself some time to manage what you have been through? For me, the mental aspect of BC has been much harder than the physical. I have found this forum a supportive place where you are understood. Ask anything. I don't know what to suggest re the counsellor except to say that what you have been through is traumatic. It may take a little while for these feelings to subside. Is there another counsellor you could talk to? Sometimes it's about finding the right person to talk to, with the right process. There are also people to talk to at bcna. You could try one of them. I don't have the number handy but it will be on the website. (I'm not good at finding other things at the same time as writing on here) . Or other ladies will post the details. Please take special care @rose
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,960
    There is definitely a big gulf between before BC and after.  I was off work for about 10 months and have been back for 2 and struggling with it.  You will be feeling emotionally drained, I should imagine - if you are able to take more time out, do.  Whatever you can do, try to be firm about the workload.  I know that it's very easy to say...
  • AfraserAfraser MelbourneMember Posts: 3,981
    One of the most useful things I did was find a really good counsellor (they do exist) who raised the confronting issue of my old normal not being very normal at all. Working long hours, six days a week and recovering sufficiently on the weekend to start all over again was my norm, and continued to be so through treatment. It was only when I hit the third long term side effect (none of which actually stopped above behaviour) that I sought advice and was encouraged to reconsider my idea of a normal pattern. It took some time. I was lucky that nothing forced a change, I was able to do it as I saw a different normal emerge that was attractive, not what cancer had forced me into. But you need someone who is looking at you, not a cancer patient, to assist the process. If you can reduce your commitments without making an irrevocable decision, while you work out things in your own time, that may be the best outcome short term. Best wishes.
  • BlackWidowBlackWidow Lake GardensMember Posts: 260
    If your finances allow, take a break from it all then come back in the new year with more focus on just you.  I think we all review our lives and some ladies successfully change careers.  How about making a list of your strengths and likes etc - be quick and keep it simple (don't procrastinate on any words).  Some of the wonderful ladies on hear will no doubt read it and give you some ideas of a career change - many may be something you'd not even thought about.  Good luck.  Anne
  • kezmusckezmusc Member Posts: 1,544
    Hi @rose

    Welcome to the forum lovely.  Some good advice as usual from the ladies. 

     You really haven't had much time to even process the whole situation let alone work long hours.  
    Many people really don't understand the mental and emotional toll this thing takes.  Some of us work throughout, some don't, some cut down their hours.  Some peole change careers.

    The whole thing really does make you take a good look at your life. It also changes your perspective on what's important and what is not.  Perhaps you need to remind your work collegues that you are still recovering from surgery and radiation causes fatigue for some and not for others and that is yet to come.

    Of course a break would be the best option right now.  What do you do at the moment?  Any ideas at all what you would like to do?  Any chance you can work part time with your current job?

  • roserose Member Posts: 34
    Thank you all for your advice - greatly appreciated. It all makes sense, esp yours Afraser, as you've also worked long hours. I think you're right - I do need a counsellor who doesn't see me as a patient. Kezmusc, I'm an academic - I teach, research and do all the rest in the social sciences field. I would love to take the rest of the year off, but as usual have a big deadline in January. My GP also told me to go back to work to socialise etc - not realising I work from home a lot, and at this time of year, there's barely a colleague around anyway. I'll be working part-time during radiotherapy - doing 4 days, instead of my usual 6 or 7. I don't know what I want to do - am thinking about going to a consultancy, but don't want more long hours. Thanks everyone. 
  • kezmusckezmusc Member Posts: 1,544
    Can you start your own consultancy business?  Then you could make your own hours.
  • Riki_BCNARiki_BCNA Staff Posts: 323
    [email protected] and welcome. You might find the work and breast cancer hub on the BCNA website helpful for tips and strategies- also helpful for work colleagues. https://www.bcna.org.au/work-and-breast-cancer/ If you would like to talk about any concerns with a cancer nurse please don't hesitate to call the BCNA Helpline on 1800 500 258 Take it one day at a time and do what is best for you. There is time to make decisions. 
  • primekprimek Broken HillMember Posts: 5,392
    With my Dr we devised a return to work  plan. I started back at half hours. If I felt overwhelmed by workloads I talked to my boss. My memory was suffering and i got stressed much more easily. I took 6 months to get back to full time. I utilised our hospital Cancer Care coordinator to talk to my boss about the physical and psychological impact of breast cancer as I was too teary to manage that. 
  • roserose Member Posts: 34
    Hi all, thanks very much for your suggestions. Kezmusc, I've thought about starting my own business, but think the energy required to chase clients would be too much. And Primek - that's good to know about the Cancer Care Co-ordinator. 
  • jennyssjennyss Western NSWMember Posts: 1,591
    Dear @rose
    I hope you can create some flexibility/space with your work hours over Christmas, January and February and onwards. Is your radiotherapy treatment close to home? Will you be having hormone (tablets) treatment following your radiotherapy. Reactions to these treatments vary a lot, as you will read.
    I returned to work full-time in a new job five months after radiotherapy ended. I was excited and pleased to be able to do this, but now I'm looking forward to retirement!

    from jennyss in Western NSW
  • iserbrowniserbrown Regional VictoriaMember Posts: 5,148

    How are you now we are into January!  Have you been able to sort out your workload and or start radiotherapy?
  • roserose Member Posts: 34
    Hi Iser, I'm much better all round after a holiday where I didn't do any work at all - a first for me! But I'm dreading going back to work and the thought of it is depressing me. I've decided to look for a new job - one which allows me to have some work/life balance and which is less stressful. I've loved having week-ends off, and don't want to go back to working all the time. I've also realised that I only enjoy a very small part of my job, so think it's time to move on. It took a lot for me to get this job and jobs in my area are hard to get and highly sought after. Leaving would be a huge step, so I'll take it slowly. 

    I've started radiotherapy - 2 sessions down, 18 to go...

    Thanks for checking on me - hugely appreciate the support. 
  • iserbrowniserbrown Regional VictoriaMember Posts: 5,148
    Having breast cancer brings a heightened awareness of our bodies but also of self.  
    Sounds like a reassessment of work life balance will be beneficial 

    Take care 
  • JuliedJulied Member Posts: 1
    @Rose I am a senior executive in the public service. You are in higjer education and our industry super funds will have insurance for temporary disability. Have you explored that option of staying off work and recieving pay until you are fit to return? That has been a god-send for my peace of mind.
Sign In or Register to comment.