4 years on - immune system and full time work struggles!

Hi all,
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on here but I thought I’d ask for any advice! I’d be grateful for any advice!
It will be four years next month since I finished my cancer treatment. I had a hysterectomy and five and a half weeks of radiotherapy. Since then, I have slowly managed to re-build my life and pretty much move on from cancer. However I seem to struggle with my stamina and immune system. I have heard that your health can dramatically improve after the 5 year mark. I hope so but I have also accepted that I might never get back to where I was pre cancer and for the most part, life is good and I’m pretty damn lucky!
At the moment I work, however I have recently been off for 2 weeks with labrinthitis (an inner ear infection) and my employers are far from understanding with regards to my stamina and immune system (which is pretty dire considering I work as a Fundraiser in a hospice for people who are suffering with end of life illnesses). I suppose I’m a bit of a liability to them.
On a practical note, I don’t get paid when I am off sick, therefore this month I have lost £200 in my wages. What I would like to know though is if I was to work 3 or 4 days per week, is there perhaps a benefit to claim to help top up my wages in the short term? (very difficult to ask that question with my pride) I feel like I’m constantly trying to keep up with the world of full-time work but my health is struggling to keep up a bit. On bad days I feel frustrated and that I need to ‘pull myself together’ and stop ‘milking it’, on a good day I think I’m lucky to be here at all and this is what I am left with AT THE MOMENT, but things might improve. Any advice would be gratefully received!

Hi Haf
Just wanted to say hi and offer my support. Your story sounds similar to the way I have felt since returning to work, ie I’m milking it! Why do we feel like this I wonder. I’m still on a phased return, will then be using holiday to work 3 days a week. I completed my treatment in July for stage 2b. It saddens me that employers don’t seem very understanding of what its like to go through treatment for cancer and how hard it is to get life back on track. I phoned the Macmillan helpline for advice re returning to work as I felt like leaving my job. They pointed out that we are covered by the Equality Act 2010 giving a person with cancer the same rights as a person with a disability so it is unlawful to discriminate on those grounds. I don’t know whether there are benefits available, but I would have thought you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay when off sick? Again, it may be worth calling Macmillan helpline or Ciizens Advice as they have benefit advisers who can advise regarding to your personal circumstances. Good luck with everything. xx

Thanks for getting back to me Angii1970. Wow you are going back to work very soon! You certainly are not milking it! I hope you’re feeling ok and that your phased return is helping with your confidence in getting back out there? Amazing how it all effects your confidence isnt it? It does get easier with time, I just think I’m with the wrong employer, so perhaps when you’re unhappy and stressed, your immune system takes a hammering. I will try and contact Macmillan helpline tomorrow to see if they can advise. Thanks for the suggestion.


I finished treatment in Dec 2010 and started a phased return in March 2011. I then had terrible bowel issues and was diagnoed with PRD and so was off for another few months, returning at the end of 2011. I then worked full time with only 1 day of illness but have decided that I am not capable of full time work anymore...I no longer have the stamina or ability to not pick up every bug going (I work as a teacher, so there are lots of them!!). So I give up work at the end of this term and I can't wait! I know that we might struggle on one wage, bit both my hubby and I feel that my health is more important, and I can no longer do 12+ hour days...

Hi there all

Not been on for ages. I was  a phased return too and I also asked for occupational therapy to be involved. This means i have a formal acknowledgement that I may be absent more than I was previously. This is reviewed annually. For me it means that my overall management is supportive. I am a teacher too. Unfortunately, my immediate colleagues are much less supportive despite my absence rate really not being that bad. I too seem to get bugs and viruses at double strength and am bowled over by them. I would also add that my colleagues unsupportiveness adds to the stress and fatigue that undoubtedly are a factor in my immune system being so poor. i would love to leave work but am the main breadwinner currently and don't have a clear route out.

If you have a maggie centre near you haf they can give you benefits advice too.

love sarah

Hugs Sarah,

Have now given up and already feel a new person! We may struggle financially, but I feel that I can now move on and spend time recovering from the traumas of the past few years. Teaching was not an option in this plan!! I am going back to the school to do a nurture group one afternoon a week...