• How successful are people balancing an executive level position, family, and breast cancer?

    Asked by Loafer on Monday, September 3, 2012

    How successful are people balancing an executive level position, family, and breast cancer?

    Can you hold down a demanding office job when going through chemo and radiation? Is one treatment easier than the other from a fatigue and brain fog standpoint?

    5 Answers from the Community

    5 answers
    • leepenn's Avatar

      Hi there. I had triple negative, and I'm a chemistry professor at a big university in the midwest. I would describe my job as quite demanding! However, it is also quite flexible... which you may or may not have. I was also a mom of a fourth grader while doing chemo.

      At any rate - my perspective on chemo plus working is that it is manageable. It depends, of course, on your chemo... and your response to it... but in general, it is manageable. During the first phase of chemo, I had weekly infusions one afternoon a week. So, I missed one-half day of work each week. Sometimes, I got really tired, and I'd close my door to take a little nap... But generally, I did pretty well during that phase of chemo (taxol plus carboplatin every third week plus a daily experimental drug (ISPY2 trial)). The second phase of chemo was much harder - the four AC treatments. During the last month, I felt hit pretty hard. The toughest was the week after my last one, and I had to teach my classes and so on. I usually walk around the classroom etc... But those classes - I was seated.... Still, I managed to make the important meetings and teach my classes during that rough week. And, it felt good to me to have been able to accomplish that.

      The advice given to me by two of the head docs (head of the clinical trial and the lead oncological surgeon) was that I should do my best to treat it like it was an inconvenience. I took that to heart.

      Another piece of advice I'd like to share is that MOVEMENT is super important. All of the docs and PAs and nurses were adamant that couch potatoes suffer much more than active people. I'm a huge bike rider... and I stayed that way through chemo. I commute to work every day by bike... run errands... pick up the child... and I ride for fun also. I did as much of that as possible, and I rode my bike every single day of chemo (except for the one three day business trip). Some days, I didn't ride far... but to be honest, the pretty darn good days far outnumbered the cruddy days.

      I hope this helps you.

      As for surgery.
      I elected for bilateral mastectomy. I wanted symmetry and wanted to avoid radiation. I had never loved having rather ample breasts, especially as an athlete, and so I am perfectly happy being flat. I opted against reconstruction because it was such a huge todo... multiple surgeries... Also, I had bumpy boobies, and I didn't want to end up constantly freaking out over every new bump....

      I hope your chemo is effective with minimal side effects!
      PS - sorry you're here... Sucks, doesn't it?

      about 4 years ago
    • GregP_WN's Avatar

      Leepen answered as best as it could be I think. From a man's point of view, this is how it affected me. The first two times I was only 28, but I had an office mgmt. job. I traveled several states to recruit sales people for our company. Then the following week me and two others trained them in classroom training. I would have treatment on Monday, then loose that day and tuesday. I would wake up on wed, and go to work,felt bad but I was there. I lost a week once due to infection and low blood count, was in the hospital. But other than that, I worked all the way through two years of chemo, radiation, 7 operations and numerous procedures.

      18 years later,I have owned my own company for 18 years, I was diagnosed again, this time radiation only. And again, I worked everyday that I wasn't in the hospital, or recovering from surgery. Radiation kicked my butt this time, I was sleepy had sores in my mouth, couldnt eat, lost 50# but kept working. I was able to go home and take a nap early if I needed, but I'd say I still done 50% of what I did. We do very physical work and I was too weak to do much, but I could still supervise and do estimates, etc.

      I hope your treatments are easy, stay positive, and just plan on your going to be fine, and strong, and do what you want.

      about 4 years ago
    • Kimi1017's Avatar

      I was diagnosed with stage 2a breast cancer. I continued going to work even during my chemo treatment. I would take a 1-week leave after every cycle and go back to work on the 2nd and 3rd weeks till my next treatment. I'm a corporate chef so yes, my job is pretty demanding.

      about 4 years ago
    • SandiD's Avatar

      That first week after chemo would be tough to try work. If you can be flexible or work from home here and there, it would be helpful. There is also fatigue to contend with, which was cumulative for me. Can you park close? Do you sit at a desk all day? Another consideration is germs. You may need to wear a mask in public, specially if you are in Really public paces or if someone has a cold. You will not be able to fight off any type of infection. This is very important. Other than these points, you might be ok. Some people react better than others. Please keep in mind that you are fighting for your life which is more important than any job. But realistically I understand the necessity of a job. With radiation, except for your daily appointments, you should be fine, perhaps a bit tired. Speak to your oncologist about all of this. Good luck to you!

      about 4 years ago
    • cranburymom's Avatar
      cranburymom (Best Answer!)

      Hi there,
      I feel your drama - I ended up with working, but I did regret.
      My husband encouraged me to go to work, so I did.
      On the second cycles of chemo, I showed up to work with empty stomach. I was blacked out for a sec, fell on the floor, and medical clew rushed into my office - yes it was a quite scene. I was wheelchair-ed out from the office.
      It was bad, but two good things came out of this - 1) I discovered a medical person at work and learned great tips (see below), and 2) my manager was impressed with me and hired a helper to reduce my workload.

      Things to remember...

      1) Likely you will not feel chemo effect on the day of the chemo and the following day. So be sure that someone will take you home on the day (in case when you receive anti-nausea and/or anti-histamine - you do not want to drive!)
      2) take it easy on the day 3-5 post chemo - you will feel the side-effects the most.
      3) if you have to go during this time, start slow, eat and drink then rest, and go to work, or work from home
      4) bring dry crakers, mint candies, coke, or whatever you can drink (avoid cranberry juice as it will dehydrate you).
      5) Tell your office worker (your assistance) a list of contacts - doctor's name and tel, your emergency contact, etc., so they can take action in case of emergency
      6) ask for help, and it is OK to say you do not feel well enough to work.
      7) Job will be there - ALWAYS! Your well-being is the number 1 priority. Do listen your body and check-in often. Nothing can replace you.



      about 4 years ago

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