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I am 7 months post a right sided neck dissection & had about 1/3 of my tongue removed followed by RT. I am now 2 months finished RT. Just wondering how long everyone waited until returning to work? I am hoping to go back soon but get a knot in my throat everytime I think about it, my speech is different & my phone involves meeting clients face to fact & on the phone so am very nervous about this. I feel physcially ready (i think!) but mentally im not so sure. Going to meet my employer in a few weeks so going to ask maybe about returning part time.
Anyone else find the return to work difficult?
Hello Northernstar. I'm probably at a similar stage to you, I had neck dissection in April and finished RT and Chemo the end of July. I think if I'd had a different sort of job I could have gone back a few weeks ago. However with my current position I feel, and so do my team, that I'm still months away from being fit.
It's mainly the practicalities of it. In an average work day I'd walk about 5 miles. I'd be expected to communicate clearly with clients and be smartly groomed. There is no time or opportunity to eat outside of the lunch hour. At the moment I need a long nap if I walk more than a mile, I don't always hear properly with my hearing aids and my voice is so croaky some days that nobody can understand me. Getting into a tight fitting business suit is not an option with a PEG and I still haven't worked out what to do with my hair. I now have 8" of roots and hair dye is banned until Feb 2014 because of the chemo. My dietician now has me on a routine of grazing on small hourly snacks and the only sort of food I can eat needs a kitchen to prepare it in.
What I do find worrying is that my brain has certainly slowed down. It takes me longer to learn anything, I don't remember so well, I type slower and it takes me ages to reconcile figures. Has anyone else had this problem?
I think you are definitely right to think about just going back part time to start with. It'll be good for you to have a chat with your employer, they may be able to adjust your work to help with anything that is a particular problem for you. You do have some employee rights about all this sort of thing, someone on the Macmillan support line explained it very well for me. You might find it useful to have a chat with them. Take care and good luck. xx
Hi there - I finished my RT/Chemo treatment 28 November 2012 (no surgery) and I worked from my laptop at home when and if I felt like it (great employer - did not even put a sick note in and had an excellent assistant in the office). I went back to a very demanding job (mentally) the first week in June this year BUT I work from home Mondays & Fridays and go into the office 3 days and work at home most evenings.
I can honestly say I am shattered by Thursday teatime and I would not be able to commit to 5 days in the office. I feel confident in meeting customers locally but do not travel to meetings as I used to do.
I think returning to work is a double edged sword - for me I do not have time to sit and think and let my mind wander to places in needs to stay away from, interaction with colleagues is good and it widens the world that we have been forced to make smaller.
I think it depends on the job - Margaret there is no way I could walk 5 miles and I maybe don't have as many issues as you describe. I believe there is a legal duty from the employers side to have a phased return to work but they can dictate the "phase" I believe the problem may arise when "the role in which people are contractually employed can no longer be fulfilled" I don't think the employer has a legal duty to find another role in the business but they should have a moral duty.
If you are employed on fulltime basis hopefully your employer will look at a phased return on a part time basis but bear in mind contractually they may not be obliged to do so.
Depending on your relationship with your employer it may be as well to get some advise from the Mac team so that you know your rights before you have the meeting. I have seen a couple of instances of the most understanding employer at diagnosis turn into the most uncompassionate employer after long term sick combined with the inability to return to the role they were employed to do.
Margaret - I did not put a chemical colour on my hair until last month but I did have the old fashioned plastic cap and bits pulled through and coloured - this was given OK by Mrs NHS 6 months after treatment.
I found returning tough. But I think it is an individual thing and depends on your treatment, confidence and type of job etc.
I wouldn't go until you feel confident about it mentally. I think for most people it is recommended that you go back by phase return and it is possible to have restricted duties ie. only do things you are comfortable with initially and then build up from there.
I met up with someone from Macmillan who advises about returning to work. Although a lot of what she said was common sense it was good for me to hear it and voice my concerns. I found her incredibly helpful. There is info on Macmillan (http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Livingwithandaftercancer/Workandcancer/Supportforemployees/Workcancer/Goingbacktowork.aspx) that i expect you've seen, but you can always ask your doc/CNS about u meeting with someone, if you wanted to.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to reply. I am meeting my employer next month so hopefully they will allow me to return part time.
Margaret Ann - I understand exactly how you feel. My job is in an office, but I also meet clients face to face & alot of phone work / basically commiucating with people - I am dreading this. But as you say i think my speech is worse than it actually is - alot of my problem is mentally & this is something I can not fix by sitting at home. I do need to get back to "normal life".
I think with the type of cancer affecting speech is one of the most difficult things for me - if it was somewhere else on my body i could cover it up/ it wouldnt be so public. With a neck scar and speech i find it so hard. There are only so many scrafs i can wear!!!
Hope the sun is shining for you all today :)
I had my surgery in Nov '12, and went back to work in May 2013. My speech was affected and this was the thing I was most worried about. My colleagues were great and they can understand me, but I don't answer the phone. I know I should but am still nervous about it. I make phone calls at home and most times people can understand me, so not sure what it is about work that makes me so nervous.
I find that if I take my time when I speak people understand me. I am on a phased return, so I started with a few hours, then half days, and now I work three full days, and work from home the other two. I hope to go back full time in the new year.
Just take it slow and build up your confidence.
going back to work was not good atoll had a lot of pressure put on me to get back to work and did feel the wanted rid of me,
I was diagnosed in Feb. of this year squamous carcinoma right tonsil (T2 N0)Went throw every thing and work't up to 12 sections of RT Then it was to much for me the pain had two weeks off in all went back to work but really was not ready as I found out there was an incidence at work being in charge held responsible as and then dismiss't July the 5th now finding it very hard to get a job as soon as you mention cancer no chance.
I am in commercial cleaning IE Window cleaning and every thing else cleaning wise I would say to any one do not rush back to work
I do feel I was dismiss't unfairly but hit a brick wall with the system.
I went back to work as soon as I could, literally within weeks of finishing my last treatment. I was part time, and I coped fine with it but it didn't pay the rent.
So I applied for a new job, full time, and couldn't cope. The new employer was totally unhelpful, gave me no discretion at all, in fact were very nasty. I quit, then quit everything to take my BA. In those days I got housing benefit & incapacity, but it was still tough, I was always broke, couldn't even afford basic course materials. I didn't get the degree I deserved: again I had no concessions from the college re my health, no help at all, even though I couldn't physically lift the equipment ~ nobody helped me.
My back was mucked up by the surgery and my left arm doesn't work properly, I'm in constant pain and chronically fatigued.
These days I do a few unpaid hours a week in school, but by 2pm I am totally shattered, no use to anyone. There's no cure for the pain, I'm on Oxycontin & others but they don't work.
I have hopefully finally resolved my dilemma about work. I've had an honest chat with my employer and we have both agreed with my Consultant that I am unlikely to ever be able to return to my old job. However there are one or two things that I am capable of that don't involve going out of the office, using a phone or speaking to clients. So I am going back to a brand new role with my old employer on January 3rd. A three month contract for 10 hours a week to deal with the implementation of workplace pension reform legislation. After that I can decide if I want to do anything else or alternatively we'll negotiate some sort of financial settlement that will let me leave with a lump sum and be eligible to claim benefits. Hopefully it'll all work out OK as I'm struggling to pay bills at the moment.
I finished treatment at the beginning of November 2009. I didn't start back to work until April 2010 and even then it was (1) in a different job, i.e. a desk job, which I could do mostly at home, and (2) on a Graduated Return to Work, i.e. for as few hours a week as I felt able.
The graduated return was supposed to be over eight weeks, as I remember (I was back on full pay, even though I wan't doing full-time hours), but I was allowed to stretch it out by adding two weeks annual leave that I was owed from the previous leave year. So I wasn't back full-time until July, nearly a year after I'd first gone in for surgery.
I never went back to my old job. But I was lucky, because the desk job interested me, and it needed doing, so the team I joined welcomed me right from the start. As things turned out, the knowledge and skills I gained in this new area of work enabled me to apply for (and be offered) a completely different post, which will see me comfortably throught to my retirement.
I had very good support from the Occupational Health Department, whom I had to convince that I was well enough to return. They in turn told my manager what I could and couldn't be expected to manage.
Hope this is helpful and good luck!
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