" Telling work about cancer had a bit of a mixed reaction for me, I was wondering if I would get through it while they were wondering how they would cope with one less person to do a complex job where I was the only one with the experience to do it.
The union/company had some guidelines where they wouldn't let me continue to work or to use telephones, send emails or represent, in case I got it wrong due to stress/brain fog. I could only go on site if HR had asked me due to insurance issues. I was a bit upset at first but soon realised they had a valid point.
I was told as a rule I wouldn't be required to rush back for the first 12 months which would be covered by full wages then after that it would be half wages. My treatment took some diverse turns and I was sent for further testing during my treatment which extended past the 12 months, however they decided to let me go back before the results of the testing were finished.
I went back on a phased return which took over 6 weeks; 2 hours a day for the first 2 weeks then up to 4 hours for the next two weeks then 6 hours then finally to 8 hours. I also was able to loose some of my more difficult customers until I got back into the swing of it. Unfortunately this didn't happen as on my final CT scan I had a blood clot on my lung which put me out of action for a further month which didn't go down too well but to be fair they allowed me to have another phased return at the end of the month getting used to warfarin.
Hospital appointments etc were honoured without question, however I felt I was getting weaker and weaker, it was getting harder to get up and go in but I felt they had really done enough to try and get me back into the swing of things.
However once back to full time and not so much under the protection of HR it was expected that I was back to "normal" and I was going to be able to step back in and things would just carry on where I left off!
Gloves were off; my boss, a MAN, was one of the worst as his father had prostate cancer and let no opportunity go by to tell me how well he was doing and how it wouldn't be long until I was back to full strength.
He used to deliberately hold meetings in an office down two flights of stairs, sometimes twice a day, that killed my knees and absolutely finished me for doing anything else. I was so exhausted walking up and down 2 flights of stairs and they were usually meetings about meetings.
He was generally as awkward as he could be. down to telling me I couldn't use the disabled space which nobody else could use because there was a step at the drivers door but my car was high and went over the top of it.
That was overridden by HR and was a big help.The others in the office were initially glad to see me back as it meant they were able to get rid of most of what they had taken on when I went off sick, however then my boss, using his father as a yardstick, started to give me new customers and I just felt I wasn't able to cope as well as I did before.
Hard as it was to admit. I was no longer up to the job. I was used to thinking on my feet but not now. When you had been on long term sick your holiday entitlement was returned to you when you came back so I had the full 4 weeks. He told HR that he didn't think I would want to take them ....no discussion with me so I had the added pressure of cringing every time I asked for holiday.
They didn't realise that I was not recovering as well as they wanted or as I wanted either; the fatigue was and still is dreadful. Every day round about 2 - 3.30 I felt like I had been unplugged; just totally devoid of energy and felt my head was going to hit the desk; sometimes had to stop the car on the way home and lean up the side of the glass because I hadn't the energy to continue the whole 5 miles in one go.
I couldn't remember things, I was reading things and not really understanding stuff I has started to make a few mistakes which fortunately was able to correct but was very wary of the consequences.
The crunch for me was when they moved the office which meant the toilets were a lot further away, There was nothing that could be done about that and I felt that I wasn't able to mention to my boss who was the man I mentioned previously.
I eventually got the opportunity to talk to the boss above mine who was a woman and she was the same age as me and I think put herself in my position and was able to empathise about it and knew they weren't going to be able to do anything about the location of the toilets which was quite an issue after brachytherapy and was often left sitting in less than dry clothes.
When they announced a redundancy programme I applied and she accepted me for it which I was grateful for I don't think they fully understood the fatigue and the memory and there was a general feeling of not belonging there any more; the guidelines they had was general for who ever had cancer and not for the individual.
Its hard to say they should do more as they still have to keep the company running. I feel lucky to have had all that support from the company and know that a lot of smaller company's could not afford to pay someone for a year still survive and I know had I gone back to HR they would have stepped in and overrode my boss but that is a very difficult step to take when you are working in a small team."
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xx Kaz xx