Ovarian Cancer Community
Working and chemo
About This Community:

This patient support community is for discussions relating to ovarian cancer, biopsy, chemotherapy, clinical trials, genetics, hysterectomy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, screening, and staging.

Font Size:
A
A
A
Background:
Blank
Blank
Blank
Blank Blank

Working and chemo

I'm wondering how many people work while receiving chemo.  I don't really have a choice, as this is my first year on the job and we need the money to live.  Any tips or suggestions?  I've heard a good diet...but of what?  Anything in particular help?  Is working out an option?  
Related Discussions
16 Comments
Blank
540822_tn?1313089922
We seem to have a lot in common due to this ovarian cancer.  :-)  I am in the same situation concerning my job.  I have been with my company for 11+ years but I never signed up for short term disability all those years ago.  I will be using the last of my vacation time for this upcoming surgery on Thursday. I have the same concerns as you as far as working goes but luckily I do work from home now.  I look forward to seeing the "tips" you receive from all of these beautiful women.

God bless,
Tasha  
Blank
349465_tn?1289085364
I don't know how old you are or what you do...but there is no way I could have worked during chemo.  I was far too weak to handle a job.  It was all I could do to take care of myself.  Now, you could be different. Some people jump right back to their jobs.  I believe the surgery did me in..then beginning chemo three weeks later was so hard on the body.

I hope you have the added strength to do what has to be done.
Teresa
Blank
386450_tn?1263737224
I am like Teresa, I could'nt work either.  I work as a cashier and even if I didn't have the side effects that I had with chemo, my white blood count was very low and I was told not to be in crowds as I was at a high risk of catching things.  Working with money is really bad because of the germs and add to that, having customer's coughing and sneezing on you.  I was lucky that I got disabilty from Social Security.  Have you checked with them?   I think it is bad that you have to go through all of this and work on top of that.  I hope your employer is understanding and can work with you during this time.  Good Luck.

Linda
Blank
438514_tn?1305737740
Tasha,
Does the place where you work have more than 50 employees?  If yes, then you can apply for a family medical leave (FMLA).  FMLA allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time during a calendar to care for yourself.  I realize that you need the money, and wanted to let you know that when you do apply for FMLA, that your employee needs to make every attempt to accommodate your needs and time.  So, that means if they can reschedule your time for example, let's say you typically work monday - friday for 8 hours/day.  Well, if your chemo is set up for Fridays, maybe you could work Mon - Thurs for 10 hrs/day or maybe 4 hours on Monday and 12 hours Tues - Thurs to get your 40 hours in.  Also, FMLA guarantees that they can't touch your benefits (medical, dental, etc...)

Hope this helps,
Karen
Blank
408448_tn?1286887421
I have worked full time since I was just a kid.  I was never one to call in sick.  If I felt crappy I'd just tough up and go to work anyway.  That stopped the day I went to Dr. Boyd and he sent me to the hospital for ovca surgery.  I have not been able to work a day since.  I was lucky to have short term disability for 6 months.  That is how long it took for the Social Security checks to start. The disability is not much, but better than nothing.  Money is a huge mess right now.  We are trying not to have to file bankruptcy.  I feel okay some days, like maybe I could work a small, easy job for a short time.  Problem is it would be hard to find a job that would hire me knowing I may or may not feel up to coming in a couple hours a week!  And my brain might be so screwy that I may not remember from time to time what I am supposed to be doing!  Good luck to you.  I do know some women are able to work.  Just be very careful of germs and DO NOT let yourself get dehydrated.  Marie
Blank
107366_tn?1305683975
A lot of this depends on what you do for a living.  If you are on your feet all the time, then it's less likely you'll be able to work full time.  If you have a job where you can sit, and and take frequent breaks, it will be a bit easier.  I was off for 7 weeks after my surgery, then went back to work about 30 hours a week until I finished chemo the first time.  I went back full time after that, until my recurrance was discovered.  Some of the chemo I was on required a couple of hours five days a week, so there was no way I could work full time.  None the less, I had to keep working to keep my insurance.  Loss of energy was my biggest problem, as was "chemo brain."  I used to have the memory of an elephant, but now, I have to write EVERYTHING down, or I'll forget it.  Simple math is no longer simple, and I have to repeat some of my job functions over and over until it finally clicks.  

How is your energy level now?  Would your employer be willing to work with you and provide light duty?  I understand my situation is probably different than most because I was able to apply for leave transfer, and other employees donated leave to me when I ran out of paid time off.

Your body will tell you when you've had enough, and you need a rest.  It is important to take your commute into consideration, as well.  I have an hour's commute each way, so I had to make sure I didn't wait until I was completely worn out before I headed for the door.  Good luck.  Please keep in touch and let us know how it goes.  

Gail      
Blank
550018_tn?1264194565
Thanks for all the insight.  I am 27 and a school psychologist.  I work with children and parents daily.  While it there is no physical labor and i get to sit a lot ,my mind and tongue need to be sharp.  I spoke with my doctor today and he thought that because of my age I should be capable of working.  However he said if I work, there are no trips to the gym or shopping.  Its work and go home.
Blank
282804_tn?1236837191
I had to give up a very lucrative career because I just could not keep up.  I had a job where thinking on your feet wasn't just an asset it was the job.  As Gail said, chemo brain is a real problem.  I used to reconcile my Am Ex card in about 10 minutes every month and I knew I could never work again the day it took me 3 hrs and it still wasn't right.  There are days when I thought maybe I could do something, but you just never know how you are going to feel when you wake up in the morning so it is really hard to plan things.  Your Dr is right about one thing, you will not feel like going to the gym or on big shopping trips.  I used to go to the gym everyday and I am still in somewhat decent shape but I haven't been to the gym in over 6 mths.
One of the girls on here is your age and she runs her own salon and she goes hard everyday so maybe it will be easier for you.  Chemo brain didn't really set in until my 2nd round of chemo so hopefully you will only have to do it the one time.  Good luck, those kids can be sneaky,  but they can also surprise you.  Maybe they will give you a break when they know what is going on with you.  Good luck to you and please do keep us informed.
Jan
Blank
415684_tn?1257332918
I work for a wonderful bunch of MD's who allowed me to work when I felt up to it.  I was able to work most Mondays.  The week I had Cisplatin/Taxol on Tues/Weds .. that did me in for the week.  The next week I would work Mon., Thurs., Friday and the third week was normal.  Then the cycle repeated itself.  It all depends on how you feel and how much the chemo affects your body.  While week 1 was always nasty, week  2 was OK, and week 3 was great.  I got Neulasta 24hrs post tx to boost my white cells each cycle so that allowed me to be able to be around bunchs of people and not get sick.  My health insurance is thru my husband's work, so that was never an issue.  Each of us are different.  For me working has kept me alive.  I get so much support from my coworkers.  I can lose myself in my job even though I work for medical oncologists. ( I do more administrative work.)  Good luck.  Judy C  
Blank
Avatar_f_tn
I was 37 when I was going through chemo and it hit me hard.  I was a stay at home mom and could not keep up with my 2 year old.  My inlaws came and stayed with me.  

I think I would have been able to work through the first 4 cycles of chemo if I had not felt so nauseous.  Maybe part time 3-5 days after.  By the 5 th and 6th chemo there was no way.  I was sleeping 18 hours a day.  The third week after each chemo I could have worked no problem.  The thrid week after the 5th and 6th dose it would have been like your doctor said...........work and then bed.  
Blank
Avatar_f_tn
I work as a bartender, so I am up and down alot, I keep my job because it keeps me sane. If I am having a really bad day I call my boss very early and let him know what is going on. I am in constant contact with him and him with me. I go to work and come home and go to sleep. Now that they are trying to figure out this hematology thing that I have going on and my chemo is d/c ed I am still just as tired as before with a less understanding boss. I love my job though and the customers are right along with me through this whole ordeal...from start to finish. When I get an opportunity to sit down I take a bar stool behind the bar and plant myself on it, that way I can still carry on conversations with the people there, and rest at the same time. If we are really busy at nite it takes me awhile to recuperate. I try to eat plenty of fruits and veggies and stay away from red meats. I am lucky that my hubby is understanding too, as I sometimes get home and straight to bed i go
Blank
295767_tn?1240191914
I work on my feet all day long (hair stylist) and own my own salon and I worked full-time. I would take about 5 days off after my chemo but felt when I was back to work, everything seemed normal. That's not to say I wasn't tired, because I was, it just helps to be around normal life...at least for me. Best of luck and try to get AS MUCH rest as you can if you will be working. Much love, Deandra
Blank
Avatar_f_tn
The first time I had OVCA and hysterectomy I was out for six weeks for the surgery -- then every cycle I had chemo I would miss a day or two and work for a day or two and sleep for a day then try to work again -- I'm a financial advisor so I'm not on salary and can sort of make my own hours -- but the clients wanted to see me at night and I was always exhausted.  The second time I had carbo/taxol again and tried to work full time straight through -- I made me and everyone else crazy and was completely worn out and ended up loosing money because my expenses outweighed the income I was able to generate.  This year I was on Doxil and took the 6 months short term disability I had -- I'm almost 49 and my body just wasn't going to make it working -- I worked unofficially a few hours on the computer every day managing money but it was hard.  At your age, as long as you take care of yourself and don't overdo it you should be able to work -- just listen to your body.  Working keeps you from getting too depressed being home too --- and as for chemo brain and being sharp, you'll be sharp, just write everything down so you don't feel foolish forgetting things.  
Blank
541657_tn?1239212530
I could not have possibly worked with the fatigue and recovery from the first and then second surgeries I had.  The chemo wiped me out as well.  I felt better by the third week after carbo/taxol, but as the fifth through eighth chemos came, I had a very hard time.

My diagnosis was a complete surprise and the first surgery happened on an emergency basis.  I worked with computers before (on a half time basis) and really disliked my job.  I loved the people, hated the work.  My husband and family were so scared (as was I) that they insisted I quit my job.  We have adjusted to the lack of income and have been the recipients of so many thoughtful people: meals, help with kids, help with transportation.  I feel very lucky to have such supportive friends and family.

I can only say this, don't be afraid to ask for help.  Sometimes people don't know what to do for us, and letting them make a meal, even if you can't eat it, gives them something to do and gives you a break.  We even had people offer to clean the house! Receive all the help you can, it will give you a chance to rest.  Good luck and my thoughts will be with you.  Keep your head up and think of one good thing each day that the cancer brought to your life; a new friend, no more shaving!, etc.
Thinking of you,
Maggie
Blank
349465_tn?1289085364
You stated that you work around children. I would be very careful about germs in that environment.  I stayed away from all children when I was doing chemo. I never got sick. I believe I didn't get sick because I was so careful.  If adults came to my home, they came right in and washed their hands. If they had been exposed to any illness, they didn't come to see me.  I felt that I HAD to stay as well as I could in order to get through the chemo treatments.
Teresa
Blank
Avatar_f_tn
I was 31 when I had chemo and I worked throughout however I took the week immediately after chemo off, then worked from home the next while my white count was at its lowest then worked in the office the 3rd week. My employer was very understanding and this limited the length of leave I had to take while my team and department new when I would be working etc. I found it a great distraction and self esteem booster to be able to work and still feel useful and have something in my control.

The 1st two cycles I could have probably worked at work the 2nd week as I didn't feel too bad but thought it wise to stay away from people. As the chemo goes on it is cumulative but really depends on your side effects which are very different for different people. I didn't suffer badly from nausea but did suffer badly from joint and muscle pain so working in a desk based job wasn't too difficult (just getting there!).
Keep a good watch on your blood results. If you are one that has a strong drop in white count I would be wary of being around children. If you catch a cold etc you will have no choice but be off work as it would hit you hard.
Is dropping to part time possible or working part of the time from home? Have a good chat with you boss and see what works for them and you but remember to look after yourself.
Bron
Blank
Continue discussion Blank
Blank
Weight Tracker
Weight Tracker
Start Tracking Now
Ovarian Cancer Community Resources
RSS Expert Activity
233488_tn?1310696703
Blank
New Cannabis Article from NORTH Mag...
Jul 20 by John C Hagan III, MD, FACS, FAAOBlank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
3 Reasons Why You are Still Binge E...
Jul 14 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
Emotional Eating: What Your Closet ...
Jul 09 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank
Top Ovarian Cancer Answerers
667078_tn?1316004535
Blank
HVAC
Durham, NC