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Teaching During Chemo? Yes or No?

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Pines
Pines Member Posts: 38

Hello, I am currently getting chemo (taxotere and cytoxin) for 4 rounds.  I completed my first round with not too bad of side effects.  I got laid off at the end of last school year, but just got recalled today to teach 1st grade.  I have seen that some of you ladies are teachers.  I am wondering if any of you worked through chemo and how it went?  I am taking the neulasta shot the day after chemo to help keep wbc count up.  I really want to work, but don't want to do it if it's foolish while still doing chemo.  Of course my primary goal is living!

Please share any information that you have.  Any general working during chemo info would be great too.

Thanks for your help!

Shay

Comments

  • hrf
    hrf Member Posts: 706
    edited August 2009
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    I think if you are in school you will be exposed to many potential harmful viruses and bacteria. Because your white count is still going to be low (the Neulasta helps to bring it up faster but it will still go low) you may be putting yourself in a dangerous situation. I also did the 4 rounds of TC and there was no way that I even had the energy or ability to work. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  • Mazy1959
    Mazy1959 Member Posts: 254
    edited August 2009
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    Shay,

    I thought maybe you would like to hear from a parent.  When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher had breast cancer. She went thru chemo and radiation, worked the whole time and did not catch any bad germs etc. She washed her hands alot, insisted the kids wash their hands and she explained that although she loved hugs..she could no longer hug the kids. The kids understood and so did all the parents. The school custodian made a special effort to keep things extra clean.  Many parents, including myself, told her to feel free to ask for help if she needed it. I hope this helps..Hugs, Mazy

  • weety
    weety Member Posts: 371
    edited August 2009
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    Hi, I'm also a teacher who just got diagnosed with breast cancer.  Had my first chemo today.  My onc said "No Way" to the teaching.  I teach kindergarten, and I would think 1st graders are just as bad at sharing their germs.  I can't tell you how many times I have been sneezed directly in my face and touched with their snotty hands.  Young kids just don't know how to keep germs to themselves.  Also, the swine flu is another threat we will have to deal with as well.  I would try your hardest not to work.  My chemo will be over in December.  It's really not that long of a time to take off, if you can.  Better to be safe than sorry--always, always my motto.

  • Pines
    Pines Member Posts: 38
    edited August 2009
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    Thanks all for your very helpful responses.  I'll call my oncologist on monday to see what she says.  I don't know if I'll be eligible for FMLA since I only taught for one year before layoff. 

    Shay

  • Pines
    Pines Member Posts: 38
    edited August 2009
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    Weety - are you taking FMLA?  I don't know if I'll be eligible because I only taught one year prior and we had to cut 6 days due to budget issues.  Will you be going back to work after chemo?  I thought it might be weird for the students to have one teacher (sub) for the first few months of school and then get a whole new teacher (me) for the rest of the year.  What do you think? 

  • jezzy234
    jezzy234 Member Posts: 127
    edited August 2009
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    I taught throughout my tx.  I washed my hands a lot and had the students disinfect their hands the minute they walked in the door.  The janitors disinfected the desks, my phone, my keyboard for me as well.  My oncologist told me to try it and see what happened.  I filled out all the necessary paperwork for leave just in case.  I think everyone is different in their reaction to chemo.

    .  Oh yeah, I had my treatment on Thursday, still felt energetic from the decadron on Friday and still worked, so I set aside time and lesson plans for the yucky days I sometimes felt on Monday.  I had great support from other teachers ; they helped the kids to remember to wash their hands and use kleenex if they were sneezing.

  • weety
    weety Member Posts: 371
    edited August 2009
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    Shay T,

    No, I am not taking FMLA.  I actually already used that up on maternity leave.  (I found my breast lump during breastfeeding the baby the month I went back to work.)  So, I will be using my statutory sick leave which pays 50% for up to 100 days.  After that, I think if I need to, I will be eligible to take another FMLA because it would be a new calendar year by then. I think you're right, though, you might have to have worked for 3 years to be eligible.  Not sure, though.

     As for having 2 teachers during the year, that's just the way it goes sometimes.  I am such a control freak.  It was really hard for me to do, also.  I started the year last year just till Thanksgiving, but then was off the rest of the year with the baby until the last month of school.  The kids did just fine.   If you have any more questions, please ask!

  • zap
    zap Member Posts: 1,850
    edited August 2009
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    Jess, your experience is almost identical to mine.  I too had my chemo on Thursday (after school) and was fine on Friday.  I took Mondays off as I was still sick and then back in the classroom on Tuesday.  For me, keeping the routine, was the best thing.

     I taught 8th grade, however, and that is very different from first graders.  I never worried about germs because 8th grade kids are much more careful than little children.  There was a case of whooping cough and I got afraid, but then I had a vaccine and was fine.  I think working with little kids is daunting even  without chemo what with their physical needs and attention span. I was just fine with my older kids.

     It is so personal.  I like the idea of "trying it" as I think the diversion is psychologically beneficial.  If you cannot do it, do the right thing for you and the students and take a leave. 

    I wish you well.

    Susan

  • Misty1
    Misty1 Member Posts: 6
    edited August 2009
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    I did TCH x 4 just about one year ago.  I had the first TX on 7/30 and went back to school right before the second one.  I am in elementary.  My doc said as long as I was careful and had no problems, I could continue.  I would take one day off for the other three TXs and that was it!!  I always kept distance from the kids and had the custodians wash my table every day.  I kept antibac close by.  Good luck!  Going to work took my mind off of everything that was going on, so it was very helpful for me.

    ~misty

  • WendyK
    WendyK Member Posts: 38
    edited August 2009
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    I just felt too lousy to teach. I was lucky to have LTD benefits which I collected once my sick leave ran out. I just needed to concentrate on getting better. It was hard enough having a 2 year old son. I teach Kindergarten btw.

    Wendy

  • Pines
    Pines Member Posts: 38
    edited August 2009
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    Thank you so much everyone for sharing your experiences.  It really helps!  I think I will try it and see how it goes.  Does anyone know how to tell if your wbc count is going low before having the bloodwork?

    Thanks

  • WendyK
    WendyK Member Posts: 38
    edited August 2009
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    You don't know until you have the bloodtest. Wish there was an easier way to know.

    Wendy

  • bennetts1
    bennetts1 Member Posts: 44
    edited August 2009
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    Last year I taught throughout my chemo treatments.  I had 4 rounds of AC then 4 rounds of Taxol every 2 weeks.  I would have my treatments on Friday and have the Neulasta shot on Sunday morning.  I teach High School, which may be a little different.  With elementary children, education is the key.  Teach them about germs and handwashing.  I would always miss school on Monday after my shot because of the bone pain, but my counts were always high, and I never got sick!!!!  You need to talk it over with you oncologist.  I agree with Misty, it keeps your mind off things.  My students helped me through some difficult times.  Best of luck!

    Sandy

  • Wyoming
    Wyoming Member Posts: 4
    edited September 2009
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    Hello, I'm new to this thread. I am a teacher at an alternative high school. I was diagnosed in May of 2008. I Started Chemo in June 08 and finished up in Oct.08 then had rad. until December 08. In March of 2009 my cancer met to liver and lungs. I had txt 2x every 3 weeks. I have finally gotten my tumor markers where they need to be for remission. I now get to start spreading out my txt. I have not had to miss any days teaching. My school has a 4.5 day week, so I had txt on Fridays with the neulasta shot the same day. On Mondays I was a little tired but could handle teaching. My onc told me to keep working as long as I felt good. I have hand sanitizer through out my room and told the student why they would need to use it. I also wash my hands frequently through out the day. I have had the flu shot both years and I plan on getting the H1N1 shot when it comes available.

    Everyone reacts to chemo differently. I have found that the first and foremost important thing is to take care of yourself. If you need time off take it.  I found that working helped me through all of the txt's and kept my mind from dwelling on what was happening to my body.

    Have a good Day!!!!

    Wyoming

  • vangoghpro
    vangoghpro Member Posts: 22
    edited September 2009
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    TCH X 6 here in 3 week sequence. I teach 9th grade. I would have 3-4 days off after each chemo treatment and could then work every day.  I got low WBC and I had two delays in chemo because of that. I could tell I had WBC because I was so tired I could almost fall asleep standing up, and I bled easily. I used many sick days as I had no disability. If you have no disability and few sick days - that might be a factor in your decision because of the need for a paycheck. As others have said, you could feel reasonably well after chemo or very sick - everyone varies.

    Good luck as you undergo your treatment and after.

    Linda

  • lissette
    lissette Member Posts: 1
    edited September 2009
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    Hi Ladies.  My onc told me not to teach, but I decided to keep my routine and see how it went.  i teach 5th grade in an elementary school.  The first 2 weeks of school I taught a lesson in every class- K-5th.  I did AC every 3 weeks.  Went in on Thurs, took off Fri.  I felt a little lousy on Monday, but not too bad.  Every day after that I was fine.  I am now on my 8th weekly taxol and have not had to take a day off.  My blood count was pretty low and is currently low, but I have been really good about washing my hands and using hand sanitizer.  I spray lysol on everything before I leave.  So far, so good.  I was off during the summer and it drove me nuts.  The weeks are flying by now that I'm back at work.  I would not want to be home.  I leave work at 4 every day and go in on weekends since I give up my prep to go to chemo.  I would try it and see how it goes. I get  a lot of energy from my job.

  • lainieo
    lainieo Member Posts: 1
    edited October 2009
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    Hi,

    Thanks for posting your experiences. I will have my first chemo treatment on October 29th and am worried about working.   I teach a multiage class of  1st and 2nd graders and have decided to try and work. For now I have scheduled my chemo treatments on Thursday mornings and get my Neulasta on Fridays so I have taken off Thursdays and Fridays with the hope of working on the following Mondays. I have enough sick leave to do this.  I just went back to work 2 weeks ago after 4 weeks off from my mastectomy surgery. I do have some discomfort with the tissue expanders during the day, but have been able to work.  I worry most about fatigue and germs. I will make sure to keep Lysol on hand and talk to the custodians about doing a good job of cleaning my room. I think I will be better off working as well.   Good luck to everyone !

  • meggybb
    meggybb Member Posts: 4
    edited November 2009
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     For me, I can't imagine not teaching.  It takes my mind off of the cancer and side effects.  I had my A/C chemo on Fridays and Neulasta shot on Sat.  My doc did suggest that I take Mondays off because most of her patients have their hardest fatigue day on the 3rd day after chemo. She says this is mainly due to lack of sleep (steriod induced).  She was right in my case.  I have been teaching the entire time.  I take naps during my prep period (I teach middle school) for the first few days and it allowed me to make it through the day.  After that, my energy returned for the rest of the two weeks.  However, as soon as I get home, I eat, prep for my classes and then collaspe on the couch by 8pm.  I have been so careful with hygiene that believe it or not - I did not get the H1N1 flu when it went through our school.  I just had my last A/C this past Friday and start Taxol in 3 weeks for 12x and will be again getting it on Fridays.  There are several other teachers getting Taxol on Fridays at my infusion center and they have all be working the entire time.  Keeping my fingers crossed!

     Meggybb

  • CoolBreeze
    CoolBreeze Member Posts: 250
    edited November 2009
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    Glad to see this thread.  I'm not a teacher, but am a school secretary.  I wondered whether I should go back too - we have so many sick kids in the office, all day long.  Won't start chemo for a couple weeks, I'm still home recovering from surgery.  I will go back in the heart of flu season.

    Before I took leave for surgery I set up the phone the kids use with hand sanitizer and lysol, and the kids aren't allowed to use the phone unless they use the sanitizer  first, and then spray the phone with lysol when they are done - I was hoping that would prevent some of the spread and get everybody in a good habit for when I get back.  But, I discovered  that doesn't prevent them from coughing and puking while waiting for their parents to pick them up.   :)

    Teachers have the sick kids in their class, but we have every sick kid in the school.  We aren't with them as long though so I don't know if it's safer or not.

    I guess I should see what my onc says.  

  • jezzy234
    jezzy234 Member Posts: 127
    edited November 2009
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    I think the rule of thumb is everyone is different.  :)  I worked throughout chemo.  I am the breadwinner of the family and felt it important to maintain the status quo.  It worked for me.  It was important for me to try this and I always had (still do) a back up plan.  You know teachers, that back up lesson plan a sub can use in a pinch!!

    I also washed every desk, my phone, my computer and the doorknobs every day and each and every student either washed their hands or used disinfectant gel the second they walked thru the door during my treatment.  In fact, they are still doing this because my wbc was low in September and the h1n1 flue was rearing its ugly head!

  • Adnerb
    Adnerb Member Posts: 727
    edited November 2009
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    After my first dx. I took off a whole year from teaching.  This time around I am doing the exact same thing.  The taxotere/cytoxan combination is doing a number on me.  The side effects are so bad I am thinking of not going back for the second round.  But there is absolutely no way I can teach during chemo.

  • meggybb
    meggybb Member Posts: 4
    edited November 2009
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    Well, I am now eating my words.  On Monday I came down with a fever and just about every side effect one can get on A/C has followed. It has hit me hard.  Still didn't get the flu!  However, I have some unknown infection (possibly started in my port), a really low white blood cell count (even with Neulasta), thrush mouth/throat and very painful feet and hands.  My Oncologist was really surprized because I was doing so well.  Now I am ordered to stay away from school until WBC is back to normal and I finish my antibiotics.  Can't blame the kids for what happen - blame myself for pushing to hard and stressing myself out on Monday when I was not feeling to well.   Hope to be back soon because all I have to do now it sit at home and focus on how crappy I feel.   But, thanks to sites like this I know things will be better! 

    Still keeping my (now disgusting looking and painful) fingers crossed, Wink

    Meggybb

  • CaliforniaCloud
    CaliforniaCloud Member Posts: 105
    edited November 2009
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    I am an elementary school tutor, grades Kinder through sixth.  I worked through 4 of my 6 chemotherapy treatments.  I would have worked through all six, but the school term ended after my fourth infusion.

    My oncologist asked me to go out on disability.  I told him it wasn't an option.  He didn't put any restrictions on me, just cautioned me to used excellent hand washing techniques.  I had to take a few days off for an ear infection but I swear I got that when shopping for hats and scarves.

    My infusions were Wednesdays because that was a minimum day for us.  I never took any other days off for chemotherapy; however, Mondays were always rough days for me.  Initially, I had more good days than bad, but as the effects of chemotherapy wore on, I found myself coming home and going to straight to bed.  I also spent most of the weekend napping.

    My principal extended my contracted 40 minute lunch to 60 minutes as an accommodation.  I had limited sick time and my co-workers got together and donated sick time.  I used only two of the 120 hours donated to me.

    I battled low white blood cell counts throughout my chemotherapy.  I was on Neupogen shots for all six treatments.  Disinfecting, hand washing, and teaching the students to cough and sneeze into their arm were on-going practices. The students were great.

    I was also totally bald throughout my chemo treatments.  Again, the students were great.  In fact, this year the students are delighted to tell me that my hair is growing.

    I am a tutor, not a teacher responsible for lesson plans, grades, classroom management, administrative duties, etc.  My work week never exceeds 40-hours per week so my experience is different from a classroom teacher.  However, I am very glad that I was able to work through my chemotherapy.

    I highly recommend that you give working through your chemotherapy a try.  However, please, also check to see if there are any accommodations that can be made for you.  And above all, get some help around the house.

    I hope sharing my experience has been of help, but whether or not you choose to work during chemotherapy, remember that you must be stronger, meaner, and happier than your cancer treatments.

    Cheers!

    Cloud

  • jeanl151
    jeanl151 Member Posts: 36
    edited November 2009
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    Hello.

      I started my chemo Oct 28 and went back to my pre school class on Nov 3.  Everything went well until I got an upper resp infection.  I ended up in the hospital for 4 days on lots of antibioticts.  I thought for sure my onc would say that's it for work but nope.

        The new plan is I will take the week after chemo (lowest WBC) off then go back for a week and a half.  Hopefully this will work out.  I do enjoy being with the kids and their families.

    Jean

  • CoolBreeze
    CoolBreeze Member Posts: 250
    edited November 2009
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    My onc left it up to me. He said there is a lot more danger from your own bacteria than from other people  - however, he may not have a full understanding of my job or just how many sick kids I'm exposed to every day.

    I've not started chemo yet so don't know how it'll affect me, but honestly, I just don't feel like going back.  I'm still tired and the early workday and my long commute and the weekly infusions would make it a  hardship on me, even if I don't get bad SEs.  I don't love my job - it's mostly just paperwork and unlike teachers, , I have no real impact on students (that they can see) so I don't have that reason to soldier on.

    I'm out on disability and have been since October 20th.  With my accrued sick leave, I can take four months off.  By then the new year will start, and I need to find if I can take FMLA again.  That would get me off until the end of the school year and then I could start up again fresh, done with chemo and only weekly herceptin to worry about.

    Plus, I won't have to worry about cleaning up whatever mess my sub made until next year. 

    I suppose I should call HR and find out.

    They did offer to allow me to work at district office during my chemo if I didn't feel like going back to a school site and that might be an option. It's much, much closer than my school.  But, I have no idea what kind of work they'd give me.

    Just thinking out loud, I guess.  Hope you feel better soon Meggy.