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Back to work

Goldie1's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: Sep 2011

After 16 months, Pat returned to work last Wed. He is still receiving CPT-11 and Erbitux every other week and he should be scheduled for a PET scan soon. He is tired and still has the infamous Erbitux rash but his spirits are good. They are starting him off slow at work and Pat is hoping he can be back in his truck and on the road by the middle of this week.

As scary as this is for both of us, our financial situation is even scarier. Since his docs were all for him going back to work, we agreed that it was worth a go for as long as Pat feels he can handle it.

Just wondering if any one else returned to work after a stage iv diagnosis and any tips on how you managed to deal with full time work while still on chemo.



Annabelle41415's picture
Posts: 4895
Joined: Feb 2009

Glad that his job is allowing him to start out slowly. Hope he doesn't get too overly tired. It's going to be hard going back to work after being off plus still being on treatment. Hope that his scan goes well.


Goldie1's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: Sep 2011

Today, Pat changed his treatment day from Wed to Fri...that way he can rest on the weekend. Also, got the script for CT scan for the abdomen & pelvis and a CT for the chest. Hoping for the best!


Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

"It ain't easy."

In fact, it gets harder and harder to do each time, Ellen. And that's because, I'm not the same man that returned after I had left each time. Cancer took a little bit more of me away each time.

My career is not a physical one, or cancer would have retired me by now. I just can't do the heavy, physical things anymore like I used to do...my brain still is pretty sound...I've still got a great memory...and that serves me well...keeps me in the game.

When I was doing Oxy, it was easier to deal with...I'd miss a day with infusion...and a couple of days sick the following week...and I was able to work through it.

This last time, I was doing Irinotecan...and I came back too soon...'cause you know, you get worried there won't be a job for you....I had missed 8-straight months...so I came back doing Irinotecan and carrying the pump for those 2 days.

I lasted six-weeks and had to bail out again...Irinotecan was a death sentence for me...trying to make it through a 10-hour day was sheer toture. I'd just go outside and walk up and down the sidewalk for an hour at a time...the pain was so bad, but it's all I could do to try and get through it.

I went back out and finished up my last 3-cycles and came back again...mine is a mental job, sometimes very tedious....so early, my concentration, stamina and organizational skills suffered.

As the chemicals weaned out of my system, I just tried to do what I could do each day...and then try to do some more the next day.

15-months out of my last treatment, I feel pretty good....still tire easily...but I'm holding on at work...and I've been handling my dad's estate and doing some physical work that I can do there.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is have Pat do the best he can do...for as long as he can do it. It's hard to work during treatment...different drugs do different things, as I described above.

I know the financial worry is always GREATER than the cancer...always has been for me.

I'll never forget one scenario I was in during one of the battles.

I lost my manager job (due to cancer) and they were trying to run me to the door...I knew I only had six-months of protection, or they could assign me to another department...and they were going to put me up under a guy who would have probably accomplished this...very mean spirited and one of those military gun-ho, blood makes the grass grow kind of guys...

I had my calendar marked for the last day of the six-months and knew I'd have to go back legally, rain or shine...wouldn't matter.

The home care nurse came by (it was after my resection now that I remember)...and she asked me what was wrong. I told her I was worried about my job and finances...

She said, "Now, you just worry about getting better..."

I looked at her and said, if I don't get back to work, you'll be changing my dressing in the street.

It's terrible, Ellen...that we have to live in fear of where a dollar comes from when the spectrum of the fight is so much broader. I truly understand when you say that finances scare you more than cancer.

I really get that.

Some of us have golden parachutes to soften their landings...but for some of us, it can be a brutal free-fall to financial ruin...and we're only as solvent as the very last day that we worked.

I'm pulling for Pat...just do what he can do - when he can do it. That's all I could ever do...and what I try and do each and everday. If I could offer one tip to Pat...I'd say REST whenever you can...that really helps the most.

Standing at the Financial Crossroads is very sobering...I haven't moved past that spot in the last 3-years....ten bills turned over to collection that destroyed my credit...I'm busy trying to save some of the new ones from heading that direction too.

It's just plain difficult...

Congrats to Pat for heading back...big hugs to you!


Nana b's picture
Nana b
Posts: 3045
Joined: May 2009

I worked all through chemo and came back after 2 sugeries. I had a two hour commute each day and another half hour to cheno. THere were days that I thought to myself, can I really do this! But i did....

I had to work as I was the main bread winner, you just have to take it slow, your endurance builds up little by little. It was hard climbing stairs. Because no one at work but my boss knew about the cancer, I had to keep my chin up. I think no none knowing helped me, no one made me think about being sick. It was good.

I did it! It can be done..... Just rest when he comes home. He will need it.

I'm sending energy and great vibes his way!

Goldie1's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: Sep 2011

It's amazing that you continued work through your chemo treatments. Thank you for your reply, it really lifted me up. I will make sure Pat rests as much as possible! We are really hoping this will help his mind too. Pat was never one to sit around before cancer and he was getting very antsy to do something, anything! Pat said it felt good to be back at his job and he is looking forward to his first paycheck!

Thanks again,


Goldie1's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: Sep 2011

I never thought Pat would pass the company physical to return to work. Since he works for a trucking company...the Dept. of Transportation has pretty strict rules for returning to work when pertaining to certain health conditions. Pat thought, what have I got to lose, and surprisingly he passed. The hardest thing he had to do was to wean himself off the Oxycodone, which he did accomplish.

Since Pat is in a union, he was very lucky that they would hold his job for him without fear of being let go. The company even continued to pay into his health benefits for over a year. Things got dicey when that stopped and we had to pay for Cobra. If we didn't have savings (which are quickly depleting) I don't know what we would have done. Pat's monthly SSDI check just about covers Cobra. If we had no assets, we might have had more options. Pat is considering retiring when Medicare kicks in next June.

We are both so tired of worrying every day about money and bills. That is the biggest reason Pat decided to give going back to work a try. He figures he will do it for as long as his body/mind will allow. The first day he went back, my stomach hurt all day. I was so glad he went back but second guessed myself if this was the right thing to do.

So, thank you Craig, for telling me how you dealt with returning to work. I appreciate your words of wisdom!

Hugs right back at you,


k44454445's picture
Posts: 494
Joined: Jul 2012

i am doing folfiri plus avastin. i do 50 hrs of infusion every other week. my days are mon,tue & wed for infusion. i take that week off of work & work mon thru thur the next week. i am a dental hygienist so i sit some. last week i did not work thur bc i was worn out. but i had been in the hospital & 2 days later had chemo before that work week. i went to the er at 130 am bc my wbc crashed which caused general infection & dehydration. ( bp in the er was 64/42 so they ran fluids in me at 2000ml/hr instead of the usual 200-250ml/hr. plus they started me on 5 antibiotics. so i was in bad shape!) i am doing my 8th out of 12tx infusion right now & i have already sched. to be off work mon & tue to be cautious. my main issue is just thst i get so darned tired. i am very lucky that my dentist lets me decide my work sched. i have a sub that can work anytime so my pts are not affected. the best thing i have learned is to rest when your body tells you & to drink lots of fluids bc dehydration can make you feel tired. good luck & know you both are in my prayers!

Goldie1's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: Sep 2011

Pat's main issue is being tired too. Somedays he is so full of energy and feels like he can take on the world, then an hour later he needs to take a nap. He'll just have to take going back to work day by day. We are hoping for the best. It's great that you have an employer that is willing to work with you! Thank you and all the best to you too...


Posts: 835
Joined: Apr 2004

I think work can have a hugely therapeutic effect for many of us and have always tried to work including throughout three long courses of chemo. My work is fairly sedentary and has been understanding giving me time for treatment but I found work brought a great sense of routine and normality to my life that cancer had taken away. People at work who didn't know treated me normally which I loved and those that knew were generally understanding enough to treat me normally once they realised I wasn't about to drop dead any moment soon.

Your situation is a little different due to the type of work but you find great benefits in it outside of the money. I look forward to returning again though for me will be next year after what will be my longest ever time off work.

I hope it goes well,

Goldie1's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: Sep 2011

for your positive post on returning to work. Most of Pat's co-workers know he has cancer and are very happy to see him back at work. They have already told Pat that they are more than willing to get him back on his feet and to help him out whenever necessary. And this is not a sentimental bunch either...lol.

I believe this will also do wonders with Pat having a routine/purpose everyday, which he really feels he needs right now.

Good luck on your return to work in 2013!


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