Can you work while going through chemo & radiation?

My boss is more anxious than I am about my diagnosis.  She has been very kind to me, but I know she is worried about the work load.  I have no idea if I am going to be able to work while going through treatment.  I am thinking about taking two days a week off--chemo day + day after.  If I have 6 weeks of treatment, that would be 12 days, which I will use my vacation to cover.  Is this doable, or am I dreaming that I will be able to work through treatment?

Hi doglover,

It's individual. I asked my radiation oncologist at the start, and he said probably not. But I was very anaemic at the start even after the blood and iron transfusions and my HB was still low with just the Fe tabs to help bump it up. They were expecting both the chemo and radiation to reduce my blood counts. I got really bad fatigue. I'd be exhausted just walking up the road and back. I also had poor concentration. Along with nausea and diarrhoea. Some people though you see and they manage to work through the whole treatment. My oncologist said some people feel better with work to distract them, others feel worse.


Thank you, Bexter!

I think it depends on your job. You will get tired and need to rest but you also need to keep your mind and body active.

On a practical level I was unable to work as I'm a childminder and need to work full days. Depending on your distance from the hospital, radiotherapy can take a full morning.  My travel time was at least 45 mins each way. The actual treatment takes no more than 10/15 minutes but there's often delays and one of my days the machines went down so for people after me it was a 3 hour delay if I remember rightly.  

Chemo is a full day so that's a definite no work day and brachy days are a no no too. 

Maybe aim to do a couple of mornings or afternoons of that's possible but why not take some time off? Once your tumour is honestly,  you'll be back on the grindstone of full time work. Use this period of time to get well instead of feeling you have to do everything and burning yourself out

It's so variable, I managed 3 days after my first cycle, then the nausea took over, I had chat with my oncologist and she felt that I should only comit to one day a week working from home, as that's not an option I'm taking 80 days sick in addition to the 28 days I had for my hysterectomy, my oncologist said it wouldn't be unreasonable to take 6 months off. My main concern was the risk of infection, particularly as I use public transport, also my colleagues natural instinct was to put their arms around me for a cuddle even when full of cold.

Having accepted that my body needs this time off to be at its best for treatment and recovery overall I feel much better for it.

Yes there is a massive financial implication as I will only receive statutory sick pay which is significantly less the my usual salary, but for me I think I've made the right choice.

Both of my oncologists recommended taking the time off during treatment and suggested not hurrying back to work after if financially possible. Your body will need some time to heal, and it's easier if you aren't worried about work.

I am one of the few that are having a hard time with nausea related to the radiation, possibly because I have para aortic nodes that are also being blasted. We're playing with meds, but there is no way I would be able to work while we're trying to figure it out. I have someone drive me every day to treatment as there is no way I'd be able to safely do it. My commute is about an hour and a half each way, so I spend the time trying to sleep.

I hope I haven't discouraged you, but as you are trying to plan (exactly like I did), I thought you should know the rare possibilities. Everyone was surprised by my early reactions, which says how rare it is.

My fingers are crossed that you have smooth sailing through your treatment like so many of the ladies on the forum!

Thank you everyone for your responses.  My boss tells me to take it easy, my health is more important, blah, blah, blah, but then she said she may have to hire someone to cover for me, which makes me nervous.  I am a writer, and I keep thinking what if they like the new person more than me?!  I wish I didn't have to worry about this.

The first 3 weeks most people are fine, carry on as normal, by the end of the 3rd week fatigue sets in, perhaps you could work half days? You will start getting your strength back 2 weeks after treatment finishes. Get help in your household with cooking cleaning etc, so you will be able to go to work, come home and sleep!

To help with side effects, crystalized ginger , any form of ginger, helps nausea, aqueous cream rubbed in radiation area daily before treatment, helps skin, yakult daily, or drinking aloe vera helps with bowel problems. Any medication they prescribe for you to take daily, do so to the letter. Drink water before radiation to help protect your bladder , it needs to be full rather than empty.

Every one is different an handles the treatment different, I worked all the way through rads an chemo an 3 days after braccy I was sat at my desk, however in hindsight I should of taken some time out as emotionally I was a wreck an had no fear of situations that put myself in danger and my staff. If u can take time out an need to take time out then do that