worried of returning to work

liz11808 Member Posts: 34
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
I am worried to return to work. I know people have different ways of approaching us. I don't know how to deal with them. I decided that I will not be wearing a wig to work. I will wear headscraves and turban. This will be a shock for them. By the way, only my Boss and the benefit people knows about my cancer. Please give me some advice.


  • OH, boy, Liz - can I identify. I work with incarcerated teenage boys. Talk about a tough audience. I was so scared to show up with my wig and I was planning on not telling of the inmates about my cancer. The day before I needed to go in bewigged, I also got a lip swelling cancer sore from the chemo. Did I feel ugly! I will tell you how I got through it. With self love. I told myself what I would tell a child, that I am a brave little soldier. You are a brave little soldier Liz, and your army wil not be marching with you back to work at your side, but surely in your heart. I am there, honey, as, when you read my post, you were with me when I went back. We are in an army that keeps each other safe accross states and time. Hold your head up, darling, be ready for what comes. I will tell you how it went for me. Most of my co-workers knew already and they were respectfully quiet. That is the norm. Then there are two out of norm groups. People that need to be quiet but aren't and end up saying some little thing to make you upset. But I promise that you will find the other out of the norm types more than make up for it. You will find people who reach out and do so successfully, finding the right words and encouragement to make your days easier.
    And, I also want to tell you about another aspect of my experience. I cried a lot. When I didn't want to and when I wasn't particularly upset. Whether it was the stress or the hormones of medical menapause or a chemo side effect, I don't know. But don't worry. The tears are a side effect and not a valid indicator of your attitude. This is hard to explain. When I first found myself crying too much I thought it must be because my life was horrible. It wasn't that bad, I just cried a lot. I made peace with that and even explained it to some of my work friends who supported me. By the way, the boys I work with (who I count as friends) have never mentioned my new "hairstyle" and I don't think they know about my C. And so now I have one more hurdle that I will have to corss, another chance to be a brave soldier. When I take off my wig and scarf and show my short hair for the first time. I am sure the boys who do not know about my C will think "Man, what possessed Ms. Z to get such an ugly haircut." That day will be hard, but I have gotten through hard days before and I will get through that one. You will get through yours too. Write and tell me how it goes. Writing is great. One time, recently, when someone said something insensitive to me I thought - Boy, I can't wait to go home and write a post about this! I know the ladies here will support me..and they did. And they will. Best wishes! love, Joyce
  • ninjamom
    ninjamom Member Posts: 142
    Liz, I am also looking to go back to work soon and have the same dilema. I have work for the same bank for 9 yrs, my coworkers all know about my C (I had my sup. inform everyone so I wouldn' have to) and have seen me with a very short haircut (just had my first treatment 5-9), but none of my customers know, they have only been told I'm on medical leave. When I approached my supervisors about returning to work, the first thing they asked (other than how soon) was if I had ordered my wig yet. That made me feel uncomfortable because I had decided not to do the wig thing. Because I work with the public in a financial institutions people are encouraging me to wear a wig. I'm also worried to return to work because of other people's reactions to the new hair do. You are not alone, hold your head high and be proud. Remember people at work respect you for who you are and not for what you look like. Best wishes
  • seof
    seof Member Posts: 819 Member
    Liz, Ninjamom, and whoever else is worried about this: I think that is another fear of the unknown that we survivors have. I was worried bacause I work in an elementary school and we had a new District dress code for teachers and students that forbids any headgear in any buildings. I go permission from the administrator to wear hats, and I was worried that students and teachers would ask questions I dod not want to answer. I had 2 out of 47 of my students ask my why I wore hats. I just said, "I have cancer and the medicine I take makes my hair fall out. The Principal said it was OK to wear hats till it grows back". That was the end of it. Instead of having to answer questions, I found an occasional hat in my campus mailbox. I have become the "hat lady" at work, and that is all there is to it. It was a little odd at first, but after a year, it seems normal. I basically took a "don't ask, don't tell" approach. The administrators knew because they had to know why I was going to take off 1/2 day each week (for chemo treatments), and I wanted permission to wear hats and felt they should know the reason. I did not volunteer to tell anyone, but I did not tell the administrators not to tell anyone either. No doubt word spread. Since then I have had a lot of support.

    It is a very personal thing, and you will make the decision that's best for you, but I would suggest that you say nothing unless you are asked, then be honest and direct, but brief. (Feel free to quote what I said the to the kids, if it will help).

    I think we notice a lot more that others do. I expect it will be OK, but let us know how it goes.

    best wishes, seof
  • liz11808
    liz11808 Member Posts: 34
    Thank you all very much for the responses. I took a long nap (maybe I'm tired) and didn't check the site this afternoon. I read all your post together with my 2 daughters (16 and 12). Each one of us read a post out loud. I will go back to work on June 30 and I started to buy a lot of scarves and turban (different color / print). I am thinking that when the people see me, they will see the C but will get side track with the colorful headscarf or turban. This is my way to deal with it, maybe it will work if they see the colorful scarf on my head. My hair started to fall 2 weeks after my first chemo (April 4) and my husband shaved everything. I already prepared myself for this day meaning I already cry for my loss hair. At home I don't wear anything, I can look at the mirror and it's OK. Going out of the house is very hard at first. I have to make sure that no body is there before I go out. I become brave one day and actually went to the mall with my husband. We even went shopping to Target and ate lunch in the food court. Little by little I tried other stuff like I go walking in the morning, drop and pick up my daughter to schooland it gives me some sort of freedom. Of course, I don't know the people that saw me so I don't have to say anything. Just like yesterday, we went to rent some videos and the guy on the store keep looking at my turban, then if I look at him and I smile he right away turned his head as if I didn't noticed he was looking at my head. I will have my 3rd chemo on Friday (May 16) and at least the side effects are bearable. I become very very tired with metallic taste and muscle and bone pain. But now I will always remember that I am a brave soldier and fight this battle. I truly appreciate having involved in this community. Just like my kids said when we finished reading all the post, " Mom, you have new friends now" and I really felt it's true.

  • jdubious
    jdubious Member Posts: 113
    Hi Liz,
    When I went back to work after starting chemo, I chose to wear a wig. No one could tell it was a wig, even though it seemed obvious to me. The wig seemed like less work than scarves and hats for me, and I recently realized that the wig had another benefit - people still recognized me.

    A girl I went to high school with (I'm in a small town) was recently diagnosed with bc and when I saw her at the store, I couldn't tell if it was her or not. She had on a headscarf and that isn't something I had seen her in before. It didn't look like her and I wasn't sure about talking to her in case it was someone else. That's when it occured to me that when I wore a wig, people still recognized me and didn't give me all the "poor you" bs when they would see me and they didn't avoid me - because they didn't think I was sick - they saw ME and not cancer. That was good, because I didn't want people staring at me or giving me the "I'm so sorry" speech that you get when they find out you're having chemo. It was good for me, because it was one less stress to deal with. At home I went totally bare-naked scalp (oo la la!)and I think my head is pretty, but I couldn't deal with everyone looking at it until it got REALLY hot out!