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Chemo, fatigue, and work

JayhawkDan's picture
JayhawkDan
Posts: 206
Joined: Apr 2012

Just curious how people handle working while on chemo. Being a realtor I have a flexible schedule and can juggle it, even though fatigue does come into play. It's important clients don't lose faith in my abilities so most don't know about my cancer, and those that do -- I do my best to act like nothing is wrong, or at least that I'm handling it with ease. But that in itself is exhausting. I've worked about 60 hours this week, which really taps my strength, and probably not a good idea. But in this business you've got to take the business when it comes. What's weird is since I've been diagnosed this January I've never been busier. I chalk it up to God having a sense of humor...lol. I've been through 4 rounds of folfiri/vectibix. I usually go back to work after chemo with bag in tow. Day 2 isn't bad, but days 3-5 are tough and I try to do nothing but answer and send emails, etc. Curious how others handle working while dealing with this crap. Love this board, btw -- it's helped me a lot to kind of "fill in the blanks" of what I don't know.

Thx! Dan

maglets's picture
maglets
Posts: 2589
Joined: Jun 2006

I so admire everyone who continues with work and chemo. I was old enough to retire and over the 8 years of my struggle with cancer and chemo I feel so blessed that i do not have to work....I am a teacher and I know there are teachers here who continue to work.....bless bless bless them

financially we are now beginning to see that this early retirement is simply not working..have to rethink

sorry Dan no big words of wisdom.....good for you ....but it must be very hard....

mags

Kenny H.'s picture
Kenny H.
Posts: 503
Joined: Aug 2010

Im off on short term disability while on chemo.70% of pay but at least can give %100 of fight to chemo. Hard to take off much at my job so took advantage of thier co. disability.
Hope to return to work pending out come of next scan and visit to MDA in Houston. But being stage 4 (lung mets) I'll probably always be on some sort of treatments.

JayhawkDan's picture
JayhawkDan
Posts: 206
Joined: Apr 2012

I worry about ... everything ... but in regards to this thread -- how long can I keep this up? I know that chemo has a cumulative effect and gets tougher as you go. The medical staff told me to think about disability and I think I will look into it. This is such a weird journey and people here understand, but it's just difficult to explain how chemo makes you feel -- the overall "weirdness." So I just plan on going as long as I can and see how it goes. I posted on another thread about finding out this coming Monday if my mets/liver has possibly gone from inoperable to operable, so that will be another challenge, but one I hope (pray) I have to face. Keeping the faith and selling houses as fast as I can as long as I can!

Luckygirl2
Posts: 308
Joined: Mar 2012

Luckily, I work for a State agency in Arkansas and we have a leave bank called catastrophic thatvwe can access if we qualify ( 2years employment, 80hours of leave on our books between sick and annual at the onset of the illness ). Iwas able to stay home and draw my full check from about August to January. Between living in the bathroom and the fatigue work wasn't an option. I Still have the fatigue and bathroom issues but have a great boss so we work around it so far. If I thought I could qualify I'd shoot for social security disability, some days its really a chore. My "hunger" for my "career" is not there any longer. But.. Working is good, my mind forgets for a bit about the cancer..

Good luck and hopevyounhave a great selling season! Rest when you can

steveandnat's picture
steveandnat
Posts: 887
Joined: Sep 2011

I don't know how you can keep up the pace. I get so tired after they take away the pump. I hope you can get more rest. Everybody reacts different. Praying the best and great strength to you. Jeff

buckeye2
Posts: 428
Joined: Jul 2011

My husband applied for disability soon after diagnosis which turned out to be a good thing because it takes 6 months to get. He has hard on him because he never thought he would need gov. assistance. Lisa

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4885
Joined: May 2005

Hi Dan, obviously everyone's different as to how they react and handle chemo. You seem like a high-energy guy so I'd imagine you could do OK for a while. I worked for 6 years while on chemo but it went from taking the infusion day off (Friday) then I had Sat & Sun to regroup. Being that you're a realtor, the weekend is your Prime Showtime so if you could get your chemo on a Monday for example, you could be fine for showing homes on the weekends.

It is a cumulative thing as you've said. Everyone has their own level of tolerance plus we all have different surgeries, chemos (or not), work loads, family obligations, etc. I found the busier I stay, the better I feel. We need time to rest of course but I found that when just I vegged-out it didn't help me much.
Good luck...
-phil

JayhawkDan's picture
JayhawkDan
Posts: 206
Joined: Apr 2012

Thanks Phil. I respect your posts and what you say sounds pretty logical. A lot of all this is take it as it comes and see what you can do. What's been curious to me is that my reaction to chemo has been different pretty much each time. I've had bad diahrea, and none at all. Sometimes the nausea is worse. I've vomited, and not vomited (either day 3 or 4). After my 1st round, not knowing what to expect, I scheduled 8 home showings on day 3. Huge mistake. I did my best acting like life was great (clients didn't know), and it was cold out so my fanny pack hid under my coat. But I thought I was gonna die climbing up and down stairs over and over. Chest pains and totally exhausted. Haven't done anything that stupid since and haven't had anything close to that reaction. Lots of "trial and error" in this whole damn journey. Switching topics to disability, I've looked in to what qualifies for SSI and it states plainly that a terminal diagnosis qualifies. Can anybody share their experiences in applying for SSI? Probably should break that out to another thread, but I'm on a roll...lol. Thx, Dan

maglets's picture
maglets
Posts: 2589
Joined: Jun 2006

I am Canadian so the systems will be different but I will share. After colon surgery and chemo i was diagnosed with major liver mets and given the terminal tag. At that time I was able to request the help of a social worker through something we have called Community Care Access. He filled out the majority of the application papers for the disability. i found it was something that social workers do quite frequently and they are used to the ins and outs of the system. It took many months but i finally received the disability pension and that really helped to relieve some financial strain. Unfortunately here when you turn 65 the disability vanishes and you receive the old age pension.

my point after rambling....our disability is quite hard to get and lots of people are turned down. I really think the inside track helped.

all the best,

maggie

Kenny H.'s picture
Kenny H.
Posts: 503
Joined: Aug 2010

Ive heard that if your stage 4 you automatically qualify for SSI. Back after my surgury (stage 3 then) was on LTD and they had me apply for SSI and I was turned down. Went back to work for 6 months now mets to lungs (stage 4) have'nt tried to apply yet would rather just go back to work if chemo ever ends.

Goldie1's picture
Goldie1
Posts: 264
Joined: Sep 2011

My husband has not been able to work since his diagnosis last June. He's a truck driver for a major delivery company and there is lots of heavy lifting involved. He just had no stamina to be able to do his job safely. He hopes that he may be able to return to work someday.

He did apply for SSDI and since he is stage 4, he was approved in about 3 weeks. He did have to wait 5 months for the first check to arrive. He was not eligible for SSI because we have to many "assets", which is laughable.

Best of luck to you!

Ellen

joemetz's picture
joemetz
Posts: 493
Joined: Nov 2011

Greetings Dan

thanks for your post... a few months ago, i posted a question asking how or if people are working through chemo. Everyone is different... and everyone reacts and pushes themselves differently.

I have always been like you. working lots of hours at our family printing company. we have nearly 100 employees and the place runs 24 hours a day 6 days a week. My brother and I own the family business now. But, working from 6am to 6pm has been standard opps for the past 25 years... but in November and December i learned of this colon cancer battle with 30 mets to the liver. (which was caused by my radiation treatments some 23 years ago for non-hodgkins lymphoma battle.)

i began chemo Jan. 3rd, and after being told that i was stage IV, my mind began think that life was over and the last thing on my mind was our business and my willingness to work. I read much about "relaxation and meditation" and fell in love with the idea to make sure all stress was removed from my life. So, I focused hard on me, and gave additional responsibilities to my bro and my leadership team at work. I left work on Dec 18th for my first surgery and never went back to "work" until March. I made a few visits to see the crew and to get hugs from everyone... but for 3 months i didn't work or think about work much at all.

If i was a sole sales guy like you, i would most likely be a lot like you... but i'm very forward with my cancer battle with customers, friends and others. My business card now says "cancer fighter", and it strikes up nice conversations with customers, prospects and friends.

my side effects continue to get worse... but my first two months included much vomiting and illness. (don't have that any longer) Most of Jan and Feb. felt like a really bad hangover with some jet lag added in there. But, as I complained more and more about my side effects, they continued to find more meds (pre-meds during chemo treatments) to help fight the nausea types of side effects. So, my advice there is to COMPLAIN to the docs and nurses. Tell them how you feel and complain until they help manage the side effects.

I have Neuapathy pretty bad now... its a problem with hands and feet, and my blood pressure continues to be very low, which causes dizzyness, black outs and a few fainting issues. Other side effects for me are skin issues, balance and reduced vision along with watery eyes, running nose and bloody noses. But, overall... i am able to work now through all these things.

I work about 20+ hours per week... but again, if i was the lone rainmaker for myself and my family... i would push harder like you are doing.

have you had a lot of weight loss? I lost about 40lbs so far, and finally have begun balancing out the weight loss.

the best advice i got from others is to "listen to your body" and to "relaxe and reduce stress" whenever possible.... but as a real estate sales guy, i'm sure reducing stress includes closing the deals. Try not to worry about the ones you cannot close or the things you cannot control. Try had to eliminate worry and stress as some believe it directly relates to the fight to eliminate cancer in your body.

Have you considered hiring an assistant or growing your team of people to help you manage and run your business? A good assistant who wants to grow into the business might be a great help, and help you grow your business during this economic upturn and opportunity... while helping you to be able to take days of half days off when needed.

Like you, i believe that God does have an amazing sence of humor. The faith of a mustard seed... that's hilarious. And, God gives us more business than we can handle at times. For me... my clients sales have grown nearly 18% during my 3 months away from the office...and our business is on track to grow about 12% this year. So, yes... God does bless us with ways to provide for ourselves and our family.

sorry this response is so long, but you hit many positive points with your post and your questions... and we all fight this fight together and hope to be able to work while in this Cancer battle.

God bless you and your business with much success.

my best

Joe

Patteee's picture
Patteee
Posts: 950
Joined: Jul 2009

I am a teacher- started chemo in July 08, so I was good work wise for 2 months. The cumulative effects of chemo hammered away at me- was hospitalized 2 times during the school year due to oxi - but each time they kept lowering oxi, finally in Nov they took it away for good. I was still quite weak, but learned my system and what I had to do that second week all the way through till pump disconnect. Then it was down hill for a week and so on. What I would highly recommend is preparing, preparing, preparing. Letting someone in on your ordeal, so you have a system of support in place, just "in case". I admire that you are able to push yourself through 60 hour work weeks, but OMG- there is no way I could have even begun to push myself that distance! There were so many times I couldn't even get my head off of a pillow- and the times I did? The energy just wasn't there for much. I would sweat profusely just walking from the car to my classroom. I went from pretty much fulltime to maybe a couple of hours a day. But I was surrounded by support- I literally had people falling over me to help and support. Many many people, including my administrators had my back and I always knew that. I can't imagine forcing myself to work through that time in my life. Truly, for me it wasn't a matter of will.

JayhawkDan's picture
JayhawkDan
Posts: 206
Joined: Apr 2012

Thanks for all the info and encouragement. The business I'm in is just nuts sometimes. I sold a house Friday night that I had only listed on Wednesday, listed a house on Saturday afternoon, then sold another house this afternoon. All that means a bunch of paperwork tomorrow...but I'm not bitching (edit --- complaining). But I'm back to chemo on Wednesday so I just need to make hay while the sun is shining. I definitely won't be putting in 60 hours this week -- just trying to maintain. And tomorrow I get the results from my CT scan last week to see if my 1.8 CEA means anything as far as my liver becoming operable. Wish me luck. Joe -- I had intentionally lost about 30 pounds over the last couple of years, but I noticed in the couple of months before I was diagnosed in late January this year that I was losing weight and I wasn't trying. I've probably lost about 15 lbs since I was diagnosed, but it's leveled off. I've really been eating a lot and my appetite has been pretty good. The damn metallic taste sucks, and some foods I use to love just don't taste good anymore. A naked burrito from Qdoba comes to mind. I loved em, now, not so much. Again thanks -- and hugs to all. Dan

steved
Posts: 835
Joined: Apr 2004

I agree with many others about the individuality of the decision around work. For myself owrk is one of the most normal places for me and in amongst dr appointments, scans and treatments I value the routine and normality of work. I am a doctor in the UK- very pleased I chose the more sedentery speciality of psychiatry, so much of my day is seated so it isn't too taxing physically, but does get very tiring mentally and chemo affects that side too. I have made some mistakes in pushing myself too hard- almost dozing off with a patient when I turned up day after oxaliplatin/ avastin infusion and have learnt to give myself a break when needed.
However I have also learnt that chemo fatigue, if it isn't totally overwhelming, can be worked through and some days if I lie around at home I feel more tired than if I work and go to the gym. I do have the advantage of being only 39 but it comes with the challenge of young kids who rarely accept tiredness as an excuse from their parents.
No one can tell you the right balance to strike but don't write off the value of work in and the loss you may feel with out it.
steve

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