Working while taking chemo/radiation

  1. Greetings, all!

    In April, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. Fortunately, the node was clean and the surgeon got good, clean margins. My BRCA testing was negative (Again, something for which to be thankful!) so I am not currently facing more surgery. My oncotype score was 19, so I have chosen chemotherapy. I will follow that with radiation and hormonal therapy. I am scared of the chemo but am feeling VERY fortunate that things have gone this well.

    My question here is: Do any of you fine folks out there have any words of advise about how to continue working while I go throught his process? (Being out of work is NOT an option. My wonderful husband was recently diagnosed with ALS. Our insurance is through my job and finances do not permit COBRA. I have used 2 weeks of FMLA when having my surgery. I feel the need to protect every other second of FMLA as I don't know how/when hubby will need me.) I will be taking Taxotere and Cytoxan treatments every 3 weeks x 4 doses. That will be followed by 36 radiation treatments.

    I work in a high risk OB/GYN clinic. My chemo nurse said that I am NO risk to my patients, but they will be a risk to me. I will be taking Neupogen injections to keep my white count up. I can avoid most patients by doing telephone triage. (I will need a mental health referral, though, if I have to stay in there for 12 weeks! ;-) )

    Any words of advise and your prayers would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! And if you are overdue for your mammogram, PLEASE get it done!

    Regards to all,
  2. Visit AlsgalRN profile page

    About AlsgalRN

    Joined: Nov '06; Posts: 63; Likes: 170
    RN in OB/GYN clinic; from US
    Specialty: L&D, OB/GYN clinic


  3. by   leslie :-D
    hi robin,

    i don't know what to say.
    most certainly you have my prayers for both you and your husband.

    i have known and worked with ca survivors who continued working during txs.
    they would take a day or two off, here and there.
    sometimes they'd go home early.
    the ones i worked with, had a great deal of support by the staff.

    wishing you only the very best.

  4. by   Nursekass
    Hi. I will try to answer your concerns. I went through all of this three years ago. I was diagnosed with breast cancer lobular carcinoma - and had metastasis to one node out out 15. I was taking my last three courses for my BSN when I was diagnosed and thought my world, school and career was over. My physicians told me I would not be allowed to work in the hospital during during chemo, so I was home through this. I finished my Clinical Practicum by showing a presentation in our lobby and evaluated the project by how much literature was picked up by the public. Nightly my husband and I would drive up to the hospital and I would wait in the car. Anyways, when Christmas rolled around I was determined to shop for the kids, so I thought I felt good enough to go out. I became extremely ill with pneumonia and could have died. I was admitted to the hospital and came home on Christmas day (with O2). The bottom line, chemo weakens you so. I took Adriamycin/Cytoxin for four doses every three weeks then Taxol for four doses every three weeks. All of this was followed by radiation for 32 days - 60 miles away. You will be very, very immunocomprimised. I know of a very young man who became gravely ill and died by attending his child's kindergarten play. My suggestion is to see if the hospital will relocate you to another area for the time you are out. But, the better thing is to stay home, heal and take care of your self. It is the one time in your life that you will come to appreciate all of what really matters - your family and friends. Everything has a way of working out, it truly does. And PS - my hair has grown back, I finished by BSN, just received by CDE, and I think I heading back for my MSN this fall - all at the age of 53. Good luck to you
    Last edit by Nursekass on Jun 23, '07
  5. by   Daytonite
    I went through a surgery to remove a parotid tumor and because the pathology said the margins were questionable, a full course of radiation therapy was recommended. I returned to work 2 weeks after the surgery and fully intended to stay working during radiation therapy since I was working the night shift. However, 4 days into the radiation therapy I started having side effects that side-lined me. Besides the local effects it was causing in my mouth I was getting incredibly tired. I used FMLA leave for the next 6 or 7 weeks and it was probably the best thing because I got really ill.

    Radiation, as you probably are aware is a local treatment so it depends on where they are aiming the radiation beams. Radiation to the chest depending upon how deep they are going can bring on lung and bronchial irritation. My mother went through chemo and then radiation therapy for breast CA. She did great for the chemo, but by the end of the radiation she was coughing and hacking quiet a bit. I know they also tried to avoid it by rotating the entry sites, but she had a lot of skin erythema similar to a bad sunburn that was very bothersome to her. They couldn't do much site rotation for my type of radiation therapy and by the end, the skin on my left ear was black and some of it hurt like the dickens. The rest of my ear was numb from nerve damage that couldn't be avoided during the surgery anyway.
  6. by   jolleygirl
    My prayers are with you and your husband as well.
    I can not imagine how this is going for you, but I am currently on oral cytoxan, and working full time. I haven't, thankfully, experienced S/E's.
    I wish you well, definately use you FMLA if you need it your not going to be much good to your husband if you don't take good care of yourself first.
    God Bless
  7. by   StacieRN
    I was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. My doctor would not let me work as the patients would be a risk to me.

    As far as chemo, I had different drugs. I did have one of the harshest chemo regimines. I had very few side effects from the chemo other than neutropenia and anemia.

    The radiation totally kicked my butt!!!!! I can not imagine working through that. The fatigue was unbelieveable!!!

    It took about two months after treatment for my immune system to return to a normal level where being around the sick was no longer dangerous.

    I wish you well. I hope you can get through this. Many prayers are being sent your way.
  8. by   traumaRUs
    I have no words of experience but want to wish you and your husband the best.
  9. by   gail323
    Four years ago in March, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a bilateral mastectomy (my choice), underwent 8 chemo treatments - 4 Adriamycin/Cytoxin and 4 Taxol - every 3 weeks. I would have my chemo on Monday and it would be the next week before I would feel up to trying to work - it is an unusual type of fatigue that goes along with chemo.

    I would work half days through the next two weeks and then be down again. By the time I had finished my first four treatments, I had used up what fmla and sick time that I had available. Working in a clinic meant that I either worked full time or could resign. It was probably one of the hardest things that I have ever done and I could probably have fought for my job - but decided that fighting for my life and health was more important.

    Then it was time for my radiation. It was a 30 mile one way trip to the radiation clinic so it would have been difficult to work and make it to those treatments.

    Can you do it? Many people are able to do so - it all depends on how well you tolerate the treatments. I am still not "back to work" but my parents are needing me so much right now so spend time with them every several weeks. I would not be able to do it if I was working.

    So far, I'm doing well - get my labs drawn again next month and see my pcp. See the oncologist once a year.
    Gail in MN