This has felt like the longest week ever. TGIF!! I haven’t said that in awhile. I’m still in pain but it’s not as bad as last night. My mom told me to take a sick day but I felt obligated to go in and finish the project I was working on. Deadline is end of day today. I thought I’d be able to leave early and finish it over the weekend. Well no such luck. Got an email from my boss saying that he needed it tonight and Monday was too late. Are you kidding me?!?! There was no meeting scheduled for Saturday morning! Ugh. I could feel the frustration starting again. I let him know that my back pain had gotten much worse and that I could not work late so would not be able to get it finished tonight. His response was only to let him know what still needed to be done and he would finish it. There was no concern or acknowledgement of the pain I was in. Just a simple “sorry to hear you’re not feeling well” would have sufficed. It was the fact that he didn’t even acknowledge it that was upsetting! I could feel the frustration building … I’ve now passed 5 and am getting closer to 10. SIGH. I go for a short walk, grab some lunch and head back to my desk. The abdominal/back pain has not subsided. I make an appointment with my GP for Tuesday. If it gets worse I can always go to the walk in they have in the afternoon.
My coworker is frustrated as well and starts venting, I listen and then share my frustration with her. All of a sudden I’m crying. What is happening?! I have never in 20 years, cried at work!! “Get it together” I tell myself. A minute later I’m fine but clearly I am overwhelmed again, something I’m not used to. Part of it is the fact that my eating and exercise all went out the window this week. Something I cannot afford. Oh and let’s not forget that I’ve been working all day while in pain. I will NOT be doing this again. I’m going to talk to my oncologist and HR and then figure something out.
I continue working madly, trying to get everything done. My coworkers have now both left. It’s after 5pm and I am still working. Now my thoughts have turned into ‘I hate my job, I want to quit, this is not how life is supposed to be … At least not my life!’. Finally at 6:30 I send my boss an email with what I’ve completed and leave the rest for him to finish. I got most of it done but there was still a bit left to do (which he apparently needed completed that night).
Home sweet home. My week from hell is finally over. All I want to do is NOTHING, turn my brain off and relax. I get my heating pad (for my back) and find a movie to watch. Beyond the mental and physical exhaustion, my entire left side and abdomen are in pain. Monday may have to be a sick day.
No one prepared me for how rough it would be at times even after treatment was over. Like everyone else, I thought after completing treatment I’d be back to normal. Definitely not the case but I did make through the week and the weekend is here!!
During my 18 months of post treatment recovery, I’ve made a significant effort in trying to get my eating, sleeping and exercise on track. These things are important for everyone but for someone who’s been through breast cancer (or any cancer) they are paramount. After my first full time week back at work, my self care has gone to hell!
After being off for 2 years and 2 months, I decided to return to work mid October, Wednesday October 14th to be exact. That was after the (Canadian) Thanksgiving long weekend. My case manager wanted me back the first week of October because my oncologist had said the month of October. I explained that I had a couple of appointments at the hospital that week so it only made logical sense that the week after would be better. The Disability group does not care and would like to see you back at work yesterday!! They agreed to let me start 1 week later but left my ‘return to full time’ start date the same which was November 30th. So now instead of being on a modified schedule for 8 weeks, it would be 7. I agreed thinking that I could easily extend that if necessary. Big mistake! Note to self – always remember to err on the side of more time, not less.
The first month back was fine. It was actually great to be back and have some sense of normalcy again. Being home all the time can get depressing and frustrating. I was working 2-3 days a week and they were shorter days. After a few weeks I went up to 3 full days which was okay because I still had Tues/Thurs off. This gave me time to catch up on sleep, workout and do my groceries etc. I was feeling good, feeling healthy and definitely not stressed. This was giving me a chance to slowly adjust to working again. The other part that is a huge adjustment is the actual work I am doing. After being away from it for over 2 years, there is a lot I don’t remember! Along with that is the fact that my memory and focus are not 100%. It’s beyond frustrating so I have to keep reminding myself that it will simply take time and to be patient with myself.
At this point I was a few weeks away from my full time start date. I went to my doctor and physiotherapist as I had been having back pain since returning to work. Any pain after breast cancer (or any cancer) is scary because you start to worry that maybe the cancer is back. So even though we were pretty sure it wasn’t I had to have a back X-ray to be 100% sure … After a couple of stressful days of waiting the results came back clear. SIGH. RELIEF. Well now we have confirmed that the back pain was due to sitting and working on a computer all day. My body has been through a lot and it is going to take longer than 7 weeks to physically adjust. I got a letter from both my doctor and physiotherapist stating that I should stay on a 3-4 day schedule for an additional month. Because I didn’t provide clinical notes, treatment plan or diagnostics they didn’t approve my extension. Really?! Didn’t know that my case manager was a medical professional who would know what was best for me. Ugh!
I could have gone back to physiotherapist and gotten the detail she wanted but it was now the end of November already. I thought I’ll have to end up doing a full time week anyways because the approval process takes at least 1 week. By that time it will be a couple of weeks before Christmas and then the last 2 weeks are short weeks anyways … not to mention that I’d like to get my full pay again. I figured I could manage, told myself ‘I can do this, it will be fine’. WRONG! Enter the week from hell!!
I’ve been feeling a lot better BUT I failed to realize that it’s relative. I’ve been feeling a lot better than I did a couple of months ago when treatment ended. Overall I’m feeling ok but there’s still quite a bit of fatigue and some joint pain. The neuropathy has gotten better! Woo hoo!
Mid April my case manager from work called and asked when she thought I’d be ready to return to work. Since I’m home most of the time, I didn’t realize how fatigued I’d be if I was actually doing a few hours of work, so I said a month and a half. This was also me thinking that I could work 12 hours a week for 2-3 months. WRONG! She went ahead and put together a standard return to work plan. This plan was very aggressive and once I had some time to think about it, I realized it was way too much for me right now. I also started doing a bit more doing the day to see how my energy level was through the day, end of day and day after. After doing that I was able to see how completely exhausted I’d get after a couple of hours. Realistically I may be able to work 2 days a week for the first month. I also didn’t take into account that I’m moving next week. Going back to work at the same time that I’m moving back into my own place is probably not a good idea. Being on my own in itself is going to be tiring for the first little while. My mom is close by but it will still be more taxing on me, doing more on my own. I also have to make sure I have time to prepare my meals and continue to eat healthy, along with stretching and exercise. Those things are my priority. Financially I’m fine so there’s no reason to rush back.
My oncologist will sign off on whatever I say I am comfortable with (I hope). HR is very aggressive and I need to make sure I assert myself and let them know if I’m not comfortable with their plan. I’m only 2 months out of treatment.
Right now I’m waiting for my oncologist to get back to me. I emailed her and asked her to OK deferring my return a few weeks due to my move. Hopefully she will agree and sign off.
The past 10 months have made me realize what’s important … My health, living and enjoying my life, being happy and the people I love. That also means spending my time doing things I enjoy. I don’t hate my job but I don’t love it. If it’s going to affect me in a negative way then I’ll have to leave. Right now it’s just the feeling of HR pushing me back to work before I’m ready.
We will see what oncologist says tomorrow …