Work Colleague Diagnosed

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So, this happened at work today. 

Late afternoon, an email was sent round the team inviting people to sign a Get Well card for a Colleague who was recovering from cancer treatment.  Oh!  I did not know and I was blown away.  Especially as I think my Colleague is in his 20s. 

I subsequently learn he has eye cancer.  He’s just had an operation. It can’t be cured but it’s reasonable to expect to live for 10+ years with successful treatment. 

I went to sign the card and other people had written the type of thing you normally see for people leaving.  Frivolous jokes, memes, cartoons etc. ”Get Well Soon” was one message – as if he’d had flu or something similar and would be good-as-new in a few days.    I found it all very trite, simplistic and a disconnect from reality.  I wrote “Hiya, hope you’re recovering from your Op. Be kind to yourself – don’t try to do too much too soon.  And of course . . .  f* cancer.  “ 

What struck me was the difference in his approach to mine.  I’ve told no-one apart from my direct line 2-up on a need-to-know basis.  I still want my privacy.  If I want to talk about it, it will be on my terms. 

I don’t really know him or anyone in that team.  In the last 12 months everyone left.  New people have arrived but we’re not in the same meetings.  Remote working and hot desking in the office makes it difficult to get to know the wider team. 

I suppose the point I’m making is that people outside our club just don’t understand.  Or perhaps it’s  too close for comfort perhaps or the wrong environment.  Work is where I go to escape the cancer.  

  • Hi Mum

    I totally agree with all you said, I work full time and the only people that know are my manager and one other, as you rightly say work is where I go to escape the cancer and be normal. So we'll said 

    Sending you a great big hug


  • Hi  

    I no longer work but I was in the tell all camp. This was because I worked in an environment where if colleagues didn't know the full story, they'd make one up. I thought that by telling them, it would stop rumours. But that was my mentality then, always thinking about others instead of myself. As it was, I didn't end up returning to work anyway and I'm much more private now.

    I don't think people do get it though. When I was off sick I received gifts, one of which was a positivity jar. It was full of notes from colleagues. It took me a long time to feel up to reading them. When I eventually did, the range of comments was bizarre. Some were lovely and very thoughtful but then there were bible quotes, gravestone epitaphs, get well soon flu type remarks. I'll just say that it didn't have the desired effect. 

    My main gripe about people that don't get it though, is that they expect me to be the same person I was. 

    A x

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  • I’ve just come back from a retreat and someone there was told by a colleague ‘rather you than me!’ She was flabbergasted as you can imagine. 
    I no longer work but I did tell everyone as it was a very small school that I worked in, and we were very close. Now there’s only two  from that team who regularly keep in touch and they are also friends. Out of sight out of mind! It is bizarre as we saw each other every day and I got on well with everyone or so I thought….

    I didn’t receive a card from anyone at work but I think it’s a bit awkward for people x

  • Hi Shadders,

    I think this may be the first time I've spoken directly to you. 

    I read your post and this was exactly what happened to me. I worked in a small school and got on really well with everyone. When I was first diagnosed back in February 21, I immediately went on sick as I had tests, an hysterectomy and then chemotherapy. I was off work for nearly a year. Not once did I receive flowers or a card from management, this really upset me. Fortunately,  I had a group of close friends, about 10, mainly learning support assistants, who sent me cards and flowers and messages to let me know they were thinking of me, and as I recovered,  they visited too.

    When my cancer recurred, I had another year off work, due to more treatments. I was told last July 2022, that I am incurable and was put on palliative care. In July this year, I gave my notice and retired due to ill health. 

    The headteacher, deputy and other teachers were always happy to see me on the few occasions I visited school, but it really hurt me to not even get anything throughout all of this just to show they were thinking of me. We had recently become an academy, so whether that had anything to do with this, I don't know. I just had to put it behind me and be so grateful for all the other friends I have. Saying that though, even a couple of my longest standing friends have not really visited me or sent as many messages as they could have in my opinion. It is upsetting, and I wonder if I should confront them and tell them how I feel, but not sure it would do any good. My partner says that they probably don't know what to say and feel awkward or upset, but I tell him that it's not really about them and why should I always have to consider their feelings when they obviously don't consider mine or ours.

    Anyway, try to put it behind you and focus on the kind and positive people that you have in your life, that's what I'm trying to do.

    Best wishes, 

    Helen xx Slight smile

  • Hi Nan, just read your profile, I was a primary school teacher too! I maintain that the stress caused by a new headteacher in my final year there contributed to the cancer returning. She was a complete ars3hole, wanted to bring in new Ofsted friendly strategies that had no relevance to our children, families and school. I knew we’d be able to argue why we weren’t using them and told her so (I was deputy at that point) as I felt she should be looking at what we already did and coming into class and working with us to see how it all worked. That didn’t go down very well and I was enemy number 1 from that point on. She tried everything to get ne out, including bullying and conducting a formal investigation into an allegation made by a member of staff who bore a grudge. All so stressful. She did not offer any support to me but hounded me. I am a really positive, forward thinking, compassionate, open minded person and willing for things to change if they make sense, but not for no good reason other than to please Ofsted. After my hospital stay the office manager came round with a cheap bunch of gross flowers that went straight in the bin and a card signed by half the staff as it must have been an afterthought and only a few people had been around to sign it. I retired in December and received a card and present but the head had not written it though she signed it for the purpose of appearing to care. She’s made a lot of people’s lives difficult since I left and lots more people have gone. My friend organised a leaving do for me in May as nothing had been done. I’m not bitter (I know it sounds like I am) I’ve learned to let go and enjoy my new life doing so many things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I was still there. I realised who my true friends were and the others , well good luck to them. I’ve made new friends and have a cancer community and lovely neighbours and have become much closer to my good friends than I was before so every cloud…

    My goodness what a long post! Apologies, I obviously needed to get that off my chest! 

    Jac x

  • Hi Jac,

    Yes we have had similar experiences in our lives. 

    In 2006, I had the same thing happen at the school I worked in. Our Head retired and a real witch took over. She wanted everyone out if she couldn't manipulate them and I was one of them. She ruined many lives and I still HATE her to this day. I believe all the stress contributed towards my cancer...I was never the same after that. 

    No apology needed for saying what you feel, better to get it off your chest.

    Helen xx 

  • That’s exactly how I feel Helen, thank you. Those narcissists should not be allowed to be in any positions of power let alone heads of schools 

    Jac x

  • Hi Jac Nan and Mmum, I do understand how you all feel. I find cos I've been stable for about 4 years people think I'm better, comments like I new you'd get over it. Oh she's OK now. What I'm saying is alot of people are selfish,  self centred, and just horrible if they don't get there own way, they don't care about othrte peoples feelings. So stick to those who have stuck by you and bugger the rest.xx


  • Thanks Moi, that’s how I feel too. I’m so glad to be out of that toxic environment with people who just want to look out for themselves. I’m happier, healthier (except the cancer) and in a much better frame of mind. I have lots of family and friends who love me for who I am and I feel blessed 

    Jac x