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Staying at work? Returning to work?

Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Mar 14, 2018 9:53 am

Read more here at Cancerandwork.ca.
 Resource includes:
Assessment of work abilities
Return to Work Steps
Cancer Impact:Symptoms and strategies

What's your biggest to concern about returning to work post diagnosis?

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by ashcon on Mar 15, 2018 5:02 pm

This is a great topic!
I had a 30-year career at a company and in a profession that I love.  So much of "me" was identifed and defined by my career, and my accomplishments in that career.

I've been off work for 8 months now, and have decided not to return.  It was actually not a tough decision; I am eligible for early retirement, and was planning to retire this year anyway.  In addition, even though I liked my job, my relatively new boss was a challenge to get along with.

Initially I was thinking that I would "have to" return to work so as not to lose access to benefits, especially if the cancer comes back.. 
It sounds corny, but this time off work has helped me (re)discover the peace and calm that I forgot was so important to me....and I realized that I could not return to what was a very stressful job.  So stressful, in fact, that I am wondering if it triggered my cancer.
It's just not worth it. 
Even if the cancer does return, I'll be in a better place mentally and emotionally to deal with it by not being at work.
Financially, I've got my pension and some investments. I'll have to watch my pennies, and will likely need to work part-time or do some contract work, but I will choose a non-stressful job.
(Thanks, Joe-Eddy‍ for your story and experience on this topic that inspired me in my decision!)

If I was returning to work, my biggest concern would have been "Will my boss be supportive?"

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Joe-Eddy on Mar 15, 2018 7:52 pm

ashcon‍ so glad to hear about your decision to retire. Your new life should not include an old job. If you can financially do it you definitely are making the right decision. Funny thing is the very first day after retiring it was like a big part of brain was opened up for other things. You just have no thinking about work what you were are or will be doing and it was quite profound. Like you say if you find you need to work due to boredom or boost in finance you get to decide and will always know that if it does not work out your ok. Again congratulations and enjoy you new life retirement is great. Cheers
Joe-Eddy Cancer Warrior

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by lochatter on Mar 15, 2018 8:26 pm

I had my return to work meeting today with my long term disability insurance (LTDI) and my supervisor and manager.  We went over my gradual return plan and I feel ready to return.

I'm a long way from retirement so I have to go back to work and my LTDI has been fabulous with getting me ready to go back and stay at work.  I guess many people jump back in and need to take a leave again right away.  They have made sure I'm ready physically and mentally and I greatly appeciate it.

I have been away from work for 15 months and I have felt very different about work throughout it all.  there was a time early on that I blamed work for running me down and making me more succeptable to cancer.  I also went through a time where I wanted to find a different job because I did not want to go back to the job that I'm good at and like.  

The big thing for me during treatment and recovery is the feeling of abandonment.  I never got an invite to the office Christmas party or any other events that took place while I was gone.  I even throught they were mad at me.  It was hurtful and I have vowed to not let that happen to other staff.  It has been suggested that the office could not talk to me during my leave due to rules around direct contact with me and not through LTDI.   Another theory is that people just don't know how to talk to a cancer patient.  It's a tough situation for all people involved.

Now that  I have my return to work date, I feel better about my past worries but think about things like parking or long bus rides, having a quiet corner with few distractions since my brain is running slower than usual, multi-tasking, eating well at work, remembering all the things that I knew before but the updating info and feeling comfortable in my new space (office changed locations while I was away).

My LTDI cordinator has been awesome and always reminds me that it's just 4 hours twice a week.  I have overcome so much, returning to work is just another hurdle that I have to breathe my way through. 

I got this!

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by ashcon on Mar 15, 2018 9:06 pm

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Joe-Eddy‍  

lochatter‍  - it definitely sounds like "you got this"! I'm so glad your back to work plan sounds very do-able and that your LTD case worker and your supervisor and manager were so supportive. 
You're right in thinking that many people return too quickly, or return to take on too much too soon, and end up having to go on leave again. (I have a feeling that would have been the situation  in my case!) 
It's unfortunate that you were left out in the cold for so long by your co-workers while you were off.
Is there an opportunity to talk to your manager and supervisor about how that impacted you?  Maybe you could be an instrument of change so that you can help prevent someone else from going through the same experience. 

Congratulations for getting through your treatment and good luck with your first day back at work. I hope they throw a big "welcome back" party for you! 


Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by MommaBear on Mar 16, 2018 1:27 am


What you say resonates with what I was feeling as well (minimal contact with staff over my leave -- a few reached out to me and it was great)!  Once I got back they were fabulous and really enthusiastic about my return.  I thought about whether the stress I was undergoing at the job contributed to my cancer.  However, over my leave I've learned to view the work and life differently (facing death can do that to us!), I don't actually experience as much stress as before the cancer was diagnosed.  I hope I've learned how to recognize fear, frustration, anger, anxiety triggers and modify my reaction.  That's my current challenge.

The worst case scenarios that I drummed up in my head prior to my return never materialized.  Very often, we catastrophize future events in our minds, instead of simply dealing with reality.  I like the idea of a regular paycheck as there is no way I can afford to retire.

I wish you all the best on your return to work!  

- MommaBear

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Joe-Eddy on Mar 16, 2018 10:24 am

lochatter‍ glad to hear about your return to work. You seem very excited to get back and that is great. Hope you can settle in quickly to your new environment and how exciting that must be now you will have a totally new palette to start painting your new life on. You go girl and enjoy. Cheers.
Joe-Eddy Cancer Warrior

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by ACH2015 on Mar 16, 2018 12:16 pm

Biggest concern about returning to work post diagnosis:

​I have been off work since July 2016.

​Finished chemo - surgery - radiation by May 2017, then recovery from it all.

​October 2017 - new lump.

November 2017 - recurrence diagnosed.

​February 2018 - Began clinical trial for immunotherapy.

​I originally thought I would return to work with some form of accommodation after the first round with cancer. So glad I did not, as I am now into Round II. I believe at this point, I will have to retire after LTD runs out. I can't go back to work with no sick leave and deal with ongoing treatments, unknown future etc...

​Reality dictates what is to be, and we are all unique to our realities.

lochatter‍ I wish you great success in your return to work. You have a great attitude and perspective. Please keep in touch with us here and share how you are doing with everything. One day at a time.

​Your posts are very informative and inspirational. 

ACH2015 - Andy.


Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Birdwoman on Mar 17, 2018 10:38 am

Hi ACH2015‍ Andy, I missed you on the site a while back. I am glad  you are back as you are a source of inspiration and knowledge for me and everyone on this site. Your consistent help and information is so admirable, especially as you are going through your own cancer recurrence. I am so sorry to hear that you have to go through treatment again and wish you a positive outcome with the clinical trial for immunotherapy.
I  live near Georgian Bay so I think we are sort of neighbours out here in beautiful lake country. I feel for you having to travel to PMH for treatment. All mine took place at RVH in Barrie, 135 miles away. You have so much courage and I look up to you. If I suffer a recurrence I will have to remember how brave you and all the others here are when dealing with this many-headed monster! Wishing you strength and perseverence and the luck of the Irish! Sending you a 4-leafed clover!wink

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by ACH2015 on Mar 17, 2018 11:53 am

Hi Birdwoman‍ 

​Thank you so much for your kind words - and that 4 leaf clover. They inspire me to keep posting here on the site. Yes, we are "neighbors", and like you, I did receive some of my treatment at RVH for Radiation and Surveillance CT scan follow up. I've been to 7 hospitals and now - 17 specialists involved in my care.

​I don't mind the travel - PMH has been good to and for me, as a large part of my treatments have been from the UHN Hospital network in Toronto.

Keep well.

ACH2015 - Andy.


Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by OC2017 on Mar 18, 2018 9:53 am

Hi All,
Nice to read about all the different decisions about returning to work based on individual circumstances.  I thought about this alot too and in a perfect world I would be be retiring now to start a late life career change that's been a long time coming, but due to primarily financial considerations I'm going to try and stick out another four years at my "day" job and then take retirment and complete my career change.  Of course it all depends on cancer not coming back, but I think I've come to grips with that.  So long as I am being true to myself I'm hoping I can handle whatever happens.....

Cheers and best of life to all!


​OC2017 - Eric

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Labmum on Mar 20, 2018 11:59 am

Birdwoman‍ and ACH2015‍ 

​It seems we all live in the same general area!!!  I too live in the lake country near Georgian Bay.  I was "lucky" and most of my treatments and doctors are located at NECC in Sudbury.  About the same distance away as PMH but much easier to get to.  I think it depends on the type of cancer where they send you.  I will be heading to Toronto (TGH) this weekend for a type of treatment that isn't done in Sudbury and honestly am not looking forward to the travelling!!  I really don't miss the traffic and loads of people.  I did my time in the city and quite enjoy rural living!!

Cheers and Take care


Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by ACH2015 on Mar 20, 2018 12:55 pm

Hi Labmum‍ 

​Yes - travel is necessary depending on what treatments you are having done. I have been at 7 hospitals throughout my experience (so far) some close - many in Toronto. But thank goodness for that!

​I don't know how you travel, but I don't drive right downtown to get to the hospitals.

​If you take Hwy 11 south to Hwy 400, south to Hwy 7 then east to Jane and over to Steeles Ave West, and just east of Jane and Steeles, there is a subway station with FREE PARKING. Its called Pioneer Village station. It takes about 40 minutes to ride down to Queens Park station, but you end up right at THG - PMH - Mt. Sinai hospitals right out of the subway.For $3.25 cash fare its worth taking the subway straight down to the hospital. Many may not know of these new northern subway stations opened at the end of 2017 on the T.T.C.

​A closer alternative is right on Hwy 7 just east of the 400. Its called Vaughan Metropolitan Cent re Station. Parking is just $12.00 and its just a couple stops further north.

​Here is a link - Just click on Yonge - University line for the stations.


Thought it worth mentioning.

Keep well

​ACH2015 - Andy.

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Dielle on Mar 20, 2018 9:51 pm

lochatter‍, another explanation for your colleagues silence is that they may have not wanted to intrude on you.  I've had a couple of people say that to me.  And maybe some people thought that if they reached out to you about work events that it could be miscontrued as pressure to come back.  It seems silly but often they don't really know how to react.  But now you can coach them on how to ahndle these situations in the future.

I've got a couple of weeks left on my gradual return and then I'm back full-time. Before coming back my main concerns were:
  • whether there would be a place for me as the company has undergone a lot of changes since I had left.  But I was approached about taking on a new role and my current lead has told me she'd be sad to see me leave my current team.  So I feel a bit better about that one.  I haven't made any long-term committments yet.
  • whether I could actually get excited about being at work again.  I do not feel the same sense of passion that I used to.  I'm not unhappy but not really looking forward to the day either.  That might take a while to come back.
  • whether I will be able to keep the new healthy habits that I started while I was off.  Healthy eating was always the first thing to go when I was busy and tired.
For now I am just taking it a bit easy and finding my way.  I figure I don't have to prove anything to anybody right now.

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by lochatter on Apr 6, 2018 10:31 am

I have happy news!  I have a new job!!

I applied for a new job a few weeks before I returned to work but was not sure I'd get it (I applied once before and never got it) so when I found out on my second day back to work I was in a little deniel.  I'm positive i gave long term disability, payroll and HR a headache since I'm still on my gradual return to work and making a department change with a wage increase.  These complications made me not truely believe it was happening until Tuesday this week when I got the written offer letter.  I start the new job on Monday.  My new supervisor was happy to jump on board with my gradual return.

I know making big changes like this can be very stressful but I feel like I have a good handle on managing my stress.  I'm taking the change day by day.  

I am leaving an office job where I was in a cubical with 100 other people (germ central) that I had to take public transit to get to and from (more germs).  The atmosphere at the office could only be describled as toxic.  

My new job is still an office job but it has more flexibilty with walking outside or driving to other locations during the work day.  I do have to drive to work but I think this will be more straight forward than walking to the bus stop, sitting in traffic in downtown Edmonton and then walking 10 minutes to work from the closest bus stop.  My new commute is highway driving and I get to park right outside my office (I might park a little further away to get more streps in). 

The best part is I work with 10 people so the germ factor is cut down drastically.  The atmostphere is going to me more relaxed.  My new supervisor has high energy that is contagus and is super organized which I find calming.  She has ordered me a daytimer already!  My old job required us to use an online calendar since we never left our desks it worked fine.  

I'm finding my excitement as my last day at the old job was yesterday and my new job is just four days away!  I just wanted to provide an update.

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by ACH2015 on Apr 6, 2018 10:58 am

Congrats lochatter‍ 

​Your new job sounds wonderful, and a 180 turn around from the old job you returned to recently. Get out there and celebrate this weekend. Good for you.

​You Warriorprincess‍ and Dielle‍ have rejoined the workforce, taken on new jobs or been presented with opportunities for change.

​Keep moving forward (gradually and one day at a time) and continued success to you all 

​Keep well

​ACH2015 - Andy.


Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Apr 6, 2018 11:03 am

Congrats lochatter‍ !!! Sounds like a fabulous opportunity and much needed change.

Keep us posted!!

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Pinky17 on Apr 6, 2018 11:19 am

Contratulations, lochatter‍ !!!  How wonderful for you!  You sound so happy - and that alone is very healing.  I'll be thinking of you on Monday, and wishing you all the very best in your new (and improved!) job.  Take care.  Janet

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Lianne_adminCCS on Apr 6, 2018 11:33 am

Congratulations lochatter‍ . I can feel the excitement coming off the screen as you have described this new opportunity. Best of luck for your first day!

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Dielle on Apr 6, 2018 11:50 am

lochatter‍, that is fantastic news!  They say a change is as good as a rest (although I don't know who "they" are) - I'm sure that your excitement combined with the more please working atmosphere will actually make it less stressful than your current situation.  It sounds like you will have a very supportive manager as well.  Just make sure you don't let your enthusiasm overtake your energy - be patient with yourself in this.

Good luck with everything!

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Warriorprincess on Apr 6, 2018 5:34 pm

lochatter ‍what great news ! New jobs are so exciting. I am a llitle at odds with the germ factor, but iam getting better.
I am absolutely loving my new job . I feel like I am permanently working a trade show , which is a very good thing. This is the environment I thrive in . I love to talk and talk and talk somemore ,so I find it easy to meet my goals. Kind of pround , first day our store was number two for preformane , second shift number one . Boss is happy , I'm happy. Life is good :)
Compassion has no limit , kindness has no enemy

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Minus2 on Apr 7, 2018 8:20 am

Congratulations lochatter‍!!  Sounds like a very good step for you to take.  When I returned to work in September 2016, I went into a new job with all new players and total chaos because of all the changes, and it was not good.  Your move sounds like it will give you a wonderful work environment that will help with reduced stress.  A new start is just what the Dr. ordered, I would say! 

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by lochatter on Apr 21, 2018 11:53 am

Just thought I would provide another update – I LOVE MY NEW JOB
It has been a steep learning curve at a high pace but I find that the work atmosphere is calming.
Last night I met up with my old colleagues for a farewell drink and supper.  Not many came but the ones that did, truly made the evening memorable.  They asked how I liked my new job and what came out of my mouth surprised even me. ‘I had no idea how much I hated my old job’
It’s still sinking in a bit because I really did love my old job when I started but what I now realized is office politics and the change of direction impacted not only the clients but me.  I just did not allow myself to see it until I was in greener pastures.
I think the photo of the moose outside my office window sets the stage for how zen I feel.  My new co-workers are also pretty cool.  I somehow have made the switch with my gradual return to work plan without any of them knowing I almost died last year.  My supervisor knows I’m on long-term disability but does not know why and when it did not come up the first day or second day, I realized that it never has to come up.  I’m 37 and starting a position that could be my forever job and it’s a fresh start.  I had a really rough two years and this allows me another way to take another step to being a healthier me. 
Thank you all for your kind words and support as I make these big changes in my life.

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Brighty on Apr 21, 2018 5:01 pm

lochatter‍  that is soooooooooooo great, I'm sooooooooooo happy for you!!!!!!!!!

Re: Staying at work? Returning to work?

Posted by Warriorprincess on Apr 21, 2018 8:21 pm

Hi lochatter‍ ‍ , that sounds and looks fabulous , congratulations! You have the best office view I have ever seen , enjoy.
Compassion has no limit , kindness has no enemy