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How to concentrate?

Posts: 488
Joined: Jun 2006

I'm back at work and in some ways, might as well not be back at work. On those days where I have something going on, like today when I meet with the oncologist, I am worthless. I just can't seem to concentrate on my work for more than two minutes at a time and I feel like I get little done.

Any advice on how to stay focused on my job when I am here?

PGLGreg's picture
Posts: 741
Joined: Jul 2006

Don't try to do more than two minutes at a time. Think of work as being a way to relieve the boredom that sets in when you mull over your medical treatment, over and over, to no purpose.


Posts: 488
Joined: Jun 2006

You are sooooo right, Greg. Thoughts go round and round with no end... no purpose. I'll just refocus myself every couple of minutes.

Posts: 3
Joined: Oct 2005

I think this is one of the big things we all deal with that is never really mentioned. And just wait til you have chemo, that chemo-brain thing is true, you really do lose focus.
Having been through trying to work and fighting colon cancer at the same time, all I can say is don't beat yourself up by setting too high expectations at work. You will be operating at less than your normal level, your body and emotions are going thru a battle and you just can't deny that it will take a toll on all aspects of your life. Try to communicate this to your co-workers and supervisor - and if you are eligible for FMLA definitely take advantage of it- you can use it intermittantly for chemo days or dr. visits when you know you just won't be on top of things at work.
My thoughts are with you, you are not alone in this. I was there and now am 1 year past chemo and cancer free - and I can actually focus all day at work! (except for those dr visit days-they still produce anxiety!)

Posts: 488
Joined: Jun 2006

Our company was recently purchased and I used FMLA for the seven weeks off I took for surgery. They said it can't be used "intermittently" and that I would have to stay off (couldn't afford that). Are they incorrect? Does FMLA make room for intermittent medical care? I will be talking with my boss just he really understands what is going on and how worthless I'm likely to be on some days.

Betsydoglover's picture
Posts: 1256
Joined: Jul 2005

Hi Patrusha -

FMLA DOES make room for intermittent absence due to a single cause - see the following web site.


Also, FMLA just guarantees your job for 12 weeks. Companies also have their own sick leave policies and that has nothing to do with FMLA. For example, I have worked at my company for a long time and have 6 months of paid medical leave possible in a year, assuming it is documented by a physician in regular updates. FMLA does not mean you have to be paid, just that your job is guaranteed for 12 weeks.

Hope this helps and good luck. Full concentration at work is almost impossible some days, but you can make it work if you take off a few days for each chemo session.

Good luck,

Posts: 488
Joined: Jun 2006

Thanks for the link, Betsy. I know FMLA is for job-protection. I used up my two weeks left of vacation and a couple of sick days before they started the time clock ticking on FMLA. I also have worked a long time at this company and I have disability, but it only pays me 60% of my paycheck. Ouch! I'll pass on the info on FMLA and chemotherapy (it addresses it right in your link!) in case the employer starts saying I am taking too many intermittent days off....

lfondots63's picture
Posts: 822
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi Patrusha!

I know what you mean. I actually get on this website while I'm at work and check it constantly. My problem is that work is not my first priority any more. I used to be a workaholic but now since my dx, I found that I just can't stress over work. I leave at 4pm each day so I can get home in time and can't wait to get home. Like others said, understand that you will be more focused on what is happening to you which you should be. Try to do as much work as you can and not stress about what you can't finish. For those days you know you won't be focused because of a doctor visit or test, can you work from home? Sometimes it is a nice option because you just don't feel like dealing with others. (At least that is how I felt sometimes) Chemo also does make you emotional. (Actually all this makes us emotional-drat) Take care and maybe talk to your boss so he/she understands. HUGS!!!

Lisa F.

Posts: 488
Joined: Jun 2006

Thanks Lisa. I can't really work from home and I need to be seen here at work now that we've been purchased by another company and I need to "make my place in the new structure of things." Stress. So not only am I going through all this medical stuff, I have to recreate my overall usefulness to the new powers that be so I can keep my job a year from now. That means carving a new niche for myself since much of what I do now will be carried out from headquarters. This was just a case of really bad timing to get cancer just now.

Posts: 1560
Joined: May 2006

Hi Patrusha,

Please try to do meditation. You can sit down on a chair and either close your eyes or keep them open. It might be easier to start with your eyes closed and then you can start doing it with open eyes. Then put all your attention on your breathing. Thoughts will come - observe them and let them go. Keep watching your mind and keep attention on your breathing. Do this for at least 10 minutes.

This will give you a habit of observing your mind. This way when you will "see" undesirable thoughts are coming you can "tell" them: "ah, there you are again; I know you are here, but now I want you to go away".

You can picture putting these thoughts into the bottle and sending it along the water far away; or in the envelope and write on it "return to sender".

So, the key is observe your mind.

Hope it helps....

My prayers for you today for successful treatment.

God Bless, Eleonora

Posts: 488
Joined: Jun 2006

This sounds like fun! I'll give it a shot, eleonora1. "Return to Sender." I like that!! LOL!!

Posts: 484
Joined: Jan 2005

When I was working (my job recently ended) I tried to take time off--half a day, on those days I have onc visits. It's my own private "celebration" time and taking extra time off helped to focus and not worry too much about the upcoming visit.

It may be easier for me, though, as I only go every 4 months.


nanuk's picture
Posts: 1363
Joined: Dec 2003

If you can find a place to dissapear periodically and take cat naps, this was helpful in combating my Chemo Brain..I was able to do this, and concentration was much improved. It would be better if you could take a few days off after each treatment. Bud

shmurciakova's picture
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

You know, on this matter I have to disagree with the others. For me my job has truely been a godsend and I feel I do much better with all this cancer stuff when I am busy working, not dwelling on this s___. Pardon the language. Work enables me to forget about cancer and I no longer even talk to new employees about "my condition". Mind you, you and I are at two different places. I have been NED from Stage IV for a while now but of course there is always the fear that creeps in and the "what ifs". Work is wonderful in that respect because it makes me feel like a normal person and it helps me keep my mind off all that I have been thorugh and the upcoming doctors appointments, and if I will ever be able to have a child, and my 2 year milestone coming up and so forth. If you are able to focus on your work instead of worrying about your health I think it could be the best thing for you, like it has been for me.
BTW, do you know for sure you are even going to have chemo? Is it possible you are in the "low risk" group?
I sure hope so. I think the sooner you begin thinking of yourself as a survivor rather than a patient the better off you will be.
Take care,

Posts: 488
Joined: Jun 2006

Actually, my job is fun and I am enjoying getting back to "normal" as you say. I'll be doing a bit of travel in the next few weeks so I have to plan it on the "good" weeks. But it is good to be back in a semi-normal place.

As for the study, I was placed in the "high risk" category of Microsatellite Stable with 18q LOH. Oncs said that alone increased my chances for reccurence from 9% to about 40%. So I start chemo next Friday.

Posts: 372
Joined: Aug 2006

I agree that the job can take your mind off "your troubles" but don't let the job become a problem. Dealing with what cancer and treatment brings is much more important. Don't get me wrong I returned to work as soon as I could. If I don't work then no medical coverage. No medical coverage no treatment. I as lucky they completely understood the gloves I had to wear; the repeated trips to the bathroom; and yes not being on top of your game. I hope where you work understands but not all employers do. But we as a group have many people just like us. The boss;co-worker;supervisor; may have fought cancer too or have a loved one who did. It brings a deep understanding of where we've been and the character that got us through it and keeps us going. This is something good employers want and hunt to find. Regarding the FLMA, I don't have much experience with it but I do with many other aspects of Law. It's been my experience that the largest wallet wins no matter what the Law says.

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