Struggling at work

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Hi all,

I hope everyone is well.

I’m struggling. In 2022 I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. Had surgery followed by 8 rounds of chemo. About 4 weeks after the treatment finished I returned to work on a phased return for 3 months.

Just before my diagnosis I got a promotion so when I returned to work I had new role, team and everything was new. The role is a operations manager. It’s been a battle all year. My memory, concentration and ability to absorb information is hard and tiring and my head feels constantly battered with the volume of work and constant decision making. I’ve been feeling worse as the year has gone on and I’m now taking time off. I’m now on medication and reached out for support at work.

I just wanted life to be great again after being ill but it feels harder than ever. I honestly don’t know if I can do the job or more importantly any more as my priorities have changed.

Has anyone else felt like this?

thank you. 

  • Hi  and a warm welcome to this little corner of the community but sorry to read about the challenges you are dealing with.

    The post treatment stepping stones often take us in a rather direction then we were first on... this great paper by Dr Peter Harvey highlights some of the post treatment stepping stones > Treatment Finishes - Then What?

    I was diagnosed way back in 1999 with a very rare, incurable but treatable blood cancer. At the time I had a very demanding teaching position...... a few years after my diagnosis the College management wanted me to apply for a senior position...... the position I could do, it would have been a significant rise in status and salary............. but and it was a big BUT....... how would my ongoing life with my cancer react.... and how would the added stress affect my life?........ so I turned the opportunity down.

    A few years later my condition unfortunately became aggressive and resulted in us as a family making a significant re-evaluation of life and work..... resulting in me taking early retirement at 55....... that was back in 2011. Yes it meant a significant change in our financial circumstances but quality of life was far more important than position or money.

    Yes I had to have some significant treatments (you can see my story in the link at the bottom) but after all these years we look back with no regrets........ I am now 8 years out from my last treatment, still incurable but turned 68 a few weeks back and am living a great life.

    Happy to chat more or for you to unload more.

    Mike (Thehighlander)

    It always seems impossible until its done - Nelson Mandela

    Community Champion Badge

  • Thank you very much for the reply 

  • Thank you for the reply. It’s very much appreciated. You have been through quite a journey and I’m delighted to hear you’re living a great life.

    I am pretty familiar with the Peter Harvey paper and I’ve shared it with my boss. I am starting to realise (the hard way) that I need a change of pace and something less stressful, even if just temporarily. I don’t think with hindsight I gave myself enough time to recover after treatment. 

    Since I posted I know have a meeting with a counsellor to discuss cognitive behavioural therapy. 


  • Let’s look for your meeting with the counsellor to discuss cognitive behavioural therapy helpful.

    Quality of life both physically and mentally is ever so important- I wish you success in your search for the pathway ahead.

    Mike (Thehighlander)

    It always seems impossible until its done - Nelson Mandela

    Community Champion Badge

  • Hi Ian

    It is a shock to get a cancer diagnosis and it is good to hear that you had successful treatment. Going back to work after 4 weeks was rather ambitious and sometimes we push ourselves too hard. When you have been perfectly healthy you are not used to having your body let you down. That is how I felt.  It takes a long time to recover both physically and mentally after a cancer op. I had a different cancer to yours (jaw cancer and radiotherapy) so perhaps my recovery was a little different. However after the op alone it took me 8 weeks before I felt able to start a phased return to work. This was before having the radiotherapy when I had to take more time off. Not only did I not feel able to return to work sooner because of my physical condition I was also going through a time of mental adjustment when I had good and bad days. Having cancer makes you re-evaluate what is important in life for you. I also had a senior position and did manage to keep going for the next 5 years but did take an early retirement when I was 64. It came to the point where quality of life for me was much more important than financial gain and position and the stress of managing a team.  Luckily I was in a good enough financial position to retire early as I was not due to start getting a pension until I was 65.5 year old.

    I had some trepidation as to how we would cope financially but it all worked out fine and I have never looked back. My priorities have definitely changed. I have had another 2 cancer ops since I retired and am glad that I have had time to process things and not worry about going back to work. I now enjoy every day for what it brings whether small or big. I am currently cancer free and have just returned from a holiday in Tasmania (i live in Australia) and am living my new normal life to the max.

    I do hope that you can find a work life balance that works for you.



  • Hi Sophie66. Thanks very much for the kind reply. Lovely to hear you’re doing so well. I know with hindsight I went back to work to early but I found there was no one to tell me one way or another. It was only from struggling and reaching out for support that I found out I needed more time. I should have also asked my employer for something less demanding on my return as well. I am a people pleaser so I say “yes” to easily.

    Your response has gave me confidence to re-prioritise what’s important. I am very tempted to ask my boss if I can step down and do the work my team do. It would be a significant drop in salary but I think the numbers work and it would be less stressful and I believe I’d be happier, a better husband and father.

    Thanks for replying. 


  • Hi IanC10,Sorry that you are struggling.I think it’s easy to over stretch yourself following diagnosis and treatment.You have to do whatever feels right for you and what you can cope with.I had plans from home as a photographic researcher but when I became ill that wasn’t feasible at all.I hope whatever you decide it all works out for the best.Jane 

  • Hi Ian, sorry to hear you are ‘under it’ at work, I agree with the others 4 weeks is too soon to go back to work, I know I also did it, we are fools to ourselves aren’t we,,,being an operations manager and a new one at that, would bring many levels of stress to manage, let along someone recovering. We put pressure on ourselves thinking we should be able to cope. ( I went back to work after 2 weeks, then had to go off again; but still then went back too early) people in the medical profession were telling me to forget work but being in payroll and a stand alone one at that I just had to do my job for the techs on the field. Am I still fit enough to go to work? Probably not, I had op in mid Sept, if I was in a diff job, and others were not depending on me then I would still be on the mend at home, but I am not, so I will just get on with it. If you had not got the promotion, you may be in the same position, but you did, and no matter what people say it is all down to you own choices of how you cope going forward. Yes you will struggle, but if it too much then you really need to reach out, I did, here on this group, also go to a Maggies centre if you haven’t already, they have helped me and reach out to your Nurse, good luck and remember- keep fighting, if we stop we will lose. X yes it is 4 o’clock Christmas morning. Happy Christmas 

  • Hi Suzieblues. Thank you for the reply and I hope you had a lovely Christmas. I am now pretty sure I need a change of work and have opened up discussions at work about a less demanding role. Also started CBT but too early to realise its benefits.

    I did have hypnotherapy session last Thursday to help with my anxiety. It’s just been one appointment so far but I feel different. Can’t wait for the next.

    Overall I feel better that I’m taking some control but the test will be January when work gets busy again.