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Returning to work

I will finish chemotherapy in a few weeks and have to decide when to go back to work. I initially said I would go back about 6 weeks later but my family doctor says that would be crazy and that I should take several months off after the treatment to recover. I actually feel fine but I would prefer to stay home longer. What are your experiences? When did you return to work?


  • Flowergirl
    Hello @Claudia.... thank you for starting this topic; in some of the previous posts we started to talk about this.

    As everyone is different with their surgery, treatment, recovery and situation,  I would also agree that it is key to be recovered before going back to work. What does recovery look like for you? Please take some time to consider the physical recovery and the emotional recovery. Again, it will be different for everyone. 

    A good place to start is to have a discussion with your doctor, your care team, psychosocial support and your family / friends. It will also depend on what your work involves. 

    How will you know if you are ready? A detailed and well planned website is 
    There are good resources there for the survivor, employers and health care providers.
    Delve deep into the site to do an assessment. They also have a return to work plan that can assist you on your decisions and assessment if you do not have this type of assistance at your work. You may need to show this site to your workplace team as well, especially if you encounter difficulties. 

    On a personal note: It took me almost 1 year to heal physically (I had vertical incision and 6 months of chemo) and then the emotional impact was felt after,  and I dealt with that for 6 months before going back gradually. 

    Again, it will be different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way - just your way :)
    Wishing you the best of luck and feel free to direct message if you wish.
  • @Claudia It truly is individual I think. I' fortunate to have a job that I can work a bit as I'm going through this. But I know I could never do a full day. And I'm also not involved in any major decision  making at this time. I am just doing small tasks a few hours in my third week. Going back to full tasks and full-time feels completely and utterly overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. 
  • Yikes...I had my hysterectomy Dec. 1, went back to work Jan 9, started chemo Jan. 17 and have pretty much worked my regular hours. (9-4, 4 days per week) I am tired but its a desk job and I really have to concentrate so I don't forget to do certain tasks.  I can leave early whenever I need to, which is good. 
  • I can’t address this on a personal level as I was extremely lucky not to have chemo after my surgery, but can as a home care nurse who saw hundreds of chemo patients over the years. A handful continued working through their treatment and coped well, but these were definitely a  very small minority. Emotional recovery was a bigger factor than I expected it to be. Yes, very individual.
  • I thought I’d be back a month later but the treatment effects are cumulative. I felt worse a month after treatment ended. At 6 months after frontline treatment and pelvic radiation I started the process of returning to work. The initial plan given by the insurance coordinator was 8 weeks gradual return. It took me 6 months to get to full time and I immediately dropped back to 4 days once I was off disability. I’m now 18 months from end of treatment and I am back at full time. I’m thankful for a very understanding workplace. I found that in the 1st year I didn’t have energy for much outside of work so depending on your other responsibilities you may find returning easier or others have said it’s so individual. 
  • Hello to all my friends out there,
    I am hoping to help any one who has STD/LTD benefits and are thinking of returning to work.  If you have been on LTD and are thinking "I am not 100% but, am thinking of returning to work please "think twice".  I did not.  I pushed and pushed and said one day I have to be better.  We are in our "new normal " I thought the same as you girls "I got this"   the mind can play games but, our body may not be ready.  My mind says go but, my body says no.
    I am a survivor of High Grade Serious Carcinoma chemo ended Jan 2017.  Six sessions of Carbo and Taxol.  I was sent to a rehab clinic through my insurance company ( they have there providers that they will send you to and they get kick backs for pressuring you back to work)  Remember Insurance co. are not your friends nor are your employers when your sick-do not talk long to them - say I am tired and need to lay down.  They look to see how long you can talk on a phone or do things that will show you can return to work.  The less you say to them the better.  Be sure to document. I returned to work with a lot of struggle, pain and exhaustion.  I was off 14 months in total from surgery to chemo - the insurance company pushed me to the end and I caved.  They want you to run out of money so you have to return to work. 
    I returned back to work at (60 % of function in my mind)  I was  back at work for 12 months with many sick days, and all vacation used for sick days.  3 admissions to the hospital and 8 hospital visits with chronic illnesses.  Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia was one of my diagnosis.   My return  to work did not work for me.   
    - Most insurance company's have a clause, if you do return to work - there is a 6 months clause to go off again with a Dr. Note  saying that you are not able to continue working and the reasons.  Make sure your doctor is on your side and understands what you are going through.  You can ask for the real policy that your human resources keeps on file.  Remember to ask your insurance company for the return to work clause and time line to go off again if it does not work and be honest with yourself.  Get this in an email or see if it is in your policy booklet.  
    Keep in mind "you" have a policy book for you that your company gives you - there is another part to that policy booklet that the Insurance company and your Head Office HR would have - we never get to see that part of the policy unless you ask for it. 
    I was caught in this insurance mess and have learn so much.  I would like anyone with insurance to know upfront what your dealing with because it is not easy when we are blind folded by the insurance company.   
    Having said all this, I went off again in March of 2019 and was denied benefits even though I have my Dr's support and Oncologist support - I have learned so much and now can navigate anyone through this if you need help.   All the best of good health moving forward! 
  • Flowergirl
    Hi @beachgirl

    That offers some great insights for those dealing with this important issue - thank you for sharing your story and sorry you had to go through all that trouble.
    Each company process is so different and yes, everyone really needs to be informed and find supports to assist them.

    I found lots of useful information on this important topic at  it offers guidance for those impacted by cancer, employers and support people. 
  • Thank you Flower girl ... I hope your doing well.

  • Flowergirl
    You are welcome @beachgirl - doing ok - hoping you are having a good week as well!
  • Thank you so much for that information Flower Girl.  I have always been the benefits coordinator at my jobs but have never had to deal with LTD from this end.  After the 15 weeks of Employment Insurance I applied for LTD and was expecting more hassle but they approved a month later.  I am going to ask for the Return to work clause and timeline when that time comes.  Don't want to tip my hand too early.  
  • Flowergirl
    You are most welcome @Donnybrook - I hope things go your way.
    Yes, the medical and psychosocial support team should be able to help you navigate that as well.
    Wishing you the best of luck for the transition.