Going back to work after cancer: Is this exhaustion normal?

Posted by fieryrn @fieryrn, Sep 19 5:59am

I am so tired all the time!!
I had a partial mastectomy, cellulitis, a wound dehiscence, and radiation over 4 months. Then, after a dexascan found I have severe osteoporosis with a high risk of fracture. I had a Reclast infusion last week and am taking calcium and vitamin D.
I am a registered nurse in labor and delivery and have returned to work doing 6 hr shifts twice a week and I am exhausted! I am worried about this fatigue and trying to figure out what I should and shouldn’t do as far as my osteoporosis. I am scheduled to return to my 12 hr shifts the end of the month.
Is this exhaustion normal? What about this osteoporosis?
Help…

This is a hard time that no one really talks about when you are fighting for your life. I also distinctly remember extreme fatigue during and after radiation. I wish I had a better answer but it does just take time. I sadly remember putting myself in danger by working too long a few times on the road in the year after treatment. I had to learn to just pull off and take a nap. No one plans for cancer. Is there a way for you to delay those 12 hour shifts just a while longer, maybe in favor of another 6 hour shift a week?

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I am sure I can delay those long shifts but our unit is short staffed and I hate to delay coming back full time. Uncertain still about how the osteoporosis will impact my work.

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@fieryrn

I am sure I can delay those long shifts but our unit is short staffed and I hate to delay coming back full time. Uncertain still about how the osteoporosis will impact my work.

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You sound very concerned for others getting care in your unit. I hope that you can find a way to work that out while still caring for yourself. Cancer treatments can really take a toll and pushing yourself to exhaustion isn’t really the best situation.
The osteoporosis can change the way we do things but it isn’t really disabling if we take care of it. Reclast and calcium, also walking is the best thing as it encourages bone strength. I have been right there with you for a few years. I still clean stalls, ride and work horses most every day. I do take longer to heal when I do break, so I am learning to be more careful with myself.

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As Chris pointed out, radiation takes a toll on your body. In addition, you are healing from a severe infection and wound dehiscence.
The body is telling you that it’s still healing- meaning, don’t push it.
Have you seen your doctor recently? Everything ok?
As long as you are this exhausted I wouldn’t start the 12 hr shifts yet.
I was the same way, except I had chemo. Wanted to return to work, knowing that my colleagues had to do my work too.

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@fieryrn

I am sure I can delay those long shifts but our unit is short staffed and I hate to delay coming back full time. Uncertain still about how the osteoporosis will impact my work.

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Your life is more important. Listen your body it tells you what you need. Let your employer worry about the 12 hour shifts. I found making my own smoothies loading them up with celery ,kale,almond milk ,bananas , blueberries,tumeric, apple, gave me an energy boost.check with your MD if you are getting chemo regarding the ingredients.I also take sublingual D12, vit D3.. But check with your md everyone is different

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I saw my FNP yesterday and we discussed all the things… well she did agree to refer me for a PT consult. I have an appt on the 19th. She told me not to lift more than 20 lbs, no twisting or bending. I don’t know how I will be able to work with these restrictions. I am emotional with all the changes happening in my life.

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@fieryrn

I saw my FNP yesterday and we discussed all the things… well she did agree to refer me for a PT consult. I have an appt on the 19th. She told me not to lift more than 20 lbs, no twisting or bending. I don’t know how I will be able to work with these restrictions. I am emotional with all the changes happening in my life.

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@fieryrn I don't know how you could not be emotional, given all that's going on in your life. Things do get scary, for sure. I hope that you will stay aware of what your body tells you, especially at work. Add to your own medical history being in what is now an even more stressful vocation, pacing yourself and asking for help with the heavy lifting is pretty important. Take care of yourself.

If you haven't already talked with a counselor, this might be a good time to do so. I can vouch for the benefit of talking through things. It's been a huge part of my mental health progress. Being in a caring profession is more stressful than many people imagine, and a danger of caring for others is ignoring one's own wellbeing.

If you're comfortable with sharing what emotions are being stirred up, we are here to listen.

Jim

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@fieryrn

I saw my FNP yesterday and we discussed all the things… well she did agree to refer me for a PT consult. I have an appt on the 19th. She told me not to lift more than 20 lbs, no twisting or bending. I don’t know how I will be able to work with these restrictions. I am emotional with all the changes happening in my life.

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A new diagnosis, with an unknown final outcome, is very scary. After all you have recently been through, the very thought that you might not be able to return to your chosen career would also be very difficult.

I see that you work in Labor & Delivery – one of the most strenuous nursing positions. You surely need a complete workplace assessment to see if your job meets the restrictions you have. I know it sounds like life is "piling it on" right now, but you may want to start thinking about less physical alternative nursing career choices…

I second @jimhd in his suggestion that it might be time for some help to sort this out. There are a lot of people here who can be a sounding board for you as you work your way through this – just ask!
Sue

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@fieryrn

I saw my FNP yesterday and we discussed all the things… well she did agree to refer me for a PT consult. I have an appt on the 19th. She told me not to lift more than 20 lbs, no twisting or bending. I don’t know how I will be able to work with these restrictions. I am emotional with all the changes happening in my life.

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Hi @fieryrn,
You will see that I moved your post about being scared over to your original post and I linked it to the bone joint and muscle group so that members can see the whole conversation in both groups.

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@amandaburnett

Hi @fieryrn,
You will see that I moved your post about being scared over to your original post and I linked it to the bone joint and muscle group so that members can see the whole conversation in both groups.

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Thank you! Still learning…lol.

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@fieryrn

I saw my FNP yesterday and we discussed all the things… well she did agree to refer me for a PT consult. I have an appt on the 19th. She told me not to lift more than 20 lbs, no twisting or bending. I don’t know how I will be able to work with these restrictions. I am emotional with all the changes happening in my life.

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I hope you are able to work with others in your unit to do the heavy lifting until you get this all figured out. Have they discussed bone strengthener medications with you? How are you feeling about this?

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@jimhd

@fieryrn I don't know how you could not be emotional, given all that's going on in your life. Things do get scary, for sure. I hope that you will stay aware of what your body tells you, especially at work. Add to your own medical history being in what is now an even more stressful vocation, pacing yourself and asking for help with the heavy lifting is pretty important. Take care of yourself.

If you haven't already talked with a counselor, this might be a good time to do so. I can vouch for the benefit of talking through things. It's been a huge part of my mental health progress. Being in a caring profession is more stressful than many people imagine, and a danger of caring for others is ignoring one's own wellbeing.

If you're comfortable with sharing what emotions are being stirred up, we are here to listen.

Jim

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@jimhd I appreciate your insight. I currently have a therapist and have been participating in teletherapy during covid. I began therapy with her 4 yrs ago after a home invasion sexual assault. So it has been super helpful that I had this outlet already in place when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I think my biggest stressor is letting my nursing team down because I can't carry my load anymore. We are short staffed and everyone is going above and beyond during this time. I was out of work about 4 months and feel like they had to work short because of me. I am also feeling that I dont want breast cancer or osteoporosis to take me out of work. I want to do that on my own terms. I dont know really….I am just so tired of being tired.

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