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Were you able to return to work while receiving chemotherapy?

lnyeholt's picture
Posts: 65
Joined: Apr 2009

As soon as I became somewhat coherent after my surgery in March I asked my oncologist about return to work. Although my job is mentally taxing, there is no real physical energy drain. I was told that, depending on how I respond to the first carboplatin/taxol treatment, I could probably return at least part-time. Reading through the previous posts on this site I'm definitely getting the idea that working while receiving chemo isn't common. I was expecting to be out for four weeks with a laparoscopic hysterectomy and want to give my employer a realistic estimation of when I can be expected to return. Given your personal experience with your initial rounds of chemotherapy, is returning to work before I am finished a realistic expectation? Thank you in advance for sharing your stories and whatever advise you may have about this topic! Lyn

lindaprocopio's picture
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

I have my own business, very mentally demanding work, but certainly not phyically demanding. I was able to work from home on my computer throughout my 6 rounds of carbo-taxol. I did take a nap occasionally when my hemoglobin was low, and rarely put in a full 8 hour day, but I have been able to work in about 80% capacity throughout my treatment. I was blessed that I never really got nauseated from the chemo, although it was hard on my bone marrow and I had to have 2 blood transfusions during my chemo protocol. Is there any way you could work from home, or work a shorter day? Because my white count and immunity was low much of the time I was having chemo, I was isolated in the house a lot of that time over winter when so many people had coughs and the flu and I couldn't risk exposure to disease. I don't know that I could have safely worked in an office environment. But I was glad to have something meaningful and distracting to do during my isolation. That 'normalcy' is good for you psychologically. And the money earned comes in very handy for the things insurance doesn't cover! Do you think you could take a sick day for each chemo infusion day, since that is a long enough day already without having to go to work?

Let me also add that I love my work. My business is like my CHILD as far as the love and thought I have invested building and nurturing it. And I had/have a contractural and moral responsibility to my employees and clients to keep the business thriving. So I really didn't have a choice. But if I didn't feel that way about my work, I think I might not have used up my limited energy working. You will find that your priorities about how you allocate your time may change when you are facing something as huge as cancer. I would always shut down my computer and stop working when my grandkids stopped in; and I'd always say yes when a friend called and wanted to go for lunch, or my husband wanted to get out and go for a ride or rented a movie for us. Life is precious. I think many women stop working, not because they are too sick from their chemo treatment to work, but because suddenly life seems too precious to squander on work when they could be with their family or doing things they love. Only work if you need the money, or if your work is an important part of your life that you would miss. Just make sure that job will be waiting for you when you get cured! :D

BonnieR's picture
Posts: 1549
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi Lyn,

Each person is different, I worked through my chemo. I would do chemo on Thursday and usually back to work on Monday or Tuesday. Some people just need to take off and concentrate on getting well. Each individual is different so please do what your heart and body are telling you to do. I know women who have been on chemo for years and never stopped working, praise God for their determination and strength. I did stop working when it became evident no end to chemo for me and Randy asked Do want to put all your energy into work or getting well. Wise man and so I took early retirement and disability, but that was after 1 year and 8months of working and doing chemo.

So pray about it and listen to your body and your heart. Hugs ♥ Prayers Bonnie

Posts: 3
Joined: Apr 2009

I wasn't able to work much at all during my carbo/taxol treatments. I had about 1 good week between treatments. I also had to stay away from the public during my 'good' days, because my immune system was so delicate. Just do whatever you feel like doing, and i dont think you will have an answer for your employer til you get there. Everyone deals with it differently. Just as a bit of HOPE for you, i was not expected to live much if any past surgery, and i am now 3 yrs cancer-free! You can do it girl! Gayle

Posts: 59
Joined: Mar 2009

I could work part-time .. after my chemo I had to take a week off and feel better then I could return to work 7-8 hours a day. I had to wear a mask a lot in my office because of others coughing and washed my hands every time I touched anything.. LOL it wasn't that bad. do you have a good employer that will give you the time off?

Bstrange's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Feb 2009

I am a school counselor and because I lost my spleen in surgery my Dr. says no. Too much risk for catching something.

I'd go with my Dr.'s advice before you speak to your boss.

God Bless,

Posts: 28
Joined: Feb 2009

I have been through the taxol-carbo twice and worked both times. I took the day of the infusion off and then it was life as usual. I was not sick and my immunity to colds and whatever stayed high, so I was good on that end. Make sure to take some good supplements. If you know a Chiro that sells Standard Process or a Natural Path dealing in natural vitamins and mineral, it will be worth your time and effort to talk with them about your health. They have a wealth of information that will help you and the supplements that will start to rebuild you as the chemo is tearing you down. Change to organic and if possible juice at least 3-4 times or more per day. All of the nutrients will go into your cells faster . Take Milk thistle and drink organic dandelion tea for your liver or better yet do coffee enemas.You can read about them at www.gerson.org. Get yourself some PH paper and test your first urine in the morning for acidity. You want to be alkaline. You can find a complete eating program at www.elisa/act.com. Think positive and if you have a Reiki Master around visit them. Their energy work is a life saver. Most important BELIEVE,for HE WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH THIS..

I lift you up in prayer.
Letting the sun shine in..

Dreamdove's picture
Posts: 175
Joined: Sep 2008

I worked about 25 hours a week all throughout the chemo treatments except on the day of the chemo because that was an all-day process. I returned to work 6 weeks after surgery, which the doctor said I could. I had to pay the rent and groceries, support my 12-year old daughter (I was a single mom.) I was ok and didn't get a single cold although it was right in the heart of winter months. I worked in a grocery store and even though I had hand gel, because of chemo-brain I kept forgetting to use it. Thank goodness for the shots I was given regularly for production of white cells and also the one I got for red blood cells. Years ago I don't think they had shots for that. I didn't feel sick because during chemo they gave me anti-nausea medication thru my I.V. port in my chest. But I did have a metallic taste in my mouth and had to eat very regularly, which helped somewhat. I was tired and short of breath at times but not all the time, only a couple of days after chemo. But if I had been able to stay at home, I would have. All in all, it wasn't that bad. At least I was out among people and not just laying around on the couch. It got my mind off myself sometimes.

lnyeholt's picture
Posts: 65
Joined: Apr 2009

All your experiences have been very helpful. The points you raised helped me figure out the type of discussion I needed to have with my employer. I called my boss today and we talked about the pros and cons of my return. Having owned and managed a small corporation for twenty years I know that it can be very disruptive to have someone who, though no fault of their own, is not dependable in their work schedule. As an employer, my preference was always to assure them the job would be there when they could return 100% but to take the time off, especially if they had disability or worker's comp available.

Fortunately, my immediate superior is very flexible and even brought up the disability question on his own. I'm also fortunate to have disability provided through my job. The problem is, I qualify for long-term (80% of pay) in June BUT if I go back to work any longer than 2 weeks and then find I'm unable to work I'm back at square one - 1 week elimination, and then short-term (60% of pay) until I qualify once again for L.T. Of course, I can't just malinger because I feel like it - my doctor must provide medical records to support the disability claim.

I talked to my employer about working at home - I had, in fact, offered to do some of my job duties that way previously. My biggest concern, especially in such a poor economic climate, is that the longer I'm out the more it might seem that it's preferable to just spread the work around and leave the position unfilled. Although jobs are hard to come by in the state I live in my qualifications are such that I would eventually find something else to do. Despite that, I really enjoy the place I work, the work I do, and especially the people I work with and would not want to have to start a job hunt once my chemo is through. However, my main concern right now is my health and ensuring that I'm around to need a job in the future!

Thank you again for all the helpful advise. I'm not used to flying blind when it comes to making decisions so knowing how others have coped with this problem and how things worked out for them at least gives me some guidelines.


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