Breast cancer

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Work and the future

stripeymaz
Posted by

It's all systems go. I'm decided on a mastectomy and the date is next Wednesday.  I'm also having some sort of lymph node removal and OSNA procedure  ( I think that's the correct term ). My op also seems to involve the placing of a wire in the lymph node which I don't like the sound of so I'm glossing over that one!

Anyway I've just been for my pre op which was all fine but got me thinking.  I am a self employed gardener and every time someone medical asks me what job I do and I tell them I get the same reaction. There's a sharp intake of breath and a disapproving look and then I'm told it might be tricky to return to and the infection risk is very real etc etc. 

I know I may have to modify how I do things and maybe go part time until I reach a happy point but I wondered what others thought. I can't be the only person having this treatment that does a manual/dirty job. I can't and won't give it up entirely, I can't do anything else anyway and we have a mortgage to pay as well. Am I being unrealistic?

Thanks for your thoughts

Maz x 

toxophilite
Posted by

Hey  

My job is pretty manual - I install and service burglar alarms!! And I'm an archer.

I had mx, full node clearance and immediate implant.

I went back to work on light duties 13 days after surgery.

The ladders went back on the van after 2 months.

Now 8 months post surgery, and have no issues at all. Apart from exhaustion due to heart failure, but that is another story.

I did a lot of my own reading around recovery, lymphedema etc. The internal stitching needs to heal. That takes 6 weeks, so you need to be a bit careful. The lads did all the heavy lifting for me!! There is some research going on around lymphedema which indicates that it is good to get back to doing all the things you were doing as soon as healing allows. Load bearing exercise is actually beneficial. It can even reduce lymphedema if you already have it.

I discussed it all with the surgeon and BCN, who agreed I should be guided by my own physio.

Regarding the "dirty" part. You will need to make sure you don't injure the mx side. Cuts and scratches can indeed be an entry point for infections. Now, I am ALWAYS scratching myself as I have very thin skin. So I have antiseptic and dressings available to clean and cover any open wounds as soon as possible. And I monitor very carefully for infection.

So as long as you use gloves and arm coverings there shouldn't be any reason you can't get back to your work. You may need to modify how you do some things.

Hugs xx

stripeymaz
Posted by

Thank you Karen, that's encouraging to hear that working life can be normal again.  For my own sanity as well I need to pick up the pieces of my business that I started 27 years ago. Sounds like I can make a slow start and build things up with some care and tweaks to my working practices. Probably have to invest in a new first aid kit!!

I'm amazed to hear that you can do your archery as well as I've picked up on how important that is to you.


I'm  meeting my BCN tomorrow to see if she can answer some of my many questions before next week. I'm also hoping that she'll bring along a prosthesis or two for me to look at. Last visit they were locked in a cupboard!  I'll mention it to her as obviously lymphadema is a concern.


I've got a feeling you are also at the RSCH


Love Maz x 

toxophilite
Posted by

My RT was at Surrey Maz. The rest at Frimley.

I'm not shooting nearly as much as I'd like at the moment unfortunately, the chemo induced heart failure has left me pretty fatigued.

But we'll all keep putting one foot in front of the other, because that's what we do!!

xx

stripeymaz
Posted by

That is definitely what we do.

The exact words I used to my oncologist were 'Failure is not an option'  !!


Love Maz x

Bedford69
Posted by

sorry to hijack this strand but was just wondering about your 'chemo induced heart failure' was it with FEC chemo? i went into heart failure 12 hours after first FEC and was admitted to cardiology unit where the cardiologist and oncologist worked together brilliantly. Onco said it was definitely a reaction to the Flourourcil med which was removed for my two following infusions.

Bedford69

Kacang
Posted by

Hi Stripeymaz. I'm an amateur gardener and I love it so didn't want to hear that I was banned! 

Karen's right that you have to watch for infection on the clearance side. I was told by a lovely nurse that the worst thing is actually roses as the tips of the thorns get stuck in your skin. Bit tricky that as I have over 200 roses in my garden, all of which need to be pruned, deadheaded, sprayed etc etc. I have dealt with it by buying a pair of leather gauntlets that go well past my wrist. They're enough to protect me for most jobs. However I also have some arm guards that I bought years ago that are oiled canvas. They're amazing - they never even catch on a thorn.  

I live in Australia and have only ever seen them on one online site (http://www.treloarroses.com.au/index.php?route=product/product&path=77_97&product_id=2108 ) but I expect they're more widely available in the UK. 

anni69
Posted by

Hi Maz

Just thought I would pass on an anecdote - a friend of a friend is currently being treated for breast cancer; she is a self-employed landscape gardener and is working through chemo in her "good" weeks - so it can be done :)

Ann

stripeymaz
Posted by

This is just what I was hoping to hear,  thank you everyone.

I consider myself very lucky to be able to make a living doing something that a lot of people do as a hobby so it's great to hear that with some care and thought I should be ok. I find it a feelgood occupation as well.


Wow, 200 rose bushes Lynn, you haven't made life easy for yourself but I bet they look fabulous. I will have to be super careful with roses though as I've had a few thorny incidents over the years. The gauntlets look just the job though, I'll definitely investigate them. I hadn't considered that, thank you for the link, I'm sure  we must have something similar over here. 


In the meantime I'll get next week out of the way and look forward to the spring with even more enthusiastic than usual!


Love Maz x

toxophilite
Posted by

No worries  

That's what my cardiologist thinks, anyway. I didn't have the F part. But EC can cause it too, and it's often not picked up until years later. I also had left side RT, and Herceptin. So a triple whammy.

My LVEF was down to 40% according to cardiologist, that was in August. I'm on the max of various heart meds now.

Had another echo today, he said he got better pictures than last time (and he was surprised they said it had been that low, worrying he got it wrong), and he thinks it's now about 53%.

So, I've not had Herceptin since August which will have helped as that damage is reversible, and have been on the meds since Aug/Sep so they will be starting to have an effect too.

Some reading I did included some studies on EC for breast cancer, and the incidence of heart failure in women was higher in those who had this regime, often only picked up 5 or more years later.

They didn't have a baseline for me, as my first Herceptin echo was only after I'd started chemo.

xx

Lady Penelope
Posted by

Hi Karen

Love it that you are out and about again in the world .... hope you can pick up more archery soon.

Can I ask about the heart failure?  Any tips and pointers?  I am post menopause treatment so Herceptin ... just thinking .... it'd be pants if I couldn't run again ... currently walking up the garden is hard!

Hope you don't mind me askin.  Deffo don't want to harp on the negatives for you ....

toxophilite
Posted by

No problem  

That's one thing these forums are for, that we can support each other and learn from each other.

How far along with treatment are you?

If you are struggling to walk up the garden, then please get it checked out. Shortness of breath is one of the things that should always be checked out, in case of blood clots.

As far as the heart failure goes. I could barely walk up an incline for 200m without having a "grey out". Also swelling ankles and legs. And felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest most of the time.

Please let us know how you get on.

Hugs xx

JoDec
Posted by

Hi All, I was initially supposed to be on FEC-T but was told that my previous heart condition meant that I couldn't have this. I am now on HPCT. I had the baseline cardio imaging for the Herceptin and so far I have been fine, but one of the drugs in FEC is very cardio-toxic, hence the change for me. Wish I could tell you which one! X

toxophilite
Posted by

Hey Jo, it's the E. But the C is also a problem. Don't know about F, as I didn't get that.

Xx

Kacang
Posted by

Both epirubicin (E) and its cousin doxorubicin (A) are known to be very cardio-toxic.