Hi there, 

I am looking for some employment help/advice...

I was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago. It changed my ability to cope with work as a nurse. To be honest I think it has reduced my resilience - these days I am unable to laugh off some of the things that come with working in a huge organisation like the NHS. 

The NHS is a juggernaut - it routinely performs miracles on a daily basis, but it is also very broken in places. Cancer has made me less able to laugh things off. Some of my colleagues hold some very 'Daily Mail' opinions, there are some toxic managers, and there is a culture of bullying. 

I thought I could continue here - applying to jobs as I go. However, I have run up against a brick wall. I keep applying and keep getting rejections. It's exhausting

My skills: 4 years nursing. Currently studying for a MSc in Public Health. Volunteer work in media/comms - producing content that have been published in a few different charities. I have spoken in public about my experiences with cancer. I have also produced some infographics about menopause/which have been used in hospital departments, I have some basic skills in html/css, and am learning r programming.

I'm trying to find some direction by looking at linkedin profiles of people with junior positions in media media/comms jobs in charities with a health focus. I enjoy creating content, blogging, creating graphics - but my skills are very much entry level. 

I have some savings, and feel like I could sustain myself for a couple of months if I quit. I could also work bank in NHS. 

I am scared about being stuck in my current job. I am also scared of leaving. I feel a bit like im  in a catch-22 - I'll go mad if I stay, I'll go mad if I leave and don't find work. This is clealry not a great time to quit w/o a plan. 

Has anybody left there job post cancer? If so, any tips in overcomng anxiety and stress about adapting to life after cancer?

  • Hi Eliop

    Welcome to the online community, though of course also sorry that you have reason to be here. As you'll know from your work, 18 months after diagnosis isn't really all that long in terms of coming to terms with everything and making decisions for your future. 

    I am 4.5 years post treatment and still very much finding my way. I didn't so much leave my job as my job left me - I had 3 part-time college teaching positions and only one employer treated me kindly, - one immediately sent me a P45 and the other has been doing their best to manage me out ever since.

    To be honest, my mindset has changed and lots of things no longer seem as relevant as they did before so although it has been hard to look for new work, I know that realistically I wouldn't have been happy going back to my lifestyle exactly as it was.

    I don't have any super advice but, like you I have been volunteering. For now, that satisfies my need to be doing something worthwhile with my life while I make the cold hard cash to pay my bills in jobs I am no longer passionate about. I was also introduced to meditation as part of my post-treatment support. I actually hated it at first and completely resisted it but was then encouraged by some lovely people I met outside the cancer environment. They sold it to me in a completely different way and I persevered with it. I now find it helps me accept my situation and lessens my money worries. That might be something to try if you are more open-minded than I was Slight smile

    I agree, it's exhausting looking for work, applying and interviewing - a full time job in itself. Don't give up - rejection is hard but there's only ever one successful candidate - everyone else gets rejected so don't take it personally - hopefully there will, one day be a job that is the right fit for you and you'll be successful. Plans don't always have to be life-changing, perhaps you could reduce one day a week and spend that working towards your new career? If you are currently studying and volunteering on top of your work schedule, that's a lot to be getting on with so I'd say to also give yourself some credit for all the energy you are putting into it. Cancer is tough enough, you've also given yourself another hill to climb so remember to be impressed with yourself too!


  • I worked part time when I was diagnosed at age 57. I was off work a year after surgery and although I tried going back on reduced hours I couldn’t manage it and took early retirement. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I’d been younger. 
    I think a cancer diagnosis makes you think differently about a lot of things and I think you are right to look elsewhere. There will be something perfect for you so do keep looking and don’t put up with something you’re not happy in. Wishing you the best of luck!

  • Hello Eliop

    Sorry to hear that things are so confused for you at the moment.  As if cancer's  not bad enough, we have to get back to some kind of life in the world when we really don't feel like it.

    I am two and a half years on from surgery I was told I might not survive and I echo what ronstar is saying, it takes more time than you think to 'recover' and the word itself is a tricky one.  I am doing well healthwise but I don't think I will ever be the same, in ways that are sometimes good and sometimes not. 

    Like ronstar I worked as a college tutor and I have been struggling with what to do with my career.  I don't have the resilience or stamina I had and have been told it is a common side-effect of bowel cancer and stoma surgery.  My employer has not been unsympathetic, but they haven't really helped either and I have had it with the pressure and toxicity of educational politics.  I have been 'non-employed' for the last year, luckily with support from the benefit system, but I have decided that I need to use the time and savings I have to  move away from teaching.  It is scary just writing that.  I don't know what it will mean but I think I need to make a choice and COVID 19 and its siblings have pushed me onto a new path.  All I have to do now is stick to the resolution.....

    Two things have been of enormous help to me.  First, the Macmillan counselling service.  I have been able to work through the feelings about being diagnosed, chopped up, surviving cancer and looking for a 'new normal'.  I strongly recommend to any patient/survivor that they find someone to talk to who has heard it all before.  Just talking really helps, though I am also a meditator and my Macmillan group run classes on Mindfulness too.  Do try that out if you can - it is run online now- and it is the best way I know to handle stress and anxiety.  

    Second, talk to the Macmillan financial advisers.  When I was out of hospital I was not being paid and had no idea what resources were out there.  I spoke to a couple of lovely people and managed to access help.  I don't know how I would have managed without them.  I was too weak to think for myself and had no idea what benefits were available to me.  They held my hand and gave me the information I needed to make a start on securing my finances.  I was also able to apply for a grant to see me over the worst period.  You might also try some of the careers services available.  Citizens' Advice may know more about that as well as Macmillan. 

    Please know that there are people out here who know exactly what you are saying.  We have been there.  There is also help it just takes a bit of time to find it.  Good luck and take good care of yourself

  • Hi Eliop,

    I am also a nurse working in the NHS. I was diagnosed with cancer just before the first lockdown in March. I had major surgery, fortunately the only treatment needed. I was hit with cancer related fatigue and it has taken me many months to get my strength back and build resilience.

    I didn’t not feel altogether supported by my employers during my time off sick and was ‘short changed’ over a phased return to work. I posted here and got some great advise to contact MacMillan employment advisors as I had legal rights that I was unaware of. 

    On a catch up with my manager I mentioned that I was surprised that occupational health hadn’t contacted me. Manager said it wasn’t necessary and that she hadn’t told them I was off sick. I contacted OH department who were very helpful. They said that they could do a full assessment. They are obliged to find me work in the organisation that I could do. 

    You have so many skills and would be an asset to any employer in or out of the NHS. This is a very challenging time for those that work in the hospital. The Trust I work for is asking that staff work extra hours and shifts. I am looking after myself first.  I am clear on what I can do and won’t work extra hours. 

    Take care and all good wishes.

    Honey Two hearts

  • Hi, hope you’re doing ok.

    I’m still of work at present, 9 weeks post op, and I’m also a nurse. I understand how you feel working for NHS at such a challenging time, and I’m not particularly looking forward to my return to work. My manager has been good, but as a nurse we have this guilt complex, where despite everything we go through, we’re tougher on ourselves. Luckily I’m at an age where I can think about retirement, as I’ve been a nurse for 34 years. I’m not sure if I’ll cope with nursing for much longer during this pandemic, as I worked so hard up until my diagnosis in November that  I have care fatigue .

    You sound as if you have a load of skills that are extremely useful outside of nursing & I wish you the very best with your job hunting.

    Andi x