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Xeloda & Radiation while working a 40 hr. week?

menright's picture
Posts: 258
Joined: Oct 2008

I am about to undergo 5 weeks of Oral Chemo (Xeloda) combined with daily radiation. This will be followed by 5 weeks of rest and then surgery.

My question is, what is the likelihood I can maintain a normal working schedule?

I work in an office environment at a desk and computer. I travel sometimes, but will most likely stay grounded for 5-weeks.

What has the experience been for others?

How long might I expect for surgery recovery?

I realize it varies for each person and case. I just wanted to gather some data and prepare.

Any comments will be greatly appreciated.


kristasplace's picture
Posts: 956
Joined: Oct 2007

Hi Mike, and welcome to our little family!

Here is my take on working during chemo: I would not recommend it. I know a lot of people who did it, and they all regretted it. I took their advise, and immediately got on disability. I thank God i did it. There was NO way i could've worked any job with any responsibility with my reactions to treatment.

Even if your job doesn't require a whole lot of responsibility, i would take the time off if possible. You're going to need a lot of rest, and peace of mind. The last thing you need is to have to worry about whether or not you'll feel good enough to go to work on any given day.

I hope this helps!
Please keep us up to date on your treatments!
Many hugs,

msccolon's picture
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2004

i work at home, develop software for a company located out of state. I work full-time over the internet, and can pretty much set my own hours. My boss has been VERY understanding through surgeries and treatments and I have been on the payroll full-time ever since my diagnosis. The first thing he said to me after I called him, after he was sorry to hear it, of course, was you don't have to worry about a paycheck. I thank him every time i find myself not being able to put in a full work week. I didn't have an option for disability, however, so I don't know if I would have taken it if it was available. I think what kept me sane was my ability to go to work when I was feeling up to it. Everybody is different. I even knew a man who was doing chemo with me, he was on Oxaliplatin, and he went into the office and worked full time the whole time he was on chemo! He had very little down time! I am sure I would not have been able to drive to and from a job; sometimes I would wander down the hall and work for a few hours, then back down the hall for naps, etc. I certainly would not have been legal to drive, however!

shmurciakova's picture
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

Hey Mike,
I understand where Krista is coming from, but I have to respectfully disagree. I think it is important to keep some semblance of normalcy in your life. If you are working you won't have time to be thinking about your plight and/or feeling sorry for yourself.
I worked full time while I was on chemo both times. I took Xeloda, and the main problem other than just feeling a little weird is hand and foot syndrome. Since you work at a desk this should not affect you. If you were a hardcore runner, or in my case, I am a forest ranger and I have to hike, backpack, etc. it was a problem - but only in that I could not carry heavy loads.
At any rate, my father, who is in his 70's worked while undergoing radiation for prostate cancer. I know it is different, but his main problem was that he was tired.
I recommend drinking a lot of water as it will help prevent dizziness - and try it for a while and see how it goes.
Of course you will probably be more tired than normal, but at least your mind will be occupied and you will not sit around worrying.
JMO. So here you have it, two opposite opinions! How American of us! lol...
Susan H.

2bhealed's picture
Posts: 2085
Joined: Dec 2001


Hi Mike,

You can take my input with a grain of salt since I never did any chemo, but my vote would be to work full time on healing cancer--not at a company.

IMO healing your cancer IS a full time job. I love Susan (she knows I love her), but I am disagreeing with her.

I think that we do need to focus on health and healing and ridding our body of the disease. Cancer is a symptom of a deeper issue and to get to the "root" of cancer it can take some digging.

I was dx'ed with Stage III sigmoid colon cancer--lymph positive zero mets. I chose to not do any chemo (long story--you can read my webpage if you're interested) and instead did all alternative healing modalities. My protocol took most of my energy. But the payoff was great. I have remained cancer free for over 7 years with no recurrences. Trying to decrease stress in my life was key along with diet and exercise.

I scaled back on my work (I ran a non-profit along with homeschooling 3 out of my 5 children) and demanded some "me" time for healing and restoration.

Keeping up a 40 hour/week job while undergoing chemo, to me, does not leave much time to allow your body to heal.

I hope you appreciate these comments! :-)

Just my .02 worth.

peace, emily the juice chick

Buzzard's picture
Posts: 3073
Joined: Aug 2008

OK, This is just my take on it and eventually the final decision will be yours...This is my story and if I could turn back time I would but I can't so here ya go.

I started this Chemo/Rad regimen not knowing what the side effects,outcome or feelings I would be having through this. I did not work during this time but in retrospect I wish I had of. I could have saved a lot of Sick leave time (that I had accumulated at work) and other leave time as well. My radiation as well as the fanny pack 5fu was not problem at all for me other than being careful I did not tangle up the hose which will not be a problem after you learn how to negotiate with it. Although through the Chemo/Radiation treatments I also had a lot of Dr appts in which I spent a lot of time going back and forth to. It will be the same for you, but all in all if you have a boss or firm that will allow you the opportunity to work when you can then that is what I would do. It became a matter of necessity for me as I ran out of leave and without the benefit of donated leave and my bosses allowing me to come back to work and also to work when I can and never miss an hours pay I would be in deep doody. The bills keep coming in whether you work or not so I elected to work and wish I had of also before hand. My Chemo/Radiation treatment was 15 minutes max in and out so it will not be a lot of time out of your day. I spent a lot of time worrying about what I needed to do but in retrospect you need to not stop anything and go on with your life, planning the future, working when you can, and make a living. You are just like me, your not going anywhere, you will be around here for 40 plus more years so you better plan for that. Anything else will denote that your not sure of your outcome, and bud, I am sure of mine and yours as well, we're gonna be here for a longgggggggg time so you better stay focused and not change any long range plans. We both have a lot of living to do.......Meet everything head on and never think of the downside of this disease, attitude bud attitude. Its 10% what happens to ya and 90% how you react to it.......keep a good one......God Bless ya

Buzzard's picture
Posts: 3073
Joined: Aug 2008

Mike , when you find out what type of surgery you will be having then it will be easier to determine how long the recovery time will be for you.

My surgery in a nutshell....

Diagnosed with a golfball size tumor in my rectum, no nodes affected, I did the 5 weeks of 5fu and 25 radiation treatments. The Dr gave me a 30% chance of saving my tail. I informed him that to get clear margins that I didn't care one way or the other, I just wanted to have every chance I could get to be "cancer Free". He was intent on saving it .
Next, there was a 50% chance that I would never be able to have sex again because of where the tumor was located also were the nerves that controlled erection and ejaculation.
5% chance of infection that would be short term only...
10% chance that the wound would not heal right because of the tissue destruction during Radiation treatments.....
OK, now To get clear margins I had to have a permanent colostomy...its no problem at all.
I am able to have sex and "finish" also...
There was no infection at anytime...
The wound healed properly with no problems at all...
I had laproscopic surgery and the inner spincter muscle,rectum,and part of my large colon was removed through my tail hole and I have a sigmoid ostomy. My surgery was Tuesday morning July 15th at 8 am and I was in recovery at 12:50 pm. I only had pain in my rear where they had removed my insides and it was hard to do any type of sitting at all. I started walking the next day and was urinating without a catheter the 2nd day, also off all pain meds after the 2nd day. and Friday July 18th at 11:30am I was on my way home.
I after the first week of recovery did not have any trouble getting up out of bed but my problem was sitting down. It didn't matter what I sat on or around I could not bear to sit. I could stand up for 2-4 hors but then get tired of having to re arrange my stance because of discomfort and then finally would have to return to bed. It went this way for 5 weeks and then at the end of 5 weeks it was like the light turned on for me. I could sit with no problems at all.
I did take a total of 50 Lortabs during my 5 weeks. It was because my bottom side would ache and it allowed me to rest better and heal faster. I had them prescribe me 50 more when I ran out but only used 3 of them. I am now back to work and doing fine, as you will also.
I trust everyone on this network has different views on meds or no meds and to me it is a matter of choice, I think both ways are great and it is a choice that individuals make for their own selfs. This was only my way of taking care of things , Im sure you will devise your own......I will be here forever so never feel like your alone in all this, everyone here has a story to tell and it gives us a release to tell it and have people listen that actually can relate to everything you speak of.....
God Bless you in your journey and good luck in your complete recovery..... :-)

VickiCO's picture
Posts: 934
Joined: Oct 2008


Your posts mean a lot. You are sensible and caring, as well as being just a step ahead of the two Mike's and me. Thank you for your wisdom.


I know I don't know any more than you do at this point, but I DO know that I own my company, and if I don't work, my company fails. I have two very close employees who are picking up a huge load right now, but there is still a lot I HAVE to do. My doctors said that I shouldn't worry and can work as much as I want, being careful not to overtire myself. At least for this round - 5 weeks chemo/rad, with the pump. Now, having said that, I work from home. My business is virtual and my staff is scattered around the country. So I have the luxury of napping, stopping and starting, and not having to answer the phone. But I still have to work - I have no disability or backup. My husband's insurance takes care of the medical costs (THANK GOD!) but we still have a mortgage, bills, groceries, etc. plus business expenses, including the salaries for those wonderful employees. So, I plan to work.

Hang in there Mike. We will get through this together.


Buzzard's picture
Posts: 3073
Joined: Aug 2008

and I plan on helping.....keep me informed of your steps as you make them and I will try to tell you what to expect ....

One word of advice******* Please Do Not Eat Any Type Of Nuts Or Cashews Of Any Type While Doing Chemo/Radiation Treatments*********** lesson learned here...the radiation severely destroys tissue and whether you realize it or not will make your inside of you rectum susceptable to scratching, cutting, or sunburn from Rad treatments....Any type of nut comes out just as it goes in so if you decide that a handful of cashews would be good to eat, beware , they will cut you up like a knife when they decide to be passed. I learned the hard way, I spent a week hollering everytime I had to use the bathroom and that was on average 4-6 times a day. I also spent the same week placing steroid suppositories up where I didn't even want there to be a puff of air come by, and 2 lortabs every 8 hours for pain. OMG is all I can say. I know that was the toughest pain I have ever dealt with.....

Posts: 405
Joined: Mar 2007

Hi Mike
My husband had Stage 3 rectal cancer and went through 6 weeks of radiation and chemo, then rested for 4 weeks, followed by surgery, then more chemo. My husband wanted to keep things as normal as possible. His job was very demanding and I wondered if he should take a leave of absence, but he wanted to keep going. I think you just have to pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you feel good, then working is probably a good thing to keep your mind busy with something else. Early in his radiation treatments, his schedule was pretty normal. Later on he got more tired and worked shorter days. It is hard to know what to expect, but we were expecting the worse, and the reality of it wasn't quite as bad during the radiation treatments. I also agree that you do not need stress at this time, so you have to decide what you need to do to control that.

My husband probably only missed 3-4 weeks total over the year of treatment including surgeries and chemo treatments. At times, things were rough. I wish that he would have taken it a little easier, but I know he is happy with his decisions. He is a very optomistic person that likes to keep busy! I am not suggesting that anyone else keep working throughout all of the treaments, I just want to encourage you to do what feels right and to tell you that there can be some normalcy in your life.

Praying for you!


menright's picture
Posts: 258
Joined: Oct 2008

Thank you all for your comments. I do plan to work and I am encouraged by those who plan similarly and those who did the same during their treatment.

This site is truly a godsend. I thank you all for your comments and support and hope I can provide the same when necessary.



Posts: 90
Joined: Jan 2007

For what it's worth, I went through a similar regime to what you mention. For Rectal cancer I went 5 weeks radiation and chemo, 4 weeks off, surgery, 6 months of Xeloda and than a ileostomy reversal.

For the first 5 week treatment group, I was not able to work. partly because I was just off my game with the diagnosis. But also because the radiation kicked my butt! (go ahead smile at that one :) After surgery I did go back to work for most of the 6 months on Xeloda with no real issues.

But, I was fortunate to take time off from work as well. It's very important to heal, mentally and physically. I too have an office job like you with sporadic travel. That stress began to wear on me after treatment. So I've had to stay physically active and in good shape...since.

Ya know, I don't know what it is about us survivors. For some reason we feel compelled to maintain everything as normal. But it's not. I've learned that it's really important to focus more on our own person at times and let the rest of the world go about its business without me for awhile. Take a break and recharge.

Hope this helps...

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Tough choice. You have already received excellent advice and valuable personal experiences. I am one of those who continued to work throughout the chemoradiation. But I hasten to add that I have a pretty flexible job. The main side effects most people have are fatigue and nausea (and also sore butt from the radiation - that's another story). For the nausea, I found it better to be working -- the distraction helped me. The fatigue (which was mainly from the radiation, I believe) didn't kick in right away. Took about two weeks. But then it lasted two weeks after the radiation treatments ended (while the radiation continues to work yea yea). I understand you have a 40 hr/wk desk job. Can you find a place to lie down for a 30 min nap at lunchtime? (Just like kindergarten! Only we call it power nap now, right?). When you get home, can you lie down for 30 min before supper? Any possibility for working at home one day a week or a couple of afternoons?? If at all possible, I'd try to negotiate not travelling during that time. For all sorts of reasons (fatigue, but also your weakened immune system -- stay away from those airplane bugs!).

Recovery from surgery: yes, it is highly variable. I was feeling pretty decent after one month. But, it does take longer to feel 100% (or even 80!) -- say about 3 mos.

impactzone's picture
Posts: 534
Joined: Aug 2006

For me, the high school was great as I had a sub when I needed it. It did eat up sick days but with 2 young kids, sorry I needed to work and fortunately I could leave right at 2:00 pm and was excused from most meetings. You do want to eliminate as much stress as possible and I often feel better being occupied then sitting around. It does knock you down over time and your energy levels are not the same... You have to make your health #1 priority with great diet, good exercise and for me a stronger faith in both medicine and Dr's and religious beliefs. Surround yourself with good people and get rid of negative things if possible.

I was surprised at first because for the chemo I thought hey this isn't that bad but about the 5 treatment it started knocking me down pretty good for a couple of days. My schedule then looked like this...chemo thursday...no work thursday and friday and then back in Monday. Most of the time this worked. Honestly the surgery recovery was almost easier because I and others expected me to be down. The chemo just sneaks up on you and wears (for me) me down. It was hard to eat things, I was tired and had some trouble sleeping but you know what..you can do it. I am Stage 4 but now going on 8 months of NED and while I remember it, I still go skiing, surfing with my kids and coach a great couple of teams. You've got a good plan..ask questions and fight..

ldot123's picture
Posts: 276
Joined: Apr 2008

hi there,

I worked through most of my chemo. Had no radiation. I have a very understanding employer so I was able to take the odd day off when I needed to. I think going to work helped in that it kept my mind off things. Don't beat yourself up if you can't perform the way you are used to. Rest when you need to- be good to yourself. Post surgery, chemo and radiation will take their toll on your energy level. Having said that, I have talked to individuals who seem to breeze through all of this - which amazes me.

Stay strong and stay positive.


Sandi1's picture
Posts: 278
Joined: Aug 2008

Hi Mike, my husband is Stage 4 - he was dx'd on 8/18/08, had colon surgery on 9/15/08 and started chemo on 10/15/08. He has been off of work since surgery, but has just recently returned to work on 11/10/08 - he was going stir crazy not working. He works from home so doing chemo while working is not difficult for him, when he needs a break or a nap, he just takes one. His boss told him he does not want to see him working more than 40 hrs. a week - you have to realize that my husband used to work 85 - 90 hrs. a week before being diagnosed. Just my opinion - if you need to busy all the time, working might just work for you.

Good Luck with your treatment.


CherylHutch's picture
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

Ok, I'm going to chime in here too since this is actually a very interesting conversation... to work or not to work?

As you have probably figured out, everyone is different... and everyone's situation is different. Like some of the others, I'm a firm believer that your health and healing becomes your job... and part of that healing is getting rid of as much stress as possible since healing is not conducive to stress.

But let's take this a bit further. You have mentioned that you own your own company and if you aren't there to do certain things, then the company fails... and if the company fails, then your source of financial support for yourself and your family fails. I'm not sure what it is your company actually does but there's also the added stress of the country and global economy problems. SO, if not going into work is actually going to cause MORE stress than going into work, then I think it's a no brainer... to get rid of stress, if going into work will do that, then pack your lunch and head on in to work :)

The great thing is... you ARE the boss and if you find that you need a rest day at home, the boss isn't going to yell at you :) Again, eliminating that stress factor.

For me, I am one of those lucky people who have the benefit of Disability Insurance and I was advised by my employer to apply for it early in the game so that if I needed it, it would already be approved. In hindsight, I'm glad that happened. I'm not making nearly as much money as I was when I was making a full wage, but hey... I have enough to live on and I have my medical and dental benefits covered... so I don't have those stress factors in my life.

In hindsight, my brain has kind of gone into "Oh, that wasn't so bad... maybe I should have gone into work all along", yet in reality I know there were many a day that between chemo brain (fog, bad memory, etc) and fatigue, just figuring out how to get to work would have been a challenge. On the other hand, I bet if I had to, I would have done just fine. As it is, I kept involved with my favourite pastime, the theatre, and found I could get there, work in the office, do the box office at night, socialize, etc. just fine... knowing full well that if there was a day or three that I couldn't, others would cover for me. I would even go to the theatre, wearing my chemo pump on a (very ugly since I only owned one) belt.

In looking back, I'm way stronger physically and emotionally than I was back then, but hey... I have the time of my life with my theatre buds, so if need be, I could have used that same energy to go to work.

Everyone's mileage differs and everyone's situation differs... but the main thing is to remain true to yourself and not beat yourself up if you find you are fatigued, or you can't explain it but you just don't have the energy. That's ok too.



Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2008

My husband just finished 28 rounds of radiation combined with 5FU infused each day he had treatments. They would hook up the chemo on monday, he'd have treatments M-F, and the unhook the chemo on Friday. We were going to get the xeloda but he opted for the port since you'll end up needing one anyhow. Alan wasn't working but it was more because he took the short-term disability prior to getting all the diagnostics done, was in severe pain and then course of treatment started rather quickly. One thing for sure, radiation makes you really fatigued. The first couple of wks of treatment the radiation seems to shrink the tumor and you feel really pretty good, towards the ends of the 28 rounds, it starts annoying your rectum, it burns, it annoys the surrounding areas (bladder, the boys etc) and you'll be over it. Maybe you could apply for intermittant FMLA, which basically its not like you are leaving the office on short-term. It allows you to take a day here or there when you just arent up to it. Alan is on a break from treatments, we have scans and a sigmoid coming up, then surgery mid-december. They've told us its a 6 wk recovery from the procedure. Keep in mind everyone's procedure might be different - are you getting an ostomy? You need time to get used to a change in plumbing if so. Alan will have 4 to 6 months of serious chemo after he recovers from surgery. I hope our experience helps you in some small way. Best of luck to you - also would like to recommend website called www.ccalliance.org , sign up for their community. Also great support there. Good luck to you

Mike49's picture
Posts: 269
Joined: Nov 2008

I am at the point within a week or two of acting on this issue and I am going to try to work, I think this is one of those individual issues that the right answer for any of us may differ. I miss my role at the office and would hate to disengage completely. I probably will have to miss a few days on Chemo Weeks due to the commute distance to clinic and how I will feel. I hope I can handle it and want to try. I think this string was extremely valuable to me for developing my plan. Alot of collective wisdom and while I didn't ask the question, I had the same question. Thanks to everybody who commented, I appreciate this group for our honesty and the point of reference our experience gives.


lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008

Hi Mike,

When I did my chemo/radiation, I actually felt pretty good and did not have the diarrhea issues that many people get during radiation. I did have a few bouts of it, but with me it didn't start until more than half way through & still was just occasional. Also, it wasn't until about halfway through that I started to get really tired. I wasn't working, myself, but I think I could have probably handled working until about the halfway point. Everyone is different, though, but if I were you, I'd at least make arrangements to go part time and maybe scale down your work as needed. I have heard of people working full time through it, but I'm thinking you'll most likely not last full time all the way through and probably should at least scale back on the work to allow your body rest time for healing. When you have surgery, that speaks for itself that you'll need to take off work. I never had the colon surgery- only liver surgery, which is a different kind of recuperation than a colon resection, so I really can't comment on that.
You'll get through it- just make sure you take time to take care of yourself!
Blessings to you-

StacyGleaso's picture
Posts: 1250
Joined: Mar 2003

I worked full time during all my treatments. I had radiation @ 7 in the morning, then off to work. I only missed time from work for recovery from surgery. At that time, I was an auto claim rep, high stress job, and I was glad I remained working. I think that if I didn't occupy my time with something other than cancer, I would have driven myself nuts. I was fortunate to have had absolutely no side effects from the chemo or radiation. Perhaps if I did, I might not have been so much into my job.

My suggestion would be to let your employers know that you'll be starting chemo, and for them to be prepared to adjust their expectations based on how you feel. Work will always be there if you need to take time off.

Stay strong, you'll get through this.

Happy Friday!


Posts: 84
Joined: Aug 2008


I completed 5 1/2 weeks of radiation and Xeloda a couple of weeks ago.

I managed to work throughout. But I was fortunate enough to experience minimal side effects (other than rectal burn) and my manager was also highly supportive. I cut back my hours typically 50 to 60 a week to about 1/2 working from home.

Good luck!


Posts: 7
Joined: Jul 2007

I had six weeks of daily radiation and Xeloda with very few symptoms. I worked every day, scheduled my radiation for 4:30 then went home from the hospital. I only experienced very mild nausea on ocassion and fatigue but otherwise was fine. My tumor was very low in the rectum and my surgeon was estimating a 50/50 chance of a permanent colostomy. In the end, the pre-surgery treatment was very successful and I only had a temporary ileostomy.

As a guy who's been through this though, I would make sure I ask the radiation oncologist about protecting your genitalia. I have developed peyronie's disease which I attribute to the radiation and would like to have asked my oncologist about proctecting my penis, testicles, etc. during radiation. Nobody discussed this beforehand but I think it's important to most men.


Posts: 5
Joined: Oct 2008

When I was first diagnosed with stage iv cc I had been on my new job for about 2 months. My boss was very supportive- I was very sick and each week it was something crazy and new- I was in and out of the hospital in and out of surgery and chemo and I decided to take the year off and get better. Get better I did! 15 months later I was told it had returned- again I had just started a new job and this time I decided to work thru chemo as much as my boss would let me. They have been great- I work from infusion, I work from home when I feel sick (which really isn't often with todays meds, not so bad). I started working again 2 weeks after my last liver resection surgery-I am currently working thru chemo again. It keeps me busy and my co workers keep me encouraged. I have NORMAL in my life. So... I have been on both sides and I agree that it depends on you, your treatment and how you react to your treatment. Best wishes!!

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