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66-year old male with triple-positive breast cancer - still working

pnienaberpnienaber Perth, Western AustraliaMember Posts: 3
Hi, I was diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer in April 2021. Had a mastectomy and axillary lymph node clearance in May 2021 by Dr Di Hastrich at the Mount Hospital in Perth. Will start a TCH chemo regimen in May 2021under the guidance of Dr Albert Gan. I started in a new job at Arc Infrastructure in March 2021.  My employer has been super supportive. I am concerned about my ability to keep working during chemo.  I lost my wife to breast cancer. I am not afraid of dying, but rather want to know how I can best live my life going forwards.


  • AllyJayAllyJay Member Posts: 870
    @traveltext...Perhaps you can give some male support to @pnienaber. Welcome brother and I'm so sorry that you find yourself here, belonging to a club nobody really wants to join. I'm also so very sorry about your wife and your loss of her to this awful disease. Big hugs((())).
  • FLCloverFLClover Sydney Member Posts: 1,445
    So sorry about your wife 😢. You will do better in beating this. I don’t have advice for chemo, but just wanted to wish you strength and send you hugs ♥️
  • AfraserAfraser MelbourneMember Posts: 3,889
    Dear @pnienaber
    It’s a tricky thing chemo - reactions vary wildly and it’s extremely hard to predict individual responses. I had a pretty positive experience - six months of chemo (A/C and Taxol) and I worked throughout. I took a day off for four A/C infusions but only as long as it took for Taxol (my day oncology was near work). I did have side effects, but no nausea, fatigue or chemo brain which are the most common inhibitors of keeping working. I lost my hair (wore a wig, didn’t feel the need to run up a flag) but all my work colleagues knew, I didn’t feel a need to keep it secret - became a bit of a nag about getting mammograms! How you respond to chemo has, as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing to do with your attitude - being positive is more pleasant for those around you, but very positive people can be floored, temporarily, by chemo. With a supportive boss, have an A and a B plan. The B plan may give you some working at home options, or a day or two recovery time, whatever you find you need. You usually get a pretty good idea of your pattern in a couple of weeks. I had a mastectomy and axillary clearance eight years ago (not triple negative). Life after bc has been very good - you’ve had more than your share so very best wishes for treatment and beyond. 
  • TonyaMTonyaM Member Posts: 2,725
    Hi @pnienaber,
    welcome to the online network but so sorry you have a bc diagnosis and that your dear wife died of the same.It truly is a wretched disease.Gosh, your new job was bad timing but it’s great you have a supportive boss.Chemo is one of those things which is hard to predict.Some people fly through it and others limp. I was a limper! It also depends on the work you do as to whether you should stay on during chemo. I was a nurse so I just took the time off, straight up and I’m glad I did. If you work in an office or can work from home then that’s a different kettle of fish.Some people will do their first chemo round,see how they fare and then negotiate with their boss from that point.No doubt you have some experience to draw upon from your wife’s bc journey- although we are all different.Ultimately do what you feel is right for you.Chemo is the hardest of all(I think) so be kind to yourself.Good luck with your decisions.
  • Cath62Cath62 Brisbane Member Posts: 787
    Hi @pnienaber, this disease is the pits isn't it. Sorry you have bc and sorry for the loss of your wife. Re chemo I didn't work. I had 3 AC and 9 taxol. The hardest part for me was the steroids they gave me so my body didn't reject the chemo drugs. It made me really high in energy for a couple of days and then I would crash. I had them cut out the steroids on the taxol once they knew I didn't react to the drugs. I lost my hair and I was pretty fatigued but I did walk every day. My oncologist advised exercise to help get through it and it saved me. Everyone is so different so I hope you aren't too affected. Re living your best life, I do everything that I enjoy and spend time with people I love. I exercise regularly (my active treatment finished in Oct 2020), eat good food, reduced my alcohol intact and travel in Oz. Sending you a hug. I think you are very brave. 
  • traveltexttraveltext CooroyMember Posts: 248
    edited May 2021
    Welcome @pnienaberI'm sorry that your wife passed from with insidious disease. 

     'm a guy who was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Inflammatory Breast Cancer in 2014, aged 64. I started with chemo to reduce the tumour size and settle down the skin. I had a fair old time with the chemo, few side-effects. Did FEC and Taxol. Then came the surgery which consisted of a full mastectomy and the removal of all 23 lymph nodes under the arm. Two showed cancer. Then it was off to the radiation for 33 doses. For the past seven years I've taken the hormone blocker Tamoxifen. I'm in remission and doing well. Five years ago I managed to get diagnosed with Prostate Cancer nd was treated with a robotic prostatectomy. All good now.

    Re the chemo, everyone has a different reaction. You will be offered anti-nausea meds and these will help. My oncologist gave me this advice at the start of treatment: don't have any pre-conceived notions about any state of treatment. That's my advice to you. Chime in here whenever you want a friendly ear. Everyone understands the trip you are going on. Good luck!

  • LocksleyLocksley Macedon Ranges, VictoriaMember Posts: 796
    @pnienaber so sorry to hear of your diagnoses and sorry to hear your  wife passed from bc.  Its really is a shitfull disease.  
    Your  new boss sounds good.  Do rest up  and be kind to yourself during treatment. Everyone responds differently.  Lots of advice and support here. Sending you a hug.
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,957
    I don't have anything more to add as everyone else has said it.  It's so much easier with an employer who is supportive and you will find out how chemo hits you when you do it.  I would suggest checking to see if you have Super insurance and being aware of the conditions if you do.  (Mine would not allow me to work at all during the period so there was no wriggle room to go in when I felt okay)  Be aware that they can take months to start paying out, though.  Sorry to see you here and about your wife, but good that you've found this forum.
  • JennyD78JennyD78 NewcastleMember Posts: 69
    Hi @pnienaber I echo what everyone else has said about chemo and just wanted to say an extra "Hi" from a fellow rail infrastructure company worker (I'm at ARTC).  I was lucky enough to work all the way through my treatment (chemo, surgery and radiation) with just a few days off and a lot of working from home.  I was incredibly busy at the time organising rail and sleeper deliveries for Inland Rail but my wonderful manager was happy for me to work flexibly so I could stay on top of everything while managing appointments, fatigue etc.  Being able to keep working definitely helped my mental heath :)
  • BlackWidowBlackWidow Lake GardensMember Posts: 256
    Welcome @pnienaber to this club none of us wanted to join and none of us expected to join.  I hope you find some good advice on here as we have all been able to support each other over time.  I hope some of the men can come on and support you as traveltext has.  Do keep in touch.  I am so sad to hear about your wife but do know treatments change and get better.  You are in my prayers.
  • arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 6,122
    That really sucks @pnienaber - it is totally unfair after losing your wife to this insidious disease as well as having it now yourself.  Scream & shout & rant & rave if you feel like it here - we are safe ears.   

    I am so glad that your work is supportive of you & I hope you have supportive family & friends too, as you may feel a bit crook with the chemo - but everyone reacts differently - and it depends on which regime you are on too!  Some sail thru it.  My hubby is having chemo now for Stage 4 gastric cancer - and not doing too badly - just one horrible peeling foot ..... so keep an eye on your hands & feet, in case they are affected.

    Take care, keep doing what you love doing & I hope you can keep doing that thru the chemo too. xx
  • MicheleRMicheleR South AustraliaMember Posts: 341
    Hi @pnienaber,

    Sorry to hear you are here and for the loss of your wife. 

    If you want to work during chemo, give it a try. Its not great fun but after the first few you know what to expect and how your body reacts.

    You might need to consider that your immunity will be lower and moving into winter there are more bugs around. If you work with lots of other people this is a consideration. Masks could help. 

    If you have something like income protection they want you to be unable to work for 30 days before they pay out. Your oncologist can sign the forms and give medical certificate. I went back to work after my surgery to try to work but my head was all over the place, even though id been off for a month and then only worked 12 hours I had to wait another 30 days to get a payment. I had zero sick leave so that left me income free for a bit. 

    I finished treatment in january and went back to work 50% in February. Another factor is change in priorities and lingering side effects. 

    Good luck with everything. Great to see you here.

  • AbbydogAbbydog Adelaide, South AustraliaMember Posts: 306
    Dear Pnieber,
    I'm terribly sorry to hear your news, and that of your wife too. I tend to agree with TonyaM.
    The Chemo is very variable for each of us. I too am a RN. I chose to use Income Protection, that I had within my 
    Superannuation. I took off all of the time for Surgery, Chemo and Radiotherapy. My reasons being less stress,
    Worries re roster, Infection risk to me and being possibly unreliable in the work place.
    I was happy with my decision. I am now happily back at work and enjoying it(I'm almost 63)
    My Chemo experience was as good as it gets, I think. I could have worked probably, had I had different work.
    I had no nausea, many side effects, but all manageable. I was 'lucky'. My Chemo was not the same as yours.
    You won't know until you are going through it.
    It also depends on your type of work, and perhaps how satisfying it is to you.
    Do you need to work, financially? Or perhaps enjoy work and find it rewarding? Is it flexible?
    Perhaps just see how it goes for you.
    I wish you all the best with your future.
    Let us know how you go.

  • pnienaberpnienaber Perth, Western AustraliaMember Posts: 3
    Thank you so much for all the lovely comments and inspiring stories.  I think for me the big takeaway is to wait and see how the chemo affects me. I have been in hospital again this week to receive intravenous antibiotics as my axilla operation site had become infected.  Chemo will now be delayed by a week but in the scheme of things that is nothing. 
  • AllyJayAllyJay Member Posts: 870
    Unfortunately, it's that old "Hurry up and wait" scenario. Chin up Pieter, you've got this assorted group cheering you on from the sidelines.
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