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Working during chemo

MargaritaSalsa's picture
Posts: 11
Joined: May 2013

I find it incredibly hard to work during FOLFOX treatment. I have a desk job and they have allowed me to work from home while doing chemo, but I have just had my sixth treatment out of twelve and after the third it became harder and harder to even work from home on my laptop. I can't even work up the energy to READ. All I want to do is stay in bed from Tuesday to Friday. It's terrible. I know so many people are out there working and supporting families. They can't afford not to work. I just don't know how they do it. Is anyone else in my situation where it's incredibly difficult to work even a simple desk job? My oxi has been reduced by 20% already for the neuropathy side effects but maybe I should ask for another reduction to either that or the 5FU? Any input is appreciated. I really need to get some work done but at this rate it's not happening. 

Posts: 506
Joined: Apr 2013

I give you credit for working at all during this treatment.  My husband is in the middle of his Folfox treatments also.  He does not work and while not having severe side effects, I don't think he could have worked during this.  After treatment #5 he was admitted to the hospital again with another blockage, which thankfully worked itself out.  After that, they cut out the oxaliplatin all together.  He has had 3 treatments of  just 5FU and leucovorin and has 4 to go.  He still has cumulative constipation, fatigue and joint aches.  The fatigue and achiness seems to be getting worse, which he does not like.  He did have the oxaliplatin cut during his first 5 treatments.

Others on here have had minimal side effects of 12 full Folfox treatments, you just never know how you will react.  Our oncologists tell us every single person who gets Folfox has different reactions.

I say, rest when you can, take a leave if you can until you get some energy back.  Do not force yourself, you'll only feel guilty if you can't do things and that's not good for your recovery. 

My husband is sleeping more than I've ever known him to, sometimes taking 4 hour naps.  After he wakes from a short nap, he almost feels worse than before the nap.  I do not make any physical demands and only ask him to do small things around the house.  Good advice is to accept help from people in your life - they all want to do something, let them pick up some groceries, run your vacuum, wash dishes, etc.  Don't be embarrassed about it, listen to your body, it needs rest.

Good luck with the rest of your treatments

traci43's picture
Posts: 775
Joined: Jul 2007

Take your time and don't stress if you can't work 40 hours.  Take a nap or rest and go back to it if you can.  You need to conserve your energy to work on the cancer.  See if you can work reduced hours, if you can afford it and even if you can't.   Since you're working at home, is it possible to modify when you work to take advantage of any time during the day when you are feeling better?

I was lucky and had good disability at work and took the time off the first time in 2007.  I had been so inactive before the surgery and follow-up chemo that I too was very tired.  Even though I was home all the time, I finally got a maid which helped.  The second time I just took off Wednesday-Friday when I had the pump in (2009).  I had been working out, going to a boot camp, which I continued to do except when I had the pump and sometimes the following Monday if I was too tired.  Being in good physical shape really made a difference for me in the amount of energy I had.  After that I switched to Xeloda (pill form of 5-FU) and only missed one day of work for the irinotecan infusion.  Xeloda is much easier on the body, except for the liver, than 5-FU.

I hope you find ways to manage treatment and work.  This thread has made me realize the importance of working out, something I've been putting off for a while.  Thank you for that and good luck to you!  Traci


Trubrit's picture
Posts: 5504
Joined: Jan 2013

I've had 27 side effects with FOLFOX and I'm glad to be done with it. 

If I had to pick the two worst side effects, one would be the fatigue, which I've never experienced anything like it in my life, not even with babies getting up all night. 

The second..... wow, its hard, between the fact that I can't walk unless I"m touching something lest I fall over, and the Thrush. I think I'd choose the Thush, which lasted four weeks and killed my taste buds.  I love my food, so anything that spoils that is not my friend. 

Of course, I don't like the chemo brain either. 

Take those naps when the fatigue hits, because they really help. I fought it at first, but soon realixed that sleeping or resting helps the body more.

By the time I was on my last two or three infusions, I napped on and off all day. 

Good luck!  

Keep us informed. There's lots of info and love here for you. 



joemetz's picture
Posts: 493
Joined: Nov 2011

I was on FolFox w/ Erbitux from Jan 3, 2012 to July 3, 2012... I only missed one treatment in that time.

But, when it came time to decide if I was going to work or rest... I choose Rest.

Luckily I am partners in a small business with my older brother, and I was able to take all the time I needed to focus on beating cancer, resting and keeping stress at an all time low.

It's been 20 months... and the first doc's gave me 6-9.  I believe that my ability to focus on me and my family, and to relax and keep stress out of my life for those first six months is the reason I did so well.  I still have many other issues and its never stopped being a huge roller coaster ride... but if I had to work every day (in the office or from home) I don't think I'd be doing as well as I am.

so, my vote is to take the time off... if you are able.

I wish you the best.


P.S. Thanks Bro Tom. You are helping me to beat cancer!!

steveandnat's picture
Posts: 887
Joined: Sep 2011

You need to rest as much as possible so I would talk to HR and see if your eligible for and time off with pay . Most employers are good about it. Maybe part time.  It is so hard to concentrate on work during chemo. Do you think you will be done as your onc says? If you can't woand then check into disability...usually cancer is a high priority approval. Pray your strength and energy come back soon. Jeff

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

I took a 6 week break when I had to have sugery and it helped me get thorugh the next 3 months.    Are you eligible for FMLA?  Short Term Disabilty?  Remember even if you have exhauseted FMLA they still have an obliagation to accomdate time off.    Also, don't work if you have these beneits, I made the mistatke of working then they terminated me.  I lost my Long Term Disability becuase I went back to work.  I don't know what stage you are or what benefits you have but you do need to know this...  Good luck

Posts: 18
Joined: Nov 2010

I worked all the way through chemo. At first it was not too bad and I was doing Ok juggling home, health and work. But about half way through; I had a hard time staying awake at my desk or comprehending the information that I was analyzing especially the following week after chemo. I did feel better by the second week. My work performance was poor.

When I would get home I fall into my chair and I slept all evening to just get up to visit with my 10 year daughter and husband and then I would go to bed. I typically do what I think is expected from me and it seemed like I was being encouraged to work through versus sitting at home. I did have short term disability insurance. Looking back I think it would have been a better idea to not work and take better care of myself while I was going through chemo. It was hard to see my daughters eyes worrying about me. Maybe had I had more rest I wouldn't looked so different to her.

Looking back due to having benefits I would have taken a leave of absence to take care of myself. I think each of us are different and have to make decisions on the what we feel is best for us.

Good luck in your decision. I will keep you in my prayers.


PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I was able to work through my chemo but I had mine on Wednesdays and would take Wed, Thurs, Fri off so I could recover. By Monday I felt almost normal. Work was understanding, flexible, and very supportive.

It wasn't always easy. You need to listen to your body...

db8ne1's picture
Posts: 142
Joined: Feb 2013

All I can say is do what you need to do and what's best for you.  Work with your doc's to modify treatment, if necessary.  Rest when your body dictates.  Stay hydrated and as well nourished as you can. 

I just had my second round of FOLFOX and both rounds threw me for a loop!  I'm recovering from surgery (LAR) performed on 4/11/13 and am scheduled to return to work on Monday, 6/1.  My PLAN is to work full time in the office.  Plan B is to work full time - but over the course of 7 (not 5) days and from home.  I am blessed as my employer has allowed me all the flexibility I need.  (I did work full time through 6 weeks of pre-surgery daily chemo/radiation therapy).

I'm a bit behind you in your scheduled rounds, so I don't have the "cumulative" effects yet. So, I'm not sure what else to say that can help - except hang in there and make sure you take care of yourself so you can beat this!

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