Home > Collective Diary > Working with Metastatic Cancer
Mary C. on January 9, 2018
I was Diagnosed with:
Metastatic Breast Cancer 2016, (IDC Stage 3 C in 2012, Triple Positive)
Trying to work, almost full time
Type and Description of Treatments:
2012 diagnosis was Invasive Ductal Stage 3 C, had 20 weeks of chemotherapy, Adriamycin, Cytoxin, Taxol,Herceptin, bi-lateral mastectomy, radiation, Tamoxifen and reconstruction; then needed PT for right arm. During 2012 I continued to work almost full time during all treatment, only off 8 weeks for mastectomy. 2016 diagnosis came after months of treatment for supposed lymphedema to my right arm. Turned out to be a new lymph node tumor that spread into my right shoulder tissue and 5 spots along my spine. Had 16 weeks of Taxol, then Herceptin & Perjeta continuing every 3 weeks, and Letrozole daily. I was off work the first 6 weeks of Taxol as my right arm (dominant arm) was so swollen and painful I had lost the use of it completely. Needed several months of PT for right arm to regain strength and range of motion.
How do you feel today?
I still get tired and achy frequently, which I did not have before the 2016 recurrence. My right arm is still weak and numb, I have difficulty writing and keyboarding, still have some chemo-brain, not to mention constant worry about being metastatic.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?
I certainly don't sweat the small things! I do put myself first.
What is going well for you right now?
I am tolerating the treatment well and have had significant tumor reduction.
What is not going well for you right now?
Right arm weakness and numbness, fatigue and achiness. I've been working about 35 hours a week, haven't been able to get to 40. I applied for a partial Long Term Disability Benefit but was denied as the insurance carrier does not think I have any disability.
What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?
Constant worry of it progressing, and worry if I'm eating healthy enough.
When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?
Belong to support group, have seen a counselor.
How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?
Before cancer I had planned to work until age 62, now I would like to be retired already but have a child starting college.
What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?
Used to work 45-50 hours a week, I have a very busy Human Resources position at a manufacturing facility. Worked part time in 2017 though chemotherapy, then slowly increased hours to 35 hours a week, 5 days at 7 hours a day, but am having trouble with this schedule. Would like to be at 30 hours/week.
Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?
Working fewer hours, not doing any travel for work.
What has helped you continue to work the most?
A compassionate boss and helpful co-workers who have taken over a few of my assignments. I also feel like I have to keep working as I have fabulous medical insurance and a child we are putting through college.
What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?
Don't try to work full time during chemo!
How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?
Sleep more, don't be afraid to take pain meds when needed, be honest with your doctor about how you feel, if one medication doesn't work there are others you can try.
If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?
Don't be afraid to see a counselor, put yourself first, your own health is the most important.