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Will I be able to work during treatment?

Iat10m
Posts: 6
Joined: Dec 2012

I will be starting treatment soon. IMRT twice a day for a total of 26 treatments. Chemo with FU5 and mitomycin C the first four days and possible the last 4 days. Was wondering if it would be better to work or take sick leave with short term disability? Anyone have experience with treatment and working? Wondering if the side effects would prohibit me or make me too uncomfortable (I am in an office environment).

mp327's picture
mp327
Posts: 2949
Joined: Jan 2010

I'm vry sorry that you have gotten this diagnosis.  I can't answer your questions about working, based on my own experience, as I was not employed at that time.  However, I know many people do continue to work during treatment, but it varies between individuals.  Some people have an easier time through treatment than others and you will not know how you react until you get started.  I would suggest having a backup plan in the event you reach a point where you feel you can not work and need to take some time off.

 

I'm curious about your treatment, as you state you are getting radiation twice a day.  If you could tell us why you are on a 2x/day schedule, I would appreciate it.  The usual protocol is 1x/daily for 5-7 weeks.  If I am understanding correctly, you will be done in less than 3 weeks, correct? 

 

I'm sure others will give you some feedback on the issue of working during treatment.  I wish you all the best and hope you'll let us know how it goes. 

Iat10m
Posts: 6
Joined: Dec 2012

I have had previous pelvic radiation (prostate cancer) - that restricts the amount of radiation I can receive. As an option to radical APR the doctors have offered an 1970's protocol (NIGRO) set at only 39 gray vs. the norm of 45 gray for 26 treatments (with approx. 86% non-recurrance rate). We asked to go this direction as a first line effort - then fall abck to the APR if we are unsucessful.

I have been in pain for over a year now - thinking I had an anal fissure and some really bad hemmoroids that have made me put the bulk of a very active lifestyle on HOLD. So......I am hoping to continue work in an effort to keep my focus on a somewhat normal life and not let this illness define my life. 

Clovergirl
Posts: 47
Joined: Dec 2012

in a few weeks and will be trying to work. I'm going to see how it goes. I have disability leave available to me where I can be off with full pay. I want to try to work because I think it will help keep me distracted and my mind off of things. I'm also fortunate to have a great employer. They told me go home early or don't come in if I'm having a bad day. I have seen many people post on here that they could only work until about halfway through treatment. I hope your treatment goes well.

mxperry220
Posts: 361
Joined: Mar 2011

There was no way I could have worked during treatment.  I had diarrhea issues.  My commute to work was 33 miles one way.  I could not have handled stress related work issues on top of the radiation/chemo treatments.  I would suggest you try to keep your life as stress free as possible during treatments.

Mike

Marynb
Posts: 1134
Joined: Aug 2012

I was treated with the accepted protocol of radiation once a day for 7 weeks and chemo. If you are being treated twice a day, my guess would be that you will feel the effects of the treatment much quicker, and perhaps, more intensely. I have never heard of anyone getting the protocol you will be getting. I would assume that if you are getting radiation twice a day, you will not be able to work during treatment for very long. The diarreah and burns will probably come very soon after treatment begins.

Good luck.

kirby77
Posts: 48
Joined: Jul 2012

Dear lat10m,

I asked this very same question last July. I had a complication after the excision of the tumor, I bled profusely 1 week later, so my healing was delayed. Once I healed from the surgery, it meant all the work up, CTs, consults and so on. Finally, after the treatment plan was clearly planned, I was faced with the same decision. Return to work for a short time and tough it out or stay out and prepare for the most difficult period of treatment. For me, it started week 3, with proctitis which caused severe pain. It meant I was on the toilet multiple times per day, and it truely was PAINFUL. I rarely take pain medication, but did not hesitate to take Vicodan when necessary. I certainly could not have worked. After the conclusion of my treatment, it took another two and 1/2 weeks to recover and I had a break in radiation due to the rad center being down, but would have likely taken one due to swelling, pain, burns and proctitis. Take time off, if you have short term disability, use it. I felt guilty about it all, until I suffered greatly toileting every five minutes. Then I thought there is no way in HE2xstoothpicks that I could work. Really, I sweated the question, especially early on in the radiation treatment when I thought "this is nothing" only to find out the pain it was in reality was yet to come.

I don't want to scare you. Since then, I returned to work the end of October, felt great. The experience of it all feels more remote and certainly do-able. I am full of gratitude to this board for the support and wisdom it offers. And I am so glad to be on the other side of it all now. Best wishes to you.

kirby77
Posts: 48
Joined: Jul 2012

Dear lat10m,

I asked this very same question last July. I had a complication after the excision of the tumor, I bled profusely 1 week later, so my healing was delayed. Once I healed from the surgery, it meant all the work up, CTs, consults and so on. Finally, after the treatment plan was clearly planned, I was faced with the same decision. Return to work for a short time and tough it out or stay out and prepare for the most difficult period of treatment. For me, it started week 3, with proctitis which caused severe pain. It meant I was on the toilet multiple times per day, and it truely was PAINFUL. I rarely take pain medication, but did not hesitate to take Vicodan when necessary. I certainly could not have worked. After the conclusion of my treatment, it took another two and 1/2 weeks to recover and I had a break in radiation due to the rad center being down, but would have likely taken one due to swelling, pain, burns and proctitis. Take time off, if you have short term disability, use it. I felt guilty about it all, until I suffered greatly toileting every five minutes. Then I thought there is no way in HE2xstoothpicks that I could work. Really, I sweated the question, especially early on in the radiation treatment when I thought "this is nothing" only to find out the pain it was in reality was yet to come.

I don't want to scare you. Since then, I returned to work the end of October, felt great. The experience of it all feels more remote and certainly do-able. I am full of gratitude to this board for the support and wisdom it offers. And I am so glad to be on the other side of it all now. Best wishes to you.

kirby77
Posts: 48
Joined: Jul 2012

Dear lat10m,

I asked this very same question last July. I had a complication after the excision of the tumor, I bled profusely 1 week later, so my healing was delayed. Once I healed from the surgery, it meant all the work up, CTs, consults and so on. Finally, after the treatment plan was clearly planned, I was faced with the same decision. Return to work for a short time and tough it out or stay out and prepare for the most difficult period of treatment. For me, it started week 3, with proctitis which caused severe pain. It meant I was on the toilet multiple times per day, and it truely was PAINFUL. I rarely take pain medication, but did not hesitate to take Vicodan when necessary. I certainly could not have worked. After the conclusion of my treatment, it took another two and 1/2 weeks to recover and I had a break in radiation due to the rad center being down, but would have likely taken one due to swelling, pain, burns and proctitis. Take time off, if you have short term disability, use it. I felt guilty about it all, until I suffered greatly toileting every five minutes. Then I thought there is no way in HE2xstoothpicks that I could work. Really, I sweated the question, especially early on in the radiation treatment when I thought "this is nothing" only to find out the pain it was in reality was yet to come.

I don't want to scare you. Since then, I returned to work the end of October, felt great. The experience of it all feels more remote and certainly do-able. I am full of gratitude to this board for the support and wisdom it offers. And I am so glad to be on the other side of it all now. Best wishes to you.

jcruz
Posts: 235
Joined: Jan 2013

This is my first time commenting (although I have been reading this board for months and have found it so helpful).  I had my treatment for 7 weeks in Sept-Oct. 2012 and have not yet returned to work.  As someone else said, we are all different and will respond differently.  There is no way that I could have worked while in treatment.  I was exhausted and in pain throughout that time.  I still am easily fatigued and can't yet sit for very long.  My job requires me to sit at a desk for most of the day and I will probably have to ask for a standing desk when I return to work.  I was very fortunate to have a big bank of sick leave and vacation hours that carried me for the first few months and I am now on disability.  I will happily return to work when I am ready but I am really glad I didn't have to worry about going out on leave when I needed to.

mal1947
Posts: 3
Joined: Jan 2013

I just completed my treatments a month ago. They were exactly what you will be doing. I worked for about the first 2 weeks and felt great. Even drove myself to radiation and wore the chemo "fanny pak". Then I began to get tired and feeling nauseous. I decided at that time to stay at home. I knew my resistance was lowering and I didn't want to catch anyone elses cold or sickness in the office. Before leaving, my company (I work in an office environment too)they supplied me with a laptop so that on good days, when I was able to, I could log in to my work. On days that I just couldn't get to the computer, the office knew that I was feeling too ill to do so. So my thought would be...YES....go to work but take care of yourself.

mal1947
Posts: 3
Joined: Jan 2013

I just completed my treatments a month ago. They were exactly what you will be doing. I worked for about the first 2 weeks and felt great. Even drove myself to radiation and wore the chemo "fanny pak". Then I began to get tired and feeling nauseous. I decided at that time to stay at home. I knew my resistance was lowering and I didn't want to catch anyone elses cold or sickness in the office. Before leaving, my company (I work in an office environment too)they supplied me with a laptop so that on good days, when I was able to, I could log in to my work. On days that I just couldn't get to the computer, the office knew that I was feeling too ill to do so. So my thought would be...YES....go to work but take care of yourself.

mal1947
Posts: 3
Joined: Jan 2013

I just completed my treatments a month ago. They were exactly what you will be doing. I worked for about the first 2 weeks and felt great. Even drove myself to radiation and wore the chemo "fanny pak". Then I began to get tired and feeling nauseous. I decided at that time to stay at home. I knew my resistance was lowering and I didn't want to catch anyone elses cold or sickness in the office. Before leaving, my company (I work in an office environment too)they supplied me with a laptop so that on good days, when I was able to, I could log in to my work. On days that I just couldn't get to the computer, the office knew that I was feeling too ill to do so. So my thought would be...YES....go to work but take care of yourself.

Jo Joy
Posts: 39
Joined: Oct 2012

I asked the same question in October before I started treatment.  I read the comments and then decided I was going to be fine working and I promised myself that if it got too much I would bow out at work.  I did amazingly well with treatment.  No pain pills. No nausea. I had some pain with the burns but I literally prayed and never had that kind of pain again.

I work a desk job.  I had 25 rad treatments and the last one was on Dec 20.  Looking back I should have taken the week off after I had started the second round of chemo.  That was a game changer for me.  That is when the diarrhea started.  It was the cramping that was horrible.  It took me about a week to get adjusted to what was going on and how to manage with different doses of Imodium.  That week was my last week at my previous job.  I felt a sense of responsibility to finish up somethings before I left. They didn't appreciate it, so I shouldn't have bothered because I was in the bathroom a lot of the time.

The other time that I couldn't have gone to work I was actually off for the holidays.  I had 2 days when I had no energy and felt like I was going to pass out.  I borrowed a wheelchair so I could go to a Christmas Eve event because I knew I couldn't standup for very long. Friends pushed me and I was able to enjoy myself.  The funny thing was that my blood counts were good the day before that.

Both jobs knew that I was going through treatment and allowed me time to go to rad treatments and would have allowed me time off if I would have asked.  My new job is awesome and is less stressful than the job I left.  I have said it here before that I truly believe that stress from my previous job was what caused this because I have none of the risk factors, nor genetics for this type of cancer or cancer period.

So get prepared as if you were taking the time off by telling your work and asking for possible time off or a flexible schedule, and work as long as it is beneficial and not a detriment to your health or healing.

 

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