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Returning to Work

Returning to Work

Posted by Dielle on Jan 6, 2018 12:55 pm

Hi all, I'm looking for some advice or tips from members who have returned to work.

Next week I am going to start talking to my workplace about a return to work plan.  I know they will try to be as supportive as they can.  My job is more mental than physical and I don't have physical limitations (other than tiring more easily).  But I've been gone for over 6 months and I'm a little worried about fitting in and finding a place and of people's new perceptions of me.  It is a young workplace (I am one of the oldest people in the office)  and there are a lot of new people I don't know very well.   Right after my target return date I will be going on the company trip to Mexico, which is exciting and scary at the same time.  But I think my biggest concern is that I just won't enjoy my work anymore.  I'm not that anxious to get back but that could just be not wanting to go out of my comfort zone.

What, if anything, eased your transition back?
Did you find that people treated you differently when you returned? 
Is there anything you wish you had done differently when returning to work?

I am thinking about easing back into it part-time.  I don't want to become overwhelmed and then find I drop my new healthy, habits because of time or fatigue.


Re: Returning to Work

Posted by scaredysquirrel on Jan 6, 2018 1:25 pm

Hey Dielle‍ I had a strange dream the other night that I was at work - not that I want to be, lol!  I have to contact my Manulife caseworker this month and let him know where I am with my treatments.  I have no desire for a return to work, but wish you the best!

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by ACH2015 on Jan 6, 2018 3:07 pm

Hey Dielle‍ 

​I would talk to your doctor(s) and your insurer as well.

​You need to know what the process is for return to work from all parties.

​What is your doctor going to recommend. Your workplace will probably need a note of some kind indicating your abilities and your insurer will most likely need medical info from your doctor about a "gradual" return to work process.

​Most of all - you need to protect yourself should your return to work not be successful, and you require reinstatement of  disability benefits.

Find out from all parties what the process involved is. A gradual return is the best way (as I have been told) because it will wear you out, resuming duties and getting back into a "work life routine" you have been out of for a while.

​Be prepared for the inability to get back into the swing of work life. I know some folks here have had a pretty rough go of returning to work and went back off as it was too much for them.

​A lot of people feel guilty being off of work, and push themselves too hard. Be honest with yourself and your abilities Debbie. One step and one day at a time.

I hope you get more feedback from some returnees.

Keep well

ACH2015 - Andy.

Karolinka‍ , Minus2‍ are 2 names that come to mind as recent return to work people on the site.

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by CarolineH2018 on Jan 7, 2018 3:14 pm

Hi Dielle‍. I returned to work in October after an absence of 9 weeks. My treatment wasn't radical because my breast cancer has matastized. At first I tried part time working but knew by the end of the first week that it wasn't working. Despite all the supportive words from management (and they have been supportive) I landed back with a full caseload which couldn't be completed in 4 hours a day. Since returning full time I have been happier. Fortunately I have the option of working from home two days a week which helps. Not everyone in the office knows why I was absent and those people probably assume I am cured of whatever ails me. Those that do know haven't treated me much differently except it is rare for them to ask how I am. You need to find the right balance for you. After such a long absence I'm sure you will have challenges but you have met every other challege head on and I wish you well with this one.

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Minus2 on Jan 7, 2018 3:47 pm

Hi Dielle‍, 
I start back full time tomorrow after being off for 8 weeks followed by a few weeks at half time and then the Christmas break.  Going back half time was very good for me.  My job is not physical but I still had restrictions regarding repetetive movement, working with aggressive students, and lifting, stretching, and reaching.  Being able to go home at noon was a blessing and a curse.  It was so nice to just walk out the door and hand off whatever crisis / situation was brewing at the time, but it was also hard to walk away and not resolve the issues / work I had started that morning.
As for falling into bad habits - big concern for me and realistically so.  Because I was recovering from abdominal surgery and the weather was horrible, I was not as active as I should have been and once I am working full time hours (plus some probably), I am worried my activity level will not improve until the summer when I am off again.  Dietary changes were easier to sustain.
My energy level was mostly good working half days.  There were only a couple of times I was so fatigued I didn't think I would ever move again.  I learned to come home and have a nap most afternoons and that helped a lot.  I plan to maintain that habit as needed.
People at work have been wonderful about my part time return.  Many of the women know the details of why I was off - I am teaching the female staff about breast cancer - and they are very protective over my health.  I feel very blessed to work in this particular high school community.  And my mindset has been helped by the return to work and the excitement of the Christmas break.  I am starting to think less about cancer each day and being at work has a lot to do with that.  
When my surgeon first said I needed to do a gradual return to work, I was shocked and unhappy about it.  Truthfully, a gradual return was the best plan and I feel ready to go back full time tomorrow.  And if full time is not okay, I will go back to part time.  No more service above self.  At least that's the plan.wink
Hope the discussions go well Dielle.  It's daunting, but okay too.  

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Jan 8, 2018 11:19 am

MommaBear‍ , Beespecial‍, Suzanne73‍  do you ladies have any return to work suggestions for our friend Dielle‍??

I'm glad you will be planning things out beforehand Debbie. I think you will do great! Try and strike a balance and make time for all the things you have enjoyed in your time off. Life is too short for just working wink. Keep us posted! Cheering you on

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Mellybean on Jan 8, 2018 4:37 pm

Hi Dielle,

I hope you get lots of suggestions, I'm really interested in what to expect for back to work.  From my completely unrelated experience I believe that gradual return from disability is pretty normal so hopefully you're able to set up something that suits you.  I've got a few months of treatment before I have to worry about it but my employer doesn't want me back until I'm at 100% so I'm feeling a bit intimidated trying to imagine the transition from treatment back to work.  It'll be great to see what everyone has to say :) 


Re: Returning to Work

Posted by ashcon on Jan 8, 2018 5:38 pm

Hi Dielle‍ ;

I too, would be very interested to hear what you find out, and what you experience. 
Like you, my job is very taxing mentally vs physically (I'm a project manager).  My biggeset fear is that there won't be any "part-time" option. It's the type of job that's either full-on, 8-10 hrs/per day, or don't bother coming back to work!

Luckily I don't have to worry about this for another 5-6 months. At thar time I will have been off work for about 1 year.

Good luck next week and take it easy.  Come back here and tell us how it goes.
---- "Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced." ----

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Lchalmers on Jan 9, 2018 8:51 am

I was very lucky and was able to work through my treatments.  I had about 5 days off with my surgery and worked while doing my radiation.  My radiation was a reduced timeline due to the trial I am on.  Being around my friends at work and keeping busy made it easier for me to deal with everything.  I was very lucky that my treatement was not too invasive. During radiation I would leave when I needed to or came in late if I needed to.  My boss was extemely nice and told me to take whatever time I needed and it did not use up any vacation time that I had.  

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Beespecial on Jan 9, 2018 9:17 am

Hi everyone!  Good topic, for sure.  My situation was a little bit different, but many of the same issues with thinking about going back to work. I was an independent consultant, and when I was diagnosed, I stopped working. That was over a year ago. I had 9 months of active treatment (4 months of chemo, then mastectomy, then 6 weeks of radiation -- plus time in between each), plus the time for diagnosis and some rest after treatment was over, it ended up being a year that I hadn't worked. I didn't feel comfortable bidding on contracts during that time, so I was 's.o.l.' for money and for work in general.   I had decided early on that I would start looking for a contract or for work in August/September so that I could be working by October/November.  During my treatment, I also decided that I wanted to change fields - I had worked in cancer research for a long time, and I was kinda done with cancer :)   So, I started thinking about what I wanted to do.  I ended up as Executive Director at a charity, which I am loving!  I started at the end of October. I work full time, but I work from home 2-3 days a week.  They are really flexible, and understand that I may have appointments, take a little extra time when I'm tired, and that I am really committed to my work life balance (so not more 10 hours days for me).  I was really upfront about those things during my interviews.  My advice to anyone thinking about going back to work (if you have the luxury of a) negotiating your return, b) have a compassionate employer) is to think about what you want, and be honest about what you think you can do. I felt really ready, physically and mentally to work again - afterall, it had been a year.  My philosophy is to be open with people around me, about having had cancer, about how I am feeling, etc.  But not everyone feels the same way, you may not want to disclose your illness and you don't have to.  I don't think cancer is a dirty word, but I do understand people's hesitation with their colleagues and their customers -- even though I believe everyone will think you're a rockstar :)

I would also suggest that you be kind to yourself. My husband has taken over the cooking and the cleaning and the groceries, etc. So I can focus on myself, my work, my lifestyle, etc. Again, not everyone has that luxury, but try to do too much while you back into the swing of things. 

My two cents :)

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Dielle on Jan 9, 2018 1:06 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.  I've just finished a call with the woman who takes care of our HR policies and who is also a good friend of mine.  As I thought, the company is going to be very supportive and will accomodate whatever I ask for in terms of a gradual return to work plan.  She also told me in her experience our insurance provider is quite reasonable with people coming off LTD claims becuase it is in their best interest to make sure it is successful and people don't come back too soon and then have to go back on disability.  So far, I have found my interactions with my caseworker to be quite reasonable and helpful.  One of my next steps will be to email her and see what she needs from me.  I don't have an appointment with my oncologist until a few days after the expected return to work date but I think I can call her and have a discussion.  I think she will support a gradual return to work plan of whatever I feel is reasonable..

#4 on my 18 for 2018 list is to "Return to work in an engaging, healthy and balanced way" . I just have to figure out what that means to me.  Thats the part thats really hard.  Beespecial‍, I admire that you went in a different direction that has you very excited.  I've decided that I am no longer going to take on projects that I can't get excited about.  I am fortunate that I do have some flexibility in that regard.  I am finding that the more I think about it, the more I am looking forward to it.

I don't have to worry about what to tell people as I "came out" to everyone back in May when I created a team to participate in the Workout to Conquer Cancer Challenge.  Everyone there has been super supportive.  Maybe this isn't for everybody but I found that doing a mass reveal saved me a few awkward conversations that started with questions like "I haven't seen you around too much lately, have you been on vacation?" and "I love that hat.  Did you always wear a lot of hats or is this something new?"  (I did chemo first and kept working for a while).  I only say awkward because I felt that it was unfair to spring it on people - they were usually very gracious and empathetic.

Thats my story for now.  I'll post updates as I go through the process.  Work is such a complicated issue even without recovering from a serious illness but a cancer diagnosis certainly puts things into a different perspective. 

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Jan 9, 2018 1:50 pm

Dielle‍ - Sounds like your workplace can't wait to have you back and is willing to accommodate your needs. Glad you are feeling excited about it and will focus on the type of work you enjoy! Definitely keep us posted. 

Beespecial‍ - Great tips for work/life balance. Glad you are enjoying your new gig and found a supportive work environment.

Lchalmers‍ - Glad you found comfort being around your co-workers and friends during treatment. Sounds like a great place to work. 

ashcon‍ - It makes so much sense to me that you are a project manager!! Organized, thorough, focused....and the list goes on. 

Mellybean‍ - You will get there one step at a time :)

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Suzanne73 on Jan 13, 2018 6:43 pm

Hi all! Thanks Lacey for thinking of me, I know I haven't been on much, basically ever since I returned to work! Honestly, returning to work was actually quite difficult for me. I got pretty sick during my first month back, but it was just a general virus that made me feel really unwell, but not so sick that I had to take time off. The other drawbacks were that it truly did affect my healthy habits - I stopped eating my special diet and basically reduced exercise to almost zero. The other thing was that I was returning to a job where I absolutely adore my colleagues but strongly dislike the type of planning that it takes to prepare for teaching courses that I feel no personal connection to. So! That all being said, I think your plan for a slow return to work is great, and I love your determination to only take on projects that are meaningful for you. It sounds like a good plan. Please make sure you take care of yourself first! I think I was so concerned with fulfilling my obligations that it didn't work out well for me... I actually had a heart attack last week! I'm grateful now that I have dodged a second bullet and I think this is the one that will give me the courage to finally just do what I wanted to do all along - stay home and find personal projects that I can be passionate about, starting with the health of me and my boys. Hope your return to work goes smoothly and please please keep your finger on the pulse - if youre not happy, make a change before it affects your health! Suzanne

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Elsie13 on Jan 13, 2018 7:45 pm

What Suzanne73‍ , you had a heart attack? What happened, if I may ask?  Was it one of those silent heart attacks where you weren't sure what was going on? Did you have to stay in hospital for a while? Are you feeling OK now?
In 2016: diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer. Treatment: hysterectomy, chemo, radiation. Afterwards: No Evidence of Disease!

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Suzanne73 on Jan 13, 2018 8:15 pm

Hi Elsie! Elsie13‍    No, thankfully I had some symptoms that were strong enough to send me to hospital. But I am so grateful that I was actually at work when it happened because it's one of those things where, as a woman, I feel like we dismiss our issues so readily - maybe I would have just lay down at home and tried to wait for it to pass- but because I was at work, they called an ambulance. It turns out that even though I'm young and "relatively" healthy (ignoring the cancer history), I had normal BP, normal cholesterol, and angiogram even showed no plaque build up! It was caused by a coronary dissection which means that I had a tear on the inner wall of my artery. The cardiologist said they may look into the chemo drugs that I was on to see if any of them can be implicated in weakening the arterial walls. So, thankfully because I was taken in to hospital fairly quickly and given aspirin in the ambulance, the damage is very minimal and I should (God willing) heal completely. I am resting a lot, still being monitored in hospital until Monday, and in good spirits. I just feel like this is one more lesson from God that I must have needed. I pray it gives me the courage to just follow my heart into a different future. But yeah, that was a big surprise for me for sure.

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Elsie13 on Jan 13, 2018 8:22 pm

Oh my goodness, Suzanne73‍ . Please keep us posted on what's happening, and let us know what the cardiologist says!  And take the rest and relaxation that you need!
In 2016: diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer. Treatment: hysterectomy, chemo, radiation. Afterwards: No Evidence of Disease!

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Minus2 on Jan 13, 2018 8:24 pm

A heart attack Suzanne73‍!!  Didn't see that coming!  So glad you are okay and home recovering.  We have missed you on the site; so nice to have you back.
I returned to work full time last Monday.  It's good but I am tired; I have not moved much from the couch today.  My eating habits are actually better when I am at work as I pack a healthy lunch each day.  At home, the chocoate and chips my son like call to me, sometimes too loudly to ignore!
Take care of yourself please.

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Suzanne73 on Jan 13, 2018 8:25 pm

Thank you Elsie13‍ I sure will - especially if I learn anything about the chemo drugs causing this side effect, because that one can affect us all!

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Jan 13, 2018 9:30 pm


So sorry to hear about your heart attack and so glad you are okay. 

I hope you are able to focus on the things you really enjoy and take care of you and your boys. 

Take it easy and keep us posted 

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Suzanne73 on Jan 13, 2018 10:56 pm

Thanks Minus2‍ and Lacey_adminCCS‍ ! 
I've missed our weekly update threads, so I'm kind of happy that I will have some extra time on my hands now to keep in touch with everyone.  This site sure helped me get through Chemo heart
Minus2‍ I was pretty good at getting through the day with healthy breakfasts and lunches, but by dinner time I was often so tired that I would pretty much go for whatever was easiest.  I'm glad you have a lot more discipline than me smiley... Although I did eventually go back to my diet - started back in the new year... Now I just have to include some extra heart healthy modifications too. 

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by sundog on Jan 15, 2018 2:53 pm

Dielle‍ I'm a little late to the thread but I just wanted you to know that returning to work went very well for me. I was only off 8 weeks after surgery, and then returned to work during my chemo. I was exhausted for a long time after returning to work, but my customers were so invested in my getting well that I felt positive vibes every day just by being there. Most of my interactions with other employees have been supportive. I've had one person who expressed once that I had it easy not lifting anything! However, almost a year after my chemo ended I am still accomodated - sitting during my cash shift and not lifting. I still tire much more easily than before, and my family doctor sees me every 3 months and encourages the accomodation. She would rather I work even less, but that's life and finances. With my neuropathy my feet ache if I stand too long, and my hands can't work in the coolers as they ache from the cold even with gloves on. Mentally and emotionally work has been great, and my company management has been very supportive of any accomodations. 

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Dielle on Jan 15, 2018 9:06 pm

Suzanne73‍ and sundog‍, it is so good to hear from you both.  Its been too long.  Since you were both regulars on the site, we have added a female only group called Ladies Retreat - check it out.

Suzanne, I'm so sorry to hear about your heart attack.  I'm glad you were at school and they got you an ambulance.  I'm sending you lots of healing thoughts.  Please take care of yourself and let us know how you are doing.

Sundog, I'm happy that your return to work has been positive even with some physical challenges.  I do think that if done right, going back to work can be a big emotional boost to me.

Thanks so much for sharing your stories.  They really are helping me.

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Brighty on Jan 16, 2018 7:07 am

Omg Suzanne so sorry to read about your heart attack!!!!!! I'm soooo glad you are ok!!!
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by MommaBear on Jan 20, 2018 4:57 am

Hi, Lacey_adminCCS‍, Dielle‍ and Everyone,

I've missed everyone and their posts, so it's good to be back.  With the holidays and working, I haven't been to the forum as much as I would have liked. 

Suzanne73‍, I am so shocked to hear of your heart attack!  Glad to hear that you received prompt medical intervention.  That is pretty scary!  I was told my chemo might affect the heart, so have been undergoing echocardiogram every 3 months until Herceptin ends on the 25th.  Glad to hear you can be home with your family.  I know that is my preference too.  However, I have to say my return to work has fared out better than I anticipated.  It was a tough grind for the first 2-3 months, but now I actually enjoy the camraderie and opportunity to feel part of the stream of things again.  I too am one of the older, if not the oldest, person in my department, but everyone has been so welcoming and seemed to really miss me.  Some tell me they prayed for my return.  It made a real difference to hear such kind words!   My managers even tell me I'm an inspiration and they can't believe how well I'm doing.  Maybe it's soft-soaping, but it's working!

Personally, I truly feel God is in control, and for now I have been re-given this opportunity to "get outside of myself" and let Him use me where He sees fit (not that I wouldn't love to win a lottery and simply volunteer somewhere)!   I figure I'll have plenty of time to rest when I'm dead, so for now I'll work and help keep a roof over our heads!  That part feels good!

Best wishes to you, Dielle, and everyone.  I've missed you all!  heart
- MommaBear

Re: Returning to Work

Posted by Minus2 on Jan 21, 2018 8:44 am

Glad to have you back MommaBear‍!  It is harder to be as in touch with being back to work but that's okay.  It's life.  I went back full time after the Christmas break; it's busy and the first week I was so tired, I didn't get out of my PJ's until 2:00 on Saturday afternoon.  It felt wonderful!
It also feels very good to be back in the mix of things and to be surrounded by wonderful staff. We had freezing rain last week and when I went out to my car to go home, one of my co-workers was out there scraping the ice off for me.   There is no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Continue to be well and we'll both pop in when we can.