Breast cancer treatment and career choices

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I wanted to share my story about the impact cancer had on my career and also hear from other women about their experiences and decisions around work during and after their breast cancer treatment. 

I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at 41 and I decided to continue working throughout my treatment - besides the time I took off to recover from my mastectomies, and then breast reconstructions. At the time of my diagnosis, my son was 2ys.  

I am an academic researcher which means my post is funded by research grants and is not a permanent one.  My role allowed me to work flexibly during my treatment and I was not given any teaching responsibilities during that time.  Being able to work flexibly allowed me to continue working, which was a lifeline as it gave me purpose and escapism during a difficult time.  In the long term though I felt penalized and ejected from the team.  Chemotherapy and then the hormone suppression therapy and Letrozole caused considerable brain fog and fatigue, which meant I could not work as hard or to the same standard as before and even though I managed to meet my deadlines and achieve objectives, I did not keep up with the networking and continuous planning for the next project which is necessary for being a researcher.  I later realised that even though my line manager was on the surface encouraging, they were not including me in any future project proposals and when my current contract came to an end this was the excuse for me becoming redundant.  

Other than allow me to work flexibly, I couldn't find any opportunities for further support in the university, such as being linked to other researchers who had the same experiences, or advise on career choices.  After contacting HR I found that even though there is a wellbeing service available to staff, no other staff member going through cancer has approached them for support, something I found both interesting and of concern. 

With so many women being diagnosed well before retirement age, I found that information specific to women in professional careers is sparce, especially in relation to navigating the impact of induced menopause.  I'd love to hear how other women in similar situations have navigated the impact of cancer treatment on their careers and ability to carry out their role, what decisions they've made, for example whether to retrain or change roles, and what support they have received from their employers or team.  

  • Hi  and a very warm welcome to the online community which I hope you'll find is both an informative and supportive place to be.

    I had already retired when I was diagnosed with cancer so didn't have to make the same decisions as you. 

    I hope some other group members will be along soon to share their career choices with you.

    While you're waiting for replies, it would be great if you could put something about your diagnosis and treatment to date into your profile as it really helps others when replying to you and also when looking for someone on a similar pathway. It also means that you don't have to keep repeating yourself. To do this click on your username and then select 'Profile'. You can amend it at any time and if you're not sure what to write you can take a look at mine by clicking on my username.

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