Return to work

KayB55 Member Posts: 75
Chemo 5 coming up soon then operation on December 6 and unsure about radium after that.  I have been on sick leave since July and that continues til school resumes in 2020. I am a teacher so I do need to set out my intentions in terms of return to work next year so that plans can be put in place for a replacement if needed etc. Are there any teachers out there in forum land who could give me some advice about 'going back to work' and what I should be considering before I actually state my 'intentions'? I will ring and speak to the Breast Cancer people tomorrow to get their advice etc. 


  • youngdogmum
    youngdogmum Member Posts: 250
    Not a teacher, paediatric nurse...Im 2 months post final radiation this month and to be honest, I'm getting bored. I thought Id give myself the whole year  but I realistically think Ill probably go back part time this month. I guess since you don't know your full treatment plan its difficult, but my skin was fully recovered 4 weeks after radiation and I could wear a bra and top might be cutting it fine to get back to school for term one. However many people do work full-time through radiation, it is much much easier generally than chemo. I could have worked but didn't want to. 
  • Beryl C.
    Beryl C. Member Posts: 270
    KayB55 I'm a retired Early Childhood teacher. I suggest you discuss your options with your school Principal. Would you consider (and would it be possible) to work three days a week perhaps until Easter next year? I understand this will mean less income but its a more gentle introduction to work. Teaching is very demanding, both physically and mentally and preparation can take up the bulk of your evenings. In other words, its a tough and demanding job. (which you know). At age 45  I had a serious illness and having used all my sick leave, went back to work too early - my boss was very understanding and set up a 'return to full time work' plan. I started at 2days a week and by May was full time.
  • Mahaica
    Mahaica Member Posts: 26
    I am a teacher and I have been off work from May to December. Finished chemo just waiting for radiation and then I will return next year. I used all my sick days and some long service leave. Was planning to go back in a few weeks but changed my mind because I am still have radiation ahead of me. 
  • KayB55
    KayB55 Member Posts: 75
    Mahaica, thank you. If all goes to plan I should be finished or 'just' finished my radiation by the first week back next year. I suppose like everything to do with BC, we just have to see how it goes. All the best with your treatment.
  • KayB55
    KayB55 Member Posts: 75
    Beryl, thank you for the suggestion, I'll ponder on this.
  • Sister
    Sister Member Posts: 4,960
    @KayB55 I'm not a teacher but I do work in a school so understand the process.  Some people are able to work through chemo but I wasn't one of them.  And the effects are cumulative so if it's making you tired now, it's likely to get a bit worse.  Chemo didn't affect me horrendously but I did rest for a lot of it. Radiation, while for most fairly easy, does also make you tired.  I took 3 terms off - 1, 2 and 3 in 2018, going back for Term 4.  I felt that I was ready and needed to start getting back to normal.  In hindsight, I couldn't have been more wrong.  Getting through that term left me so exhausted I was often near tears.  Add to that an unhealthy dose of chemo brain.  This year has been a bit better but by about Week 3 each term (so about now), I'm feeling that each day is a mountain to climb.  Of course, you might be feeling pretty good.  I know that some people sail through treatment and are fine working during and after, like Afraser, and you might be one of them in which case, please ignore.  However, if you're not like that and you can afford to take more time, or at the very least, reduce your hours significantly, my advice is to do so.  If nothing else, it will give you time to concentrate on yourself and your physical and mental well-being. 
  • KayB55
    KayB55 Member Posts: 75
    Because I have had chemo first and then the operation (then radium possibly) I wonder if this is different. Chemo has been OK because I am on leave and have rested when I need to etc . I do need to get myself more active now because I am out of condition. If I have radiation, it will be after the op and depending on the number of weeks required, I should still be on holidays as well. It is recovery from the mastecomy and dealing with the pain and discomfort afterwards once I am back to work is probably my biggest concern. How much residual discomfort is there - again this is probably one of those questions about how long is a piece of string.  Operation December 6 and i would expect to go back to school on January 29 but on a significantly reduced teaching load with time to rest between lessons.  Mentally I need to work, (financially not really an issue), I have never been away from work for such a long time and I feel that if I take another term off I will not be able or want to go back (I am 64) because I will be too detached from everyone. 
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,266
    Hi @KayB55

    Most people find a straightforward mastectomy relatively mild from a pain point of view. I was advised to take two weeks off work, and that’s perfectly sensible advice, but I was perfectly OK to go back after one. Discomfort seems to vary due to several things, most common is discomfort in moving the affected arm particularly if lymph nodes have been removed. I had 17 nodes removed but my arm mobility was excellent, so no difficulty there. If however you plan to have immediate reconstruction or preparation for reconstruction, recovery can take longer. I have remained unreconstructed, so can’t advise on that. I can sympathise with your wish to get back into things (I was 67 when diagnosed) but it really does depend on how you feel and that’s very hard to predict. After chemo, I enrolled in a gym for the first time in my life, conscious that although (not counting cancer!) I was pretty healthy, I wasn’t very fit. It’s become a pleasant habit. Best wishes. 
  • kezmusc
    kezmusc Member Posts: 1,544
    Hi @KayB55,
    One of my close work collegues (a nurse) has recently undergone a mastectomy with node biopsy. No recon and she opted out of chemo due to low benefit rate. Her surgery was 25/09 and she was back at work 28/10 full time.
    She wanted to come back the week prior to that but the boss told her to stay home.  Everyone is different though so it's one of those hard to tell things I guess.
    All teh best lovely.
  • Michele B
    Michele B Member Posts: 136
    Hi @KayB55,
    I am a teacher, 5 years post diagnosis. I didn't have chemo, I had lumpectomy, radiation then hormone therapy..4 years Tamoxifen and about 8 months now on Arimidex.
    I was teaching a prep/1 class when diagnosed then returned to teach a 3/4 class while undergoing radiation treatment. Given the mental and physical demand of teaching, I found myself totally exhausted. 
    I was given fabulous support from school but found I have used up all of my sick leave over the past 4 years.  Like @Sister, i find by about week 3 each term, I hit a wall and really just struggle through.
    Since changing from Tamoxifen to Arimidex though,  I am finding the fatigue a little easier to manage. A middle primary,  rather than an ECE class has also helped.
    I have asked my Principal for 4 days only next year, and hoping for a Wednesday off. My thi king is that I will then only need to work two days in a row at any time.
    Best of luck with the remainder of your treatment, I hope it all goes smoothly for you.  If you are in the position to work part time next year, or at least first term, I would highly recommended it.
    Best wishes, 

  • kmakm
    kmakm Member Posts: 7,974
  • JJ70
    JJ70 Member Posts: 983
    Thanks for tagging me in @kmakm.

    I'm a teacher too. I was diagnosed whilst on LSL and then had a whole year off through active treatment and DIEP recon.

    I returned to work beginning 2019 and am only doing  two days. Teaching is so demanding in every way....I couldn't do the job justice for any more than 3 days think about my own health with regard to this.
  • KayB55
    KayB55 Member Posts: 75
    My thanks for all the amazing advice I received. I went back to work on a very light load with flexibility because there was someone actually doing my job and I just came and went as I could. Early in radiation time I was there three days a week in bits and pieces, two days last week but am going through post radiation discomfort and fatigue so will go down to perhaps one day for the last two weeks of term (if they happen).  Next term (if it happens) I will stay on a light load, my replacement will be gone but I am confident I will be able to cope with it, particularly now that I have learned about lots of new technology to pre-record some parts of the lessons.  Having understanding principal and deputy principal has made a huge difference. I'll just see how it all pan out really.  Regards
  • primek
    primek Member Posts: 5,392
    I had bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and felt ready to return to work around week 6 but I started chemo that week. 
    Chemo was hard for me. I needed about 8 weeks prior returning to work and went back on half days initially and slowly increased my hours. I continued on herceptin in this time. It probably took me 4 to 5 months to feel ok at full time but required a lot of rest after work. I  used to do walks in my breaks to get my fitness back. I work in community nursing and was out in cars a lot so was doing quite a bit of moving around.