Getting back to work – eventually

Today was the last day of my third cycle of treatment, and the last day of a week without chemotherapy drugs. To be honest, it’s an odd time because while I’m really happy to have made it through another cycle, and to have been having a relatively “easy” time off the drugs, I’ve got to get ready for the IV infusion tomorrow that marks the start of my next cycle. And I personally still find the needles quite difficult 🙂

However, this is a special one. This will be cycle four out of eight. The next fortnight marks the point when I’m going to be half way through my treatment. The doctors are really pleased with my progress so far, and I’ve apparently been coping better with the chemotherapy than most patients do. My last cancer marker test was also very low indeed, which is very encouraging. In short, it all sounds very positive indeed.

But of course, it’s not really that simple.

I’m tired. Not so much physically (though I am) but more mentally. This disease and its treatment just wears you down. Every day you use a little more of your reserves up to keep going. And every day you feel a little more diminished, a little less the person you were before. Of course, that also means that you’re a little more the person that you’re going to be at the end of the treatment. Because it’s becoming very clear to me that no-one comes through cancer without being changed. Staring at your own mortality changes you.

But in the meantime, one of my biggest problems is that I’m no longer working. And I miss the whole experience of working. From the friends and colleagues, the day to day deadlines, the coffee-machine conversations where you hear about all the interesting things that are happening, and yes, even the political intrigues. The good news is that my management are supportive of trying to find ways to get me more involved in work, but realistically it’s difficult when I can’t commit to any fixed schedule, and my abilities are blunted by the medications I need to take. But I was feeling very positive that with their support, we’d find a way to move forward.

But this week I’ve been able to talk about going back to work with each of my GP, my oncologist and my case worker from our occupational health department. And without exception they were all uniformly negative about my getting back to any kind of real work in the near future. They’re all concerned about my current levels of medication and tiredness, the likelihood that the treatment will get worse as it progresses, and that adding work & possibly stress to the mix will impact my recovery.

So the current advice from everyone is to concentrate on getting well first, and work second. Which is good advice, but still leaves me climbing the walls in the meantime.

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