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Do people still work fulltime during treatment for NSCLC Stage 4

CinciRick's picture
CinciRick
Posts: 23
Joined: Apr 2007

Hi everyone,
I was diagnosed with NSCLC Stage 4 early 2006. I missed a lot of work while doing chemo (Gemzar/carbo) but I thought I could handle full-time work when I switched to Tarceva. I had a bad reaction to Tarceva and now I am on Taxol/Avastin. I went to a Wellness Center meeting for Lung Cancer to see if other people were trying to work full time under these conditions and they were all retired. So I am still wondering if other patients in a similar condition are still trying to work. I am 52 and a non-smoker and was in pretty good health until this happened. I have mets in lymph nodes, spine, something in my neck, and other problems. I have trouble sleeping (too much or not enough), eating, and concentrating. I am planning to quit work completely and go on disability but I am surprised how often I read emails from other people who say they are continuing to work during chemo. I would like to hear opinions or stories from either side. I also have a persistant non-productive cough. The first round of chemo stopped the cough after a few weeks, but now it is back and can't stop it unless I take cough medicine all day and night. The Tussionex works pretty well but it makes me want to sleep. Maybe that is one of the big differences between me and people that can return to work. I can't talk without coughing and it really disrupts my sleeping at night. Ambien helps me sleep but does not as well as I hoped.
Thanks in advance,
CinciRick

stayingcalm's picture
stayingcalm
Posts: 656
Joined: Feb 2007

Hi, CinciRick!
I think whether you continue to work or not depends on how you feel during treatment. I'm 51, was a smoker (no more), and was diagnosed with NSCLC (Stage 3b, I think - no one ever really said!) in the fall of 2005.

My cancer is not operable (I also have emphysema, and can't afford to lose much more lung function), which in a way was a relief, not having to deal with all that recovery time!

I had 7 weeks of radiation and did a couple of different chemo regimens - first Cisplatin and Etoposide, then Taxotere. I had no problem with nausea, was just tired a lot and achy, but I was able to work full time all the way through. After the Taxotere I entered a clinical trial for a targeted drug, and I'm still on it, although the trial itself was suspended. Because I really have no major side effects from the drug I'm still working full time.

I also have trouble sleeping, my sleeping patterns have completely changed - some of this I attribute to the illness/treatment, and some to the fact that chemo sent me into menopause (It never rains but it pours, huh?). I cough a bit too from the emphysema, but so far I don't use a cough medicine.

Whether you continue working also depends on what you do, too; times when your white cell count dips with chemo you don't really want to be having too much contact with people who may have colds and stuff...or you may not be comfortable in public if you have hair loss (Although I eventually tossed out my hats and wore my bald head with pride, and people loved it!).

Everyone is different, though: I absolutely love my job and really wanted to continue working even if I wasn't feeling top-notch.

Good luck to you!

molse
Posts: 9
Joined: Mar 2007

Hi CinciRick -

My father (56) was recently diagnosed with Stage IV NSCLC. He had his first round of chemo almost 3 weeks ago, and may have taken 1 or 2 vacation days during a tough bout with nausea. He seems to have been able to work every day since then, but is dealing with fatigue, trouble sleeping, and a newly shaven head. He is fortunate because he works from home most days, and travels the rest. Luckily, he doesn't come into contact with too many people. He's been such a work horse his entire life, that despite being increasingly tired, and dealing with everything that comes along with a new diagnosis - he is trying to hold out as long as possible before taking medical/family leave with his company. The decision to tell his company that he was this sick came after the diagnosis and expalnation of the course of treatment. The company is willing to work with him as much as possible. For instance, if he is unable to talk then - his co-workers/management are perfectly fine with my mother relaying any info on weekly conference calls etc... He's fortunate to have so much flexibility. Good luck to you. I would suggest that you be creative with your work hours. Try to get extra work done over the weekend, so that you can have shorter days and time for much needed naps/breaks during the week. Much like my father, you're in that age group right before retirement. Time to get creative!

Good luck to you!

molse

DebIsHere's picture
DebIsHere
Posts: 5
Joined: Jul 2005

I took off work for 7 weeks after my left lower lobectomy. I worked through Radiation and Chemo.

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