Cancer and returning to work

Posted by azkidney57 @azkidney57, Sun, Sep 8 8:56am

I had a nephrectomy May 2019 for a large tumor. It was Renal Cell Carcinoma. I was on medical leave from my job and as it happened I was hired at the same job but in a different department. Once at my new job, I learned how ill equipped I was being a new hire after cancer. My life had been turned upside down. I was meeting my new oncologist, having scans and tests and trying to learn a new job. My new hours didn’t agree with my new life after cancer because nothing was as it once was. My boss told me I wasn’t performing as expected. No, I was not. I had so much on my plate! My former self without cancer would have been fine learning new tasks but the new me after cancer was a different person. So here I am confronting a new reality. You have a cancer diagnosis and let’s face it the company cares but not that much. You still have to do your job and do it well even when you feel sick or have another scan coming up or have a suspicious test result or other unaccounted for lump or mass or symptom that worries you. You are running scared for your life, you need your job because you need your health insurance. People may wonder why you may be a bit slow to learn. I want to scream, “I am not stupid I am a person after cancer trying to learn a new job”! Wish me luck I will be asking my boss if she can give me more time to be the employee she expects and deserves to have. Also wish me luck as the new me after cancer learns to navigate through the many obstacles that lay before me, those I can see and those I have yet to come to know. Cancer sucks.

@azkidney57, I'm really glad you started this discussion about returning to work after cancer. I think you'll be interested in reading this blog post:
– Cancer. Work. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that… https://connect.mayoclinic.org/page/cancer-education-center/newsfeed-post/hmmm-i-hadnt-thought-of-that/

I'd also like to bring fellow members into this discussion who have also returned to work, like @sue1952 @heather49 @raemark @kristennursepatient @cindylb and @carlturn

AZKidney57, your situation is quite unique that you not only returned to work, but to a new department. I can imagine that is an added complication of learning everything new again. I certainly wish you luck with the upcoming conversation with your boss and congratulate you for taking the initiative to get out in front of this. Your approach and the words you use are smart: i.e., asking your boss how can you work together so that you can be "be the employee she expects and deserves to have." I think that approach will go a long way. This isn't a forever thing, you just need a longer runway right now – not always – just as you get back into work AND learning new stuff.

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@colleenyoung

@azkidney57, I'm really glad you started this discussion about returning to work after cancer. I think you'll be interested in reading this blog post:
– Cancer. Work. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that… https://connect.mayoclinic.org/page/cancer-education-center/newsfeed-post/hmmm-i-hadnt-thought-of-that/

I'd also like to bring fellow members into this discussion who have also returned to work, like @sue1952 @heather49 @raemark @kristennursepatient @cindylb and @carlturn

AZKidney57, your situation is quite unique that you not only returned to work, but to a new department. I can imagine that is an added complication of learning everything new again. I certainly wish you luck with the upcoming conversation with your boss and congratulate you for taking the initiative to get out in front of this. Your approach and the words you use are smart: i.e., asking your boss how can you work together so that you can be "be the employee she expects and deserves to have." I think that approach will go a long way. This isn't a forever thing, you just need a longer runway right now – not always – just as you get back into work AND learning new stuff.

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Even though my colon cancer was 20 years ago I remember it all to well! The vendors I worked with were mostly understanding. Since then I have also found where someone you work for is not nice! They only look at the Bottom Line! WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM! I have discovered if you have someone like that leaving is the best option. They're the people you don't want to work with!
Sundance(RB)

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@colleenyoung

@azkidney57, I'm really glad you started this discussion about returning to work after cancer. I think you'll be interested in reading this blog post:
– Cancer. Work. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that… https://connect.mayoclinic.org/page/cancer-education-center/newsfeed-post/hmmm-i-hadnt-thought-of-that/

I'd also like to bring fellow members into this discussion who have also returned to work, like @sue1952 @heather49 @raemark @kristennursepatient @cindylb and @carlturn

AZKidney57, your situation is quite unique that you not only returned to work, but to a new department. I can imagine that is an added complication of learning everything new again. I certainly wish you luck with the upcoming conversation with your boss and congratulate you for taking the initiative to get out in front of this. Your approach and the words you use are smart: i.e., asking your boss how can you work together so that you can be "be the employee she expects and deserves to have." I think that approach will go a long way. This isn't a forever thing, you just need a longer runway right now – not always – just as you get back into work AND learning new stuff.

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Hello @azkidney57

While I am now retired, after my first two cancer surgeries I did go back to work full time after a six-week break. I suppose the energy level was the most difficult part of it. After the surgery, I did not require any other treatments so that was good. Being up-front with your supervisor regarding needing more time to get up to speed sounds like a good idea especially since you will be starting a new position and there will be a learning curve. As I read Colleen's last few sentences, I think she said it well,

"Your approach and the words you use are smart: i.e., asking your boss how can you work together so that you can be "be the employee she expects and deserves to have." I think that approach will go a long way. This isn't a forever thing, you just need a longer runway right now – not always – just as you get back into work AND learning new stuff." These words express a "team-approach" which is usually appreciated in the business world.

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Hello zakidney57 – When I found out I had breast cancer it was terrifying and exhausting. Add to that the treatments, appointments, and continued worry and not only are you tired from all of that but you still have a completely different take on life because you're been fighting to keep your life. Until you've experienced it or watched a close loved one go through this, it's hard to explain. We're here for you and understand.

I was working full time at a job I loved and I had a great relationship with my boss. So much so that she consulted me on all matters and even new employee hires. She and my employer were very sympathetic when I was diagnosed and very supportive in the early months after my bi lateral mastectomy. I needed extensive care after the mastectomy and then developed lymphedema (arm swelling) and required a second surgery a year later to resolve that problem. It was after the second surgery (and a bout with shingles….low immunity from stress I think), that my employer and especially my boss decided they didn't want to insure me any more. My boss, I found out too late, had a long history of blaming her employees for her shortcomings and took all the credit for her employees work. I've worked in high stress fields my whole career but I was too tired to fight this the way I might have or maybe should have but ultimately my employer decided to 'eliminate' my position and offer me a part time, no health benefits job. They offered significantly less than I was making, no health insurance and only part time hours doing exactly the same work I was doing. In the end I forced them to 'fire' me, although they never said that. I contacted a lawyer who was great support and I left my employer with unemployment insurance and now work at two part time jobs instead. My situation isn't ideal but my husband is quite ill and I don't want to take a new job and leave an employer 'high and dry' should my husband's condition require even more full time caretaking.

My advice is to document all of your meetings with your supervisor and document your work and efforts to be a good employee. Employers can let you go in all states that are 'right to work' states with little or no reason, but if you're doing your best, have a good track record and are upfront, as you've been, there are legal guidelines employers must follow and letting you go or demoting you or simply being unsupportive are frowned up in the law. Problem is………you have to be proactive in protecting yourself (while tired and stressed from your medical situation). Doing that documentation made all the difference for me in the long run. I could have sued my employer and they know it and there are times I wish I had but my lawyer advised that the stress of that would be high and wouldn't help my recovery. I'm still angry and bitter about how I was treated but I'm ok with having moved on the best way I could to protect my overall health.
Please don't feel guilty or inadequate or bad about your performance at work. You're doing your best and employers need to adjust to health issues if they are decent people and if they are not, be prepared to document your side of the story.
Hugs

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@cindylb @colleenyoung @hopeful33250 @sundance6 your posts are so inspiring and helpful! Thank you!

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@cindylb

Hello zakidney57 – When I found out I had breast cancer it was terrifying and exhausting. Add to that the treatments, appointments, and continued worry and not only are you tired from all of that but you still have a completely different take on life because you're been fighting to keep your life. Until you've experienced it or watched a close loved one go through this, it's hard to explain. We're here for you and understand.

I was working full time at a job I loved and I had a great relationship with my boss. So much so that she consulted me on all matters and even new employee hires. She and my employer were very sympathetic when I was diagnosed and very supportive in the early months after my bi lateral mastectomy. I needed extensive care after the mastectomy and then developed lymphedema (arm swelling) and required a second surgery a year later to resolve that problem. It was after the second surgery (and a bout with shingles….low immunity from stress I think), that my employer and especially my boss decided they didn't want to insure me any more. My boss, I found out too late, had a long history of blaming her employees for her shortcomings and took all the credit for her employees work. I've worked in high stress fields my whole career but I was too tired to fight this the way I might have or maybe should have but ultimately my employer decided to 'eliminate' my position and offer me a part time, no health benefits job. They offered significantly less than I was making, no health insurance and only part time hours doing exactly the same work I was doing. In the end I forced them to 'fire' me, although they never said that. I contacted a lawyer who was great support and I left my employer with unemployment insurance and now work at two part time jobs instead. My situation isn't ideal but my husband is quite ill and I don't want to take a new job and leave an employer 'high and dry' should my husband's condition require even more full time caretaking.

My advice is to document all of your meetings with your supervisor and document your work and efforts to be a good employee. Employers can let you go in all states that are 'right to work' states with little or no reason, but if you're doing your best, have a good track record and are upfront, as you've been, there are legal guidelines employers must follow and letting you go or demoting you or simply being unsupportive are frowned up in the law. Problem is………you have to be proactive in protecting yourself (while tired and stressed from your medical situation). Doing that documentation made all the difference for me in the long run. I could have sued my employer and they know it and there are times I wish I had but my lawyer advised that the stress of that would be high and wouldn't help my recovery. I'm still angry and bitter about how I was treated but I'm ok with having moved on the best way I could to protect my overall health.
Please don't feel guilty or inadequate or bad about your performance at work. You're doing your best and employers need to adjust to health issues if they are decent people and if they are not, be prepared to document your side of the story.
Hugs

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Thank you for sharing your story. I happen to work in a hospital you would think a cancer diagnosis would prompt good support and it does to a certain extent but the hospital remains a place of business. I went to my Human Resources department to see what options I had regarding my situation and I was told find another job at the hospital or find another job. I could go on a leave but it would be unpaid. How would that help me? My boss is a little more sympathetic than most but she is still a manager. She follows the rules and protocols set in place and I need to follow and abide by those same rules. Truth is my orientation was done in a haphazard way trained on the job. There was no formal “training “ as it were. A woman that was suppose to train me with one aspect of my job left much to be desired. She has done her job for 12 years I had been there 1 month. She was not a good teacher. She was often rude and mostly inpatient with me. On one occasion after I had an especially stressful meeting the day prior with my oncologist she was quite rude and disrespectful. I was at the time as I still am trying to adjust to my new life as a cancer patient. Of course she doesn’t know I have cancer. She is just training someone that to her seems inadequate. So I need to see if my boss will allow me to start over. I don’t know what will happen and that is the common new theme in my life, uncertainty.

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@azkidney57

Thank you for sharing your story. I happen to work in a hospital you would think a cancer diagnosis would prompt good support and it does to a certain extent but the hospital remains a place of business. I went to my Human Resources department to see what options I had regarding my situation and I was told find another job at the hospital or find another job. I could go on a leave but it would be unpaid. How would that help me? My boss is a little more sympathetic than most but she is still a manager. She follows the rules and protocols set in place and I need to follow and abide by those same rules. Truth is my orientation was done in a haphazard way trained on the job. There was no formal “training “ as it were. A woman that was suppose to train me with one aspect of my job left much to be desired. She has done her job for 12 years I had been there 1 month. She was not a good teacher. She was often rude and mostly inpatient with me. On one occasion after I had an especially stressful meeting the day prior with my oncologist she was quite rude and disrespectful. I was at the time as I still am trying to adjust to my new life as a cancer patient. Of course she doesn’t know I have cancer. She is just training someone that to her seems inadequate. So I need to see if my boss will allow me to start over. I don’t know what will happen and that is the common new theme in my life, uncertainty.

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Sorry to hear about all of this. Uncertainty is a horrible feeling and creates a lot of stress. It sounds like you're making every effort to make this work and every person reacts to illness physically and emotionally in a different way. Unfortunately not all people are empathetic to the degree they need to be.
My husband used to say to me about work, 'it's not you'……and it's not you. It's the lack of sympathy and understanding in the world with some people. Keep your position, do your best and remember to tell yourself you are doing your best and 'its not you'. You deserve kindness and understanding and you'll get that from all of us here as you need it. Don't let them bully you into quitting. You can collect unemployment if you are fired (in most states) but not if you quit. As hard as it might be or feel you are better with your job and health insurance for now until you're stronger and able to have the energy to decide if you want to make a change.
Everything feels terrible right now, including this unnecessary stress at work. Weather the storm and you'll come out on the other end stronger.
Hugs

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If my attempt to keep my new job proves unsuccessful then I will need to find work elsewhere. I wouldn’t be fired right away it would take time. Reports of inadequate work performance would be made. Meetings would be held etc. Same as cancer it doesn’t often kill right away it tears you down first. Yes you fight at first and yes sometimes you win but not always. Of course no one wants to be an inadequate employee. I have always done my best and will continue to do so. That “will” to fight and keep going is strong. Even when you feel weak and defeated you ask yourself, “ is this it?” “Will I let this take me down?” You go on to fight another battle and the war goes on. I saw this first hand in a friend who died from breast cancer this past June. I remember the very first day 5 years ago when she shared with me that she had cancer. She lived in another city but we kept in touch. She won many battles but the war is over for her. She fought fiercely to the end and managed to remain dignified. These are uncertain times. The future is unclear. But you must continue and live. You must fight. There must be balance in life. Not so easy to achieve but it is worth striving for everyday. Find the balance you need. Life is precious and it must be lived to It’s fullest. Thank you Susan for being a great friend. I will never forget you and I will always keep you close to my heart.

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I am so thankful for my employer. I was diagnosed with cancer in May, surgery in June followed by 6 months of chemo. I had a rare reaction to the chemo and spent another year being treated for kidney problems. I went on short term disability during the cancer/chemo treatments. When short term disability ran out, the owner of the business I worked for put me back on full salary even though I was making weekly trips to Mayo for treatment and missing a lot of work. My fellow employees also gave my wife and I a very substantial financial gift to help meet our expenses. I finally told my boss I was going to go back on short term disability while I tried to gain enough strength to come back to work. When short term disability ran out, I was still unable to work full time so I ended up taking long term disability. It is great to have an employer and fellow employees who care so much and give so much financial and emotional support when going through trying times!

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@marvinjsturing

I am so thankful for my employer. I was diagnosed with cancer in May, surgery in June followed by 6 months of chemo. I had a rare reaction to the chemo and spent another year being treated for kidney problems. I went on short term disability during the cancer/chemo treatments. When short term disability ran out, the owner of the business I worked for put me back on full salary even though I was making weekly trips to Mayo for treatment and missing a lot of work. My fellow employees also gave my wife and I a very substantial financial gift to help meet our expenses. I finally told my boss I was going to go back on short term disability while I tried to gain enough strength to come back to work. When short term disability ran out, I was still unable to work full time so I ended up taking long term disability. It is great to have an employer and fellow employees who care so much and give so much financial and emotional support when going through trying times!

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So wonderful to hear positive reports like this!

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@marvinjsturing

I am so thankful for my employer. I was diagnosed with cancer in May, surgery in June followed by 6 months of chemo. I had a rare reaction to the chemo and spent another year being treated for kidney problems. I went on short term disability during the cancer/chemo treatments. When short term disability ran out, the owner of the business I worked for put me back on full salary even though I was making weekly trips to Mayo for treatment and missing a lot of work. My fellow employees also gave my wife and I a very substantial financial gift to help meet our expenses. I finally told my boss I was going to go back on short term disability while I tried to gain enough strength to come back to work. When short term disability ran out, I was still unable to work full time so I ended up taking long term disability. It is great to have an employer and fellow employees who care so much and give so much financial and emotional support when going through trying times!

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In thinking back 20 years ago, today i tried to remember what I went through. Though I am not a religious person I am a very Spiritual Person.
I remember asking a higher power for help and Guidance! It was truly Amazing and Spiritual! A freind, who was also a customer, owned a very Wonderful Spa in Northern New Mexico called Ojo Calente. He heard from a mutual friend what I had just been through with the cancer but also my near death from the chemo! He called me and told me to come up for a stay. It took me four hours to drive 120 miles because of my weakness. At the time I had a motor home I used for both business and pleasure.
When I arrived he had his staff set up my motorhome for me. Then he told me to stay as long as I wanted. He said I had complete run of the Spa and all of the ammenities. I could have as much body work as I needed. I remember the Salt Rub that got rid of all my dead skin and hospital germs. And the Wonderful Healing Body Work does for our Being!
Going in all of his mineral baths for different types of healing!
I was also led down a path that said I had fished all my Life! I traveled the Rocky Mtn. where there are with some of the world best fyl fishing. I had always been to much of a hurry to stop and take advantage of it. I was led to some Angels who helped me relearn many things. That year while working & traveling I was on a river all or part of a day 150 times.
That year being business wise was on of the Best I have ever had! The most Mystical things about it was I was cured of Stage IV colon cancer!
I still run into the doctor who treated me then and he still has no idea why I am not dead.
My point to all of this is there is something out there but also within us that if we ask, the answer and direction will come to help! You just have to ask, be patient knowing it will come to lead you in a healing direction if that is what we want.
Papers and books are written all the time of the power of not only Spirits we cannot see but also the Spirit within us that has the ability to heal us if we want!
Blessing to all!
Sundance(RB)

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@sundance6

In thinking back 20 years ago, today i tried to remember what I went through. Though I am not a religious person I am a very Spiritual Person.
I remember asking a higher power for help and Guidance! It was truly Amazing and Spiritual! A freind, who was also a customer, owned a very Wonderful Spa in Northern New Mexico called Ojo Calente. He heard from a mutual friend what I had just been through with the cancer but also my near death from the chemo! He called me and told me to come up for a stay. It took me four hours to drive 120 miles because of my weakness. At the time I had a motor home I used for both business and pleasure.
When I arrived he had his staff set up my motorhome for me. Then he told me to stay as long as I wanted. He said I had complete run of the Spa and all of the ammenities. I could have as much body work as I needed. I remember the Salt Rub that got rid of all my dead skin and hospital germs. And the Wonderful Healing Body Work does for our Being!
Going in all of his mineral baths for different types of healing!
I was also led down a path that said I had fished all my Life! I traveled the Rocky Mtn. where there are with some of the world best fyl fishing. I had always been to much of a hurry to stop and take advantage of it. I was led to some Angels who helped me relearn many things. That year while working & traveling I was on a river all or part of a day 150 times.
That year being business wise was on of the Best I have ever had! The most Mystical things about it was I was cured of Stage IV colon cancer!
I still run into the doctor who treated me then and he still has no idea why I am not dead.
My point to all of this is there is something out there but also within us that if we ask, the answer and direction will come to help! You just have to ask, be patient knowing it will come to lead you in a healing direction if that is what we want.
Papers and books are written all the time of the power of not only Spirits we cannot see but also the Spirit within us that has the ability to heal us if we want!
Blessing to all!
Sundance(RB)

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Thank you…………I needed something uplifting tonight and your post did it! So pleased to hear you're healthy and doing well.
Hugs

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@azkidney57

If my attempt to keep my new job proves unsuccessful then I will need to find work elsewhere. I wouldn’t be fired right away it would take time. Reports of inadequate work performance would be made. Meetings would be held etc. Same as cancer it doesn’t often kill right away it tears you down first. Yes you fight at first and yes sometimes you win but not always. Of course no one wants to be an inadequate employee. I have always done my best and will continue to do so. That “will” to fight and keep going is strong. Even when you feel weak and defeated you ask yourself, “ is this it?” “Will I let this take me down?” You go on to fight another battle and the war goes on. I saw this first hand in a friend who died from breast cancer this past June. I remember the very first day 5 years ago when she shared with me that she had cancer. She lived in another city but we kept in touch. She won many battles but the war is over for her. She fought fiercely to the end and managed to remain dignified. These are uncertain times. The future is unclear. But you must continue and live. You must fight. There must be balance in life. Not so easy to achieve but it is worth striving for everyday. Find the balance you need. Life is precious and it must be lived to It’s fullest. Thank you Susan for being a great friend. I will never forget you and I will always keep you close to my heart.

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@azkidney57 Hello, how has your week gone thus far? I’m wondering if you’ve met with the HR people to discuss your orientation and new diagnosis. If you were always a good employee, I would hope they’d make allowances. Who is there at work that you could have a good discussion with?

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Thank you for asking about me regarding my job. I spoke to my boss and just explained why my job performance was not up to par. The last 2 weeks in June and all of July not only did I start a new job but I had 4 doctor consultations, 2 CT scans, a nuclear med exam, cardiac work up, numerous blood draws and 2 biopsies. I went to 2 funerals, 2 friends died from cancer, breast and ovarian. I was still recovering from my nephrectomy. I was having trouble eating and sleeping. My sole kidney was adjusting to doing double duty. I felt tired all the time. My boss listened and she will keep me on. She is a better boss that others I have had. So, I still have a job. I actually feel better. I am sleeping better eating better and the shock of having a cancer diagnosis is less traumatic. I am taking each day at a time. That is all a can do. I feel less panicked about the cancer because right now I am cancer free. In October I will have more scans and blood work. I am NOT taking the Sutent as my oncologist wanted. I will do what I feel is best for me and I will be getting a third opinion. I have learned that being in control helps me emotionally. I function better when I feel more informed and I am directing my care. I want to be driving the bus in regard to my health care.

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@azkidney57

Thank you for asking about me regarding my job. I spoke to my boss and just explained why my job performance was not up to par. The last 2 weeks in June and all of July not only did I start a new job but I had 4 doctor consultations, 2 CT scans, a nuclear med exam, cardiac work up, numerous blood draws and 2 biopsies. I went to 2 funerals, 2 friends died from cancer, breast and ovarian. I was still recovering from my nephrectomy. I was having trouble eating and sleeping. My sole kidney was adjusting to doing double duty. I felt tired all the time. My boss listened and she will keep me on. She is a better boss that others I have had. So, I still have a job. I actually feel better. I am sleeping better eating better and the shock of having a cancer diagnosis is less traumatic. I am taking each day at a time. That is all a can do. I feel less panicked about the cancer because right now I am cancer free. In October I will have more scans and blood work. I am NOT taking the Sutent as my oncologist wanted. I will do what I feel is best for me and I will be getting a third opinion. I have learned that being in control helps me emotionally. I function better when I feel more informed and I am directing my care. I want to be driving the bus in regard to my health care.

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@azkidney57 Your last post was so positive! I’m so glad you were able to talk with your boss. So is all still going well at work?

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