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Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

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Old 12-02-2007, 11:21 PM   #1
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laura3364 HB User
Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?


I am so glad to have found this board! I was diagnosed with low rectal cancer and have been told I will need a permanent colostomy which does not bother me. (CancerDad is right - the bag isn't the worst thing). My surgeon suggested chemo and radiation and I meet with oncologists next week. We know the tumor is a T4 because I have a recto-vaginal fistula but I have not had the rest of the staging completed -- CT scan so far was clean.

I am a graduate student 3/4 time and in between full-time jobs right now, but expect an offer for a new job next week.

My question is, in reading some of these posts, the timeline for "getting well" or back to functioning is 6 months-one year. I am 43 and I am beginning to believe I can't take the new job when it is offered, and am wondering if I should just concentrate on graduate school (it is my last semester) instead of trying to do everything. How bad does the chemo and radiation pre-surgery knock you out? I am wondering if I should put what I can on hold until I get through this or try to do what I can, like finish school. Any advice would be appreciated. I am trying to grasp the concept that it is worth turning my life upside down for a year but I don't want to give up every semblance of normalcy that I have. I have great support and finances would be tough without working for that long but I could manage.

I would appreciate anyone willing to share.



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Old 12-03-2007, 02:16 PM   #2
Nassau one
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Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

Hi Laura, I am so sorry you are having to go through this but it sounds like you have a great attitude and that will help. It is difficult to say if you will be able to work while in treatment....everybody responds differently and there is no way of knowing how you will feel. My husband had surgery first and then the chemo/radiotherapy and he could not work for about five months as he had complications at surgery. Some people sail through with no problems.

I admire your wish to have as normal a life as possible but the treatment can be quite draining and you need to nurture yourself while on it. Personally, I would probably concentrate on finishing graduate school and then taking it from there when you have a better idea as to how you are tolerating treatment, but I understand your reluctance to pass up a great opportunity. My feeling is that being in a new job would put alot of pressure on you when you already have alot of pressure!

Obviously, it is a decision you will have to make for yourself but I hope others will advise and that you will post back whenever you want to for support and encouragement. Wishing you well. It is a matter of taking a few months out of your life to be treated and then maybe a couple more to regain strength.


Old 12-03-2007, 04:39 PM   #3
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laura3364 HB User
Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

Dear Alison,

Thanks for your support and for sharing your husband's experience with me. Right now it is hard for me to make decisions with so much unknown at this point and I guess I truly won't know until I'm going through it. I have a lot on my plate now and to add to it would be sheer madness but I know I have to get through this time so everything has at least a chance of getting back to normal someday.

Thanks again.


Old 12-03-2007, 08:36 PM   #4
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Heidi'sMom HB User
Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

Hi Laura. I have a permanent colostomy and have rectal cancer, as well. I had another serious illness that started all of this stuff, but I will give you my experience. Getting used to having a permanent colostomy can be tough (at least it has been for me). I did not have radiation, but I did have 6 months of FOLFOX6 + Avastin. It was very draining physically. I don't know how much you want to have "on your plate" at the same time, but I know I could not have worked while on chemo. Actually, I still can't work due to ongoing treatment with Xeloda (oral chemo), and the residual damage to my leg due to necotizing fasciitis. Just don't try to do too much. You will need a lot of strength to get through chemotherapy. Hope this helps.


Old 12-04-2007, 05:11 AM   #5
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: New York
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laura3364 HB User
Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

Thanks, Pam. I have read some of your other posts and I appreciate you sharing your story with me. Having information from people who have walked the walk is just as valuable as what my doctors say. My mother has been undergoing treatment for lung cancer for the past 5 years and is doing fairly well, and my father is currently in the hospital having a temporary ostomy reversed from surgery to remove a blockage last spring so my family at least is no stranger to this. My mother did really well on her chemo throughout and says you simply don't know until you start. I worked with many people who had permanent ostomies but I know it's different when it is happening to you. My whole issue is, how can I keep working? I know I can work with an ostomy even if the adjustment is hard for me. But maybe it's time to start that novel I always said I would write.


Last edited by laura3364; 12-04-2007 at 05:19 AM.

Old 12-04-2007, 11:45 AM   #6
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lavender01 HB User
Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

Good Luck Laura - can I ask were you having any symptoms? I have to go next Tuesday for a colonoscopy -

Old 12-04-2007, 05:59 PM   #7
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laura3364 HB User
Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?


Yes, I had symptoms...burning and tearing when I went to the bathroom and bleeding but of course I thought it was from hemorrhoids because I am heavy and I'd always spent alot of time on the toilet -- stress hits me in my stomach and I'd get diarrhea alot anyway. I didn't worry because the blood was mostly bright red and not the dark blood usually associated with internal bleeding. Most colonoscopies turn out fine and so do most polyps if they are found; if small enough they can be easily removed right there. Be glad you are going for the test and don't worry...


Old 12-15-2007, 06:09 PM   #8
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iamwewe HB User
Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

I'm 47 and was diagnosed 9/28/07. I had a port installed 10/09/07 and began chemo and radiation on 10/11/07.
I have not returned to work since my diagnosis, as my job was very understanding as I did my research. I completed my chemo and radiation on 11/30/07. And as everyone here has stated, we all react differently. I had minimal discomfort from chemo, but radiation wreaked havoc on my body.
I think the one thing we all experience is the fatigue. I've seen posts here of people who were able to work through it. I am a pretty strong lady but couldn't manage it. Do what your body tells you, and DON'T FIGHT IT.
That's the biggest mistake I am learning to deal with as I am a high energy
kinda gal. Now I don't make plans. I've learned to adjust to doing things if I can (still learning actually.)
Where is you surgery? I'm at Sloan on 01/18 with a temporary colostomy (as planned for now.) Good luck, sending positive vibes you way for this most interesting journey we have all undertaken.

Last edited by iamwewe; 12-15-2007 at 06:11 PM.

Old 12-20-2007, 07:49 AM   #9
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cptmac HB User
Re: Newly Diagnosed -- Can I work during treatment?

I was dx with Stage IV cc in '04, after my two surgeries and recovery from that, I returned to work during chemo. I worked 50 hours a week to make up for the two days a week I needed off of work for treatment. (I needed two days off, because I had to go to a hospital 8 hours away, the doctors in my state gave me no hope).

I felt a little tired, but was it the chemo? The stress? All the extra hours?

Anyway, everyone is different. Some people told me I would feel worse the more treatments I got. This wasn't true for me. The more treatments I got, the better I felt. Mainly because I figured out how to eat a lot and jam pack it all into my day. It felt as though every time someone came into my office I was eating.

The bonus of chemo, my eyesight got a little better. I never had to shave my legs, underarms, etc. This shaves time off of getting ready. If my eyebrows looked funny, I wiped them off and redrew them in.

Once I found hats that looked cute on me, not having to blow dry my hair saved me time too.

My advice, expect the worst, educate yourself, hope for the best.

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