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Author Topic: Back to work...  (Read 3334 times)
frankie
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« on: March 28, 2012, 12:07:41 AM »

Hi everyone,
I haven't written on here for a while but have been taking a look at where people are at.  So, now it's my turn and I'd really like some advice.

I am in a good physical place after 18 months of on going trauma.  My details are in the 'young people with cancer' section link here for a bit of background
http://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/forum/index.php/topic,917.msg1718.html#msg1718

Following my reversal in September 11 and a rather awful infection I recovered pretty well once out of hospital and found I was able to function surprisingly well.  I am very grateful for this and know that this isn't always the case (especially given complete large bowel removal).

My current issue is that I went back to work in January, building up days each week and gradually introducing work back into my life.  I work in public health for the NHS and they have been brilliant about supporting me through my time off sick and in this re-introduction.  The issue is that I just don't have what it takes to do the job anymore.  Whilst I am apparently doing a good job (as fedback by my manager) I feel like a completely different person and just don't have it in me to work this much any more.  

There is a physical issue - it's very hard to use the toilets in the office without lots of people hearing or waiting to use it.  But to be honest, this I could get over this if I didn't have SO much noise in my head telling me it's wrong and I don't want to be there.  The irony is that I do actually like my job, some (definitely not all!) of the people I work with and the prospects within it.  But I just don't feel ready for it all yet, and wonder if I ever will.  I have basically spent the last 3 weeks crying and agonising about what to do.  I have been very honest with my manager about this who has been incredibly supportive, but the more this goes on the more official my reactions will become and will be monitored and assessed etc.. which all just feels like it's all spiralling out of control

I have some of my own business ideas and some consultant prospects which I'd like to have more time to look at which a options I would love to take if i wasn't working.  Work have now agreed to me working 3 days a week or flexi time but it still doesn't feel like that's what I actually want.  Maybe I just want to leave to have this one thing off my shoulders...

I suppose I'd like to find out what others think about this, if you've had similar back to work experiences and what you might do in this situation...in all honesty I have no idea why this is bothering me SO much (I got through cancer for f* sake!!!) and I really want to have the stories I read about feeling more grateful and happy that i have my life and I got through this awful time, but I just feel stuck in this stupid work decision and can't get past it.  I know i'm 'lucky' (I've never liked that word but can't think of a better one right now) to have a job, to be able to make a choice, to be well enough to even think about working...but I'm just not convinced of it myself.

I wonder what you might think about this....

As a note - I have had many conversations with my friends, family and psychologist about these issues and a number have pointed out how spaghetti like my head is...I thought that was quite a good analogy for what it feel like at the moment...

Thank you! xx
« Last Edit: March 28, 2012, 08:40:34 AM by emilyhodge » Logged
suze
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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2012, 08:13:52 AM »

Hiya -- It doesn't surprise me that you feel so muddled at this point in your life ...

It is all a huge drama having cancer and the treatments, I think some ppl could get something like post-traumatic-shock syndrome ... I wouldn't say I had PTS myself  but I remember when I survived a potentially life-threatening Road Traffic Accident, and instead of being elated at my "good luck"   I suffered from depression to the point of needing medication for a few months  .. it amazed me at the time how contrary my head seemed to be, but these days I can accpet that we can all react to any given context in different ways ...

Having cancer and then surviving it is bound to set a young person off on a reflection about what she "really really wants" from her life ... why not?  Most ppl get stuck in a rut about their career and stuff and your life-experiences have given you a prompt to think about what you would find exciting career-wise in the future.

One thing, first of all .. that toilet situation needs some help.  Is there not a seperate disabled loo you can use in the vicinity?  If not, then under the terms of the disability legislation maybe getting a more private loo fixed up for you could be considered a reasonable accomodation for your special needs?


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Sept 2006 Dx. Chemo-rad. to down-size. Jan '07, surgery and ileostomy. March '07-Oct07, 12 cycles of chemo. Jun 08, Ileo reversed.  Oct 09, fresh mets: bowel and lungs. 2nd bowel op. Dec 09-May10, more chemo. 18 months off! Dec 2011, lung mets grew - Jan 2012, lung surgery.
Dec '13 hernia repair
suze
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2012, 08:26:36 AM »

"my work-story"
 I went back to work after my first lot of surgery and chemotherapy, etc, but guess I am older than you, so I think that changes my perspective a bit ...  

I used to be the Head of English in a big 6th form, which was a very draining job in terms of its intellectual and physical demands and of how many ppl I was repsonsible for. The number of hours of each week I had to give to my job in the past were ridiculous, really.  After my chemo I went back on a phased return, ... I cannot recall how many months after the chemo finishing that was. 4 or 5 I think ... longer than I really  needed, partly cos HR at work faffed around and delayed it for a while.  At first I still had my stoma and then over the summer I had a reversal and know what you mean about he shared loo thing!  

Although the return was phased, I never actually went up to full time hours.  I opted to give up the whole of the management stuff and cut my hours to 40%! This reduced my income to well under 1/2 what it had been, but I had enough money and a wife with a good income to make this a feasible option for us as a couple.  I love teaching and I used to love the job I had, but I certainly found it ludicrously easy to give most of it up ...  tbc ...
« Last Edit: March 28, 2012, 08:49:54 AM by suze » Logged

Sept 2006 Dx. Chemo-rad. to down-size. Jan '07, surgery and ileostomy. March '07-Oct07, 12 cycles of chemo. Jun 08, Ileo reversed.  Oct 09, fresh mets: bowel and lungs. 2nd bowel op. Dec 09-May10, more chemo. 18 months off! Dec 2011, lung mets grew - Jan 2012, lung surgery.
Dec '13 hernia repair
frankie
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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2012, 08:41:38 AM »

Thanks Suze! Just put the link in so hope that helps.

I'm just running out to work (!!!) but look forward to reading your response properly when I'm back later xx
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suze
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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2012, 08:45:33 AM »

my work story cont ... (I'm doing this cos the reply boxes wont let me type big chunks!!)

 Everyone said I'd hate to be an ordinary teacher again with a different Head of Dept, dja know what?  They were so wrong!  I loved being part-time and loved getting all the benefits of being employed ... without the stress of the full-on job I used to do. I loved being able to do my job with proper attention to a smaller number of students and lesson prep ..  I loved the structure the job gave without taking over my whole life, I loved being more of a house-wife too, it was, in short, just  lovely.  

Sadly this dream ticket was smashed by cancer which returned in my gut and lungs at the end of the first full academic year I completed in this new role ... and I was tipped over into retirement on health grounds.  Undecided

Before I went part-time I had had a serious chat with my oncologist about my prospects.  He advised me that in my condition there was a 66% chance it would come back in the next three years, and this stastic is what focussed my decision to looking for qualty of life rather than staying on the same treadmill .... I felt very strongly that if my days were seriously numbered then I did not want to spend them working flat out at the old pace, and in any case, that level of stress would not be conducive to general good health.  

I also felt that whether the cancer came back or not, this was a good choice for us as a couple.

tbc
« Last Edit: March 28, 2012, 08:47:41 AM by suze » Logged

Sept 2006 Dx. Chemo-rad. to down-size. Jan '07, surgery and ileostomy. March '07-Oct07, 12 cycles of chemo. Jun 08, Ileo reversed.  Oct 09, fresh mets: bowel and lungs. 2nd bowel op. Dec 09-May10, more chemo. 18 months off! Dec 2011, lung mets grew - Jan 2012, lung surgery.
Dec '13 hernia repair
lola
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« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2012, 08:49:59 AM »

Dear Emily

I wondered on reading your post whether my story would help. I was diagnosed with an anterior sigmoid adenocarcinoma in February and had a bowel resection two weeks ago today. My story is not about the cancer but about the journey I went on beginning in 2005. I was unwell with dizziness and some sensory changes which meant that I walked as if I was drunk and fell over a lot. Joe public are an incredibly intolerant (particularly in London) lot. To cut a long story short I was diagnosed with relapsing and remitting MS - my world fell apart for a while. I was working as the manager of a team of hearing therapists in a specialist hospital a job that I tried to return to after 6 months off sick. I too was supported by both my wonderful colleagues and occupational health in my attempt to return to normality. I failed for a number of reasons fatigue, lack of concentration but mainly because I had a feeling that I could no longer do the job I loved as well as I used to. The MS robbed me of the ability to be as empathic and tolerant of others, I knew I had to concentrate on learning to live with the diagnosis and my symptoms.

So I applied for early retirement on medical grounds which I was, thankfully granted I was 50 years old and suddenly I was no longer working full time. I continued to teach undergraduate audiology students one day a week from diagnosis onwards, until I retired completely in 2010.  I now fill my time studying for a degree in the Arts and Humanities a, along treasured ambition and am content.

I tell you this story Emily because I understand what you are going through. It took me along time to accept that I needed to make some changes and in a sense become selfish-to put myself first. You have undergone a lifechanging experience that has inevitably made you question what you do and why you do it which I believe is natural when one's mortality is threatened.

I suspect Emily that you know in your heart of hearts what is going to be right for you, instinct is a powerful emotion trust it. I hope this helps in some way and wish you all the best in the future.
 
Lola
  

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suze
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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2012, 08:58:28 AM »

Thanks Suze! Just put the link in so hope that helps.

I'm just running out to work (!!!) but look forward to reading your response properly when I'm back later xx

Breaking out of my own narrative to say  ....
Have just read your story, thanks for putting in the link .. now I see you are the young woman who lost her first child to this disease ....  I cannot think why you would be surprised that your thoughts and emotions are like spaghetti ...  just THAT alone is big enough to reduce any woman to a quivering jelly.

 I cannot be the only one in touch with you to see this, but just to add my voice  .. after dealing with the cancer it would surely be quite normal for your grief about your unborn child to overwhem you now ... and on that footing alone I would counsel taking your time and not feeling any need to rush any decisions ...

I have heard it said to bereaved people that they should wait at least a year after a loss to make big,  life-changing decisions, so it makes even more sense not to rush when you are dealing with not only the bereavement but the whole cancer roller-coaster too.  Take your time

 Kiss

« Last Edit: March 28, 2012, 09:13:17 AM by suze » Logged

Sept 2006 Dx. Chemo-rad. to down-size. Jan '07, surgery and ileostomy. March '07-Oct07, 12 cycles of chemo. Jun 08, Ileo reversed.  Oct 09, fresh mets: bowel and lungs. 2nd bowel op. Dec 09-May10, more chemo. 18 months off! Dec 2011, lung mets grew - Jan 2012, lung surgery.
Dec '13 hernia repair
suze
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2012, 09:08:05 AM »

Dunno if you need any more of my story, being 20 years older than you surely makes a difference, but "long story short":  I think giving up work altogether is very hard, it is another sort of bereavement in some ways .. and I miss my job still, even though there is no way I could do it any more ...

If you are going to go it alone in the consultancy thing, then make sure you do strong research and get good advice about it .. I know ppl who have tried this, the ones who succeeded stayed in a job for  paying the bills etc while they set up the frameworks etc they need for going it alone!   

Also, if you are prone to depression, losing the structure and friendly social contacts that work provides is a big deal.  You might find it hard to believe in yourself if the consultancy doesn't take wings immediately, and that can be very sapping and sad (this happened to one of my best friends who is realy brilliant at all sorts of things, but not very bolshy in her self-belief ..  I think testoterone tablets would have helped her, you know to be like blokes who are not really very good at much but can sell ice to eskimos!)

SO, plenty to think about .. look forward to chatting some more about this xxxxx
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Sept 2006 Dx. Chemo-rad. to down-size. Jan '07, surgery and ileostomy. March '07-Oct07, 12 cycles of chemo. Jun 08, Ileo reversed.  Oct 09, fresh mets: bowel and lungs. 2nd bowel op. Dec 09-May10, more chemo. 18 months off! Dec 2011, lung mets grew - Jan 2012, lung surgery.
Dec '13 hernia repair
chools
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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2012, 10:35:39 AM »

Hi Em,

Iím not so sure about the spaghetti comment, but your thoughts seem to suggest that there seem to be more paths and maybe options in your life now?

Our respective experiences with cancer are life changing, physically, mentally, or in most cases I would suggest both

Work used to be a big part of my life. I like you now work part time. Iím fortunate that most of that is from home. I find work even part time a big challenge as my ability to concentrate for any period has all but gone. I now need to write a lot more down which in itself is tiring but is my only hope in retaining knowledge. Part time although great in some ways also puts you outwith the regular office environment of your colleagues. I always feel slightly the outsider as I havenít physically been there for the full working week.  Emails are great but not the same as being able to talk face to face with someone.

And then there is my attitude to work which is still positive but I know I no longer have that 101% commitment, my life has become more important and to be honest it probably always should have been that way around. I also had many months off sick. For most of us in our working lives we just get a couple of weeks off at a time to have a holiday, we barely unwind before being back at the desk. But I had the time to stop and think about my life and my work. An obvious statement covering most of the working population but if it wasnít for the money I would like to be doing something else!

Iíve decided that hopes of getting another job are less than zero. I can imagine the first line of my Ďhonestí C.V. : Mid fifties male, had cancer, just had heart surgery. Often feels very tired and lacks concentration. Suffers from neuropathy in finger tips so often drops small items. Needs frequent access to a comfortable toilet where he often seems to spend an extraordinary length of time. Farts a lot and is often not pleasant to be near for that reason. Has difficulty making early morning starts (my bowels need several hours of a morning to empty) Would be prepared to work part time but less if possible. Would need time off work for what might seem like weekly GP and hospital appointments, and so it goes on. Would I employ me, probably not (think Iíll lift this for a new thread!) Smiley

I have thought about self employment. I do often have energy outside of the 9-5, Monday to Friday window but what would I do? Not a lot comes to mind, at least not of a lucrative nature. Well meaning friends have suggested photography but that was a diversion therapy for when I was really unwell and besides every person and their dog has a digital camera these days. Could I teach music? Iíve not played any instrument post getting the neuropathy so it might be tricky. On thinking about self employment previous experience suggests that starting your own business requires endless energy, time, and commitment. Iím just not that person anymore

Testing beds or toilet pans, now, thereís a thought but Iím guessing that there are limited openings for these jobs

What I have achieved is learning how to survive. Always had hope that Ďthingsí would get better and I would survive and so far I have

Just like Suze my wife and I survive (happily) on a much lower income, with my wife giving up some of her work when I became ill so we now both work part time

As for what I would do in your shoes Em... Iíve obviously not thought about it as much as yourself, but knowing what I do I would stay with your current employer for the time being. They offer you support and a degree of security that you might not find elsewhere. Starting your own business is a great idea, but first I would see if I could hack full time work. You would have the cushion of going back to part time hours or even taking more sick leave if you canít. Meanwhile though, work on your ideas for a business. If you continue part time you might even be able to do some distance learning courses that would be of use?

There is also your financial situation to think about, if you are comfortable with p/t hours do you really need to work more? Itís still early days post your operations and more time off through only working p/t might make full/fuller recovery easier

As for the toilet at work, see if there is another one that might be more suitable as suggested. It does no harm to take a short break every hour anyway to walk away from your desk. Iím not sure as to what hours you do but would changing them in anyway help you? Your current situation makes life uncomfortable not impossible. I know my colleagues got used to me dashing off to the loo and hopefully think nothing of it now. I Ďve managed to help my self a little through diet and medication

Not sure if all this will add to your tangle of thoughts but let us know how you get on!

KrC
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« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2012, 10:52:59 AM »

I liek Chools' CV --

and  like chools says, the work-place you are in gives you a lot of support, which you would miss if you went solo, and you would not get sick pay, and if you gto pregnant ... maternity leave too ...

blimey!

not easy ...

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Sept 2006 Dx. Chemo-rad. to down-size. Jan '07, surgery and ileostomy. March '07-Oct07, 12 cycles of chemo. Jun 08, Ileo reversed.  Oct 09, fresh mets: bowel and lungs. 2nd bowel op. Dec 09-May10, more chemo. 18 months off! Dec 2011, lung mets grew - Jan 2012, lung surgery.
Dec '13 hernia repair
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« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2012, 11:38:31 AM »

I would just like to add that my line manager was and is incredibly supportive, but sick pay equalled 6 weeks full pay, then 6 weeks half pay, and then onto benefits. So, I was worried about my cancer and about money
But, when I was in my thirties I was ambitious and full of energy, and it's the time many people want to work hard, so I can understand that is also part of your dilemma Em  Undecided whereas I now feel I'm now coasting work wise but can afford to do so
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« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2012, 02:12:33 PM »

Wow this thread was just started this morning and already a huge response to it. I have found the juxtaposition of work and cancer also to be an odd one.....i am just about to contact HR to arrange my retirement at age 49! ...literally like now so i will do this and then come back to the thread!
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Call the nurses on 08450 719 301
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have!
Blogging at http://elkamouri.blogspot.co.uk/
Below is a bit about me and bowel cancer
http://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/forum/index.php/topic,1677.0.html
frankie
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« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2012, 06:47:08 PM »

Wowsers....thank you SO much! Really, thank you...I didn't expect such a response but i suppose I have been collating all thoughts around the issue so I can pick my own knowing SOMEONE thinks it's right (jk!)

I agree completely that I need to not make drastic decisions - there is an element of wanting to just change so many things so I feel different but of course wherever I go and whatever I do I take myself with me! I think it's been punctuated by just having had an amazing holiday where I really did get time to think, relax, genuinely be happy for more than just a few hours and realise I want life to be more like that.  I'm not expecting a life of holidays or treats all the time or even to be happy ALL the time, but I want to get to a point where I don't feel so up and down at the drop of a hat, vulnerable and lack resilience.  I'd like to think of it more positively - that I even went back to work and have given it a go for example.

I think it's a hard thing younger-ish people do go through. I've accumulated a few cancer friends who are around my age (none with bowel cancer) and we all seem to feel these issues are quite prominent as it's when we're meant to be the most energetic, achieving, happy in our lives.  But I still think it's an issue clearly people of ANY age find hard - whether young, gaining your career or retired, you still have to make hugely important decisions.

SO - today, I realised that I'm feeling just too ropey about making a full decision about work - if I make a decision to leave completely I want it to be with a good feeling and in a good way, not in the way I'm feeling currently.  I have the option to go part-time and there's options to adjust and change roles if it gets to that point.

Your advice on consultancy/self-employment are completely correct.  I hope it didn't come across like I was saying that's the easy option as I know it's not, it's just different and something I feel now more personally motivated by following my experiences.  I really, genuinely, feel like I'm going to be a GREAT entrepeneur one day which makes it all the more exciting!!

But for the moment, I've decided I'm still not actually very well and have been signed off sick for a bit - possibly a month, possibly more, with full support from my manager, occ health and husband - and let's face it, he's the one that cares the most out of all of them.

I'm aware this may just be delaying the inevitable, or just confuse me more when the sick leave ends but I already feel like a huge weight has lifted and I have just bought myself some time to think about it if I want to, or not think about it at all.

I hope I'm privileged enough to look back on this time in a few years and think 'what a palava you made about work' as I KNOW this will work out somehow...it's just when you're in it it's so hard to see how it turns out.

Thank you so much for your prompt and thoughtful responses so far!!! xxxxx

Chools - amazing CV!!!!!!
Suze - thank you for being there before I even left the house this morning!
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frankie
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2012, 12:39:05 PM »

Hazel, how did yesterday go? X
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Hazel
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2012, 11:11:23 PM »

A bit frantic as my scanner decided not to work but at the 11th hour i got my neighbour to scan a couple of things i had to sign including my notice, final day 30th April but likely they won't insist on me working out my notice....the deed is done!!!
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Call the nurses on 08450 719 301
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have!
Blogging at http://elkamouri.blogspot.co.uk/
Below is a bit about me and bowel cancer
http://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/forum/index.php/topic,1677.0.html
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