Topic: Preschool teacher can't work in classroom after mastectomy

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Posted on: Aug 3, 2017 03:01AM

Posted on: Aug 3, 2017 03:01AM

sm627 wrote:

Hi Everyone,

I am a 33 year old preschool teacher and I had a mastectomy of my right breast almost 6 weeks ago to remove a 17cm and 3 pound borderline Phyllodes Tumor according to my pathology report. I talked to the director of my preschool yesterday about returning to work next week, and she does not want to put me in the classroom. She is worried that I will get hurt by some of our challenging children. She wants to put me at the front desk doing clerical work. I don't mind doing that but I would like to work with the children a little bit as well. I think they will take my mind off my breast issues more so then paperwork will. LOL

I am looking for advice for how to work with little preschool children 2-5 years old after having a mastectomy without getting injured if that is even possible? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Hugs and Love to all,


Diagnosed at 32 years old. DX 5/30/2017 Borderline Phyllodes Tumor 17cm. Surgery 6/27/2017 Mastectomy(right). Hormonal Therapy 9/25/2017 Tamoxifen
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Aug 3, 2017 08:32AM kira1234 wrote:

Sm627 you have a very thoughtful director offering the choice of working the front desk. I would take her up on the offer. Your body has been through a lot and you'll very likely find you tire easily. Gradually ease back into the classroom. Maybe ask her if you could be in your class a couple of hours daily.

Dx 6/2010, ILC, Left, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 7/8/2010 Lumpectomy; Lumpectomy (Left); Lymph node removal; Lymph node removal (Left): Sentinel; Lymph node removal (Right): Sentinel Radiation Therapy 8/3/2010 Hormonal Therapy 10/5/2010 Aromasin (exemestane) Dx 2/2017, ILC, Left, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Surgery Lymph node removal; Mastectomy; Mastectomy (Left); Mastectomy (Right) Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Aug 3, 2017 09:13AM Icietla wrote:

Hi Sara. So glad you are feeling so much better! Your Director is very thoughtful of your safety. You certainly do not want to be mobbed by jumping children. Do you think they might hug you? Shuffling papers has its hazards too -- paper cuts. If you make a habit of standing (stacks of) papers on edge and rapping them to straighten them up, you are bound to get paper cuts within paper cuts.

Wow, how things have changed! When I was a little child, there was School, and there was Kindergarten for the school year prior to First Grade, and relatively few went to Kindergarten.

Here are some ideas for non-hazardous activities__

Art activities -- Coloring with crayons. Weaving pre-cut strips of colored construction paper. Coloring with colored chalk on a sidewalk or other paved area outside the classroom.

Learning to count. Learning to count change.

Learning to read (round) clocks to tell time. Learning how much of their time (in hours) is spent at pre-school.

Learning names of calendar days and calendar months. Learning to count days, weeks, months on a calendar. Learning that the passage of calendar time relates to repeating Seasons, holidays, birthdays, back-to-school time. Fill out a calendar with their birthdays to be indicated by them.

You could read stories to small groups. Choose thin-ish, lightweight books with large pages. After reading a pair of pages to them, you turn the book around to show them the accompanying illustrations.

Much content from Highlights magazine for children would be good for times of individual attention with the youngest ones.

My latest (Stage IVB) diagnosis is almost certainly of another distant primary type. To the best of my information and belief, I am still apparently what we call NED as to breast cancer, doubtless thanks to Letrozole. Dx 2/12/2016, ILC, Right, Stage IIA, Grade 1, 0/13 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 2/19/2016 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 4/1/2016 Femara (letrozole) Surgery 4/25/2016 Prophylactic ovary removal Dx 8/2018, Stage IV
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Aug 3, 2017 10:18AM exbrnxgrl wrote:

Hi Sara,

I know what you mean about wanting to work with the kids. It is emotionally uplifting for me. That being said, and with kudos to your director for being so considerate, what do you doctors say? Have you been medically cleared to resume your duties? Do you have any restrictions?

I admit to having little familiarity with pre-school standards and curriculum, but do know that some are more academic and some are more play based. Are you unionized? If so, your contract might protect you if you really want to be back in the classroom. Sorry if I'm way out in left field here, but as I said, I'm not too familiar with the world of pre-school. My point is, if you are medically cleared to work without restrictions and you want to be in the classroom, you should be able to. After my bmx, getting back to my students was the best medicine!


Yes, content standards have changed in a very big way! I am a K-8 credentialed teacher in CA. I currently teach first grade, but taught K for many years. I also teach at a highly regarded school which is faithful to state content standards, so our curriculum is quite rigorous. I'm almost 61 and ate paste, played with blocks and napped when I was in K!

Dx IDC, Left, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 1, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Aug 3, 2017 01:27PM sm627 wrote:

Hi Ladies,

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions and support I really appreciate you taking the time to write to me. I am glad that my director is so understanding and willing to work with me to ease back into work and not be in harms way from all my little running children. Good idea about asking if I could spend maybe an hour or two with the children. I saw my breast surgeon a little over a week ago when she took out my stitches, and I asked her about going back to work, and she didn't say that I couldn't go back to work. I did ask if she would write a doctors note and she said she would and put restrictions since I can't lift my right arm over my shoulder. I am going to PT for the next 2 months to regain motion in my right arm. I know that I wouldn't be the greatest of help in the classroom when it came to all the physical demands of working with the children. That mean I will miss out on all the dipper changing of the toddlers oh how I will miss that not really LOL. So I guess if I don't get my doctor's note by the end of this week I'll contact my sugeon and see when I can expect to receive it.

I guess the up side to working with all the paper is if I have some extra time during my brakes I could look up information about tamoxifen since that is what my oncologist wants me to take. I guess i need to work on being patience and wait for my body to tell me when it is ready to go back to working with the children. Even thought my mind is 100% ready to go back the rest of me really isn't so hard and sad to have to wait.

What an impatient child I am. I will try not to get too many paper cuts while I wait to go back to be with the children!

Any ideas on how to make office work fun or exciting?

Hugs to all,


PS. Kira1234 and exbmxgrl thank you for helping me out again with your teaching wisdom like you did with my last post.

Diagnosed at 32 years old. DX 5/30/2017 Borderline Phyllodes Tumor 17cm. Surgery 6/27/2017 Mastectomy(right). Hormonal Therapy 9/25/2017 Tamoxifen
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Aug 3, 2017 02:03PM LisaAlissa wrote:

Maybe you could take a break or two from the front desk to read books to the children? (I'm thinking of the sort of "story hour" you see at public you do that with your children?)

About making office work fun/exciting? Probably not. But you can make it engaging. By trying to think of ways to do things better/more quickly/etc. If you're also answering phones, then you need to make sure that you'll be able to drop/pick-back-up the paperwork without errors because of the break for the phone call. Multi-tasking is a must at a front desk. And be sure to smile when you talk on the phone...even though the caller can't see you, they can hear the smile in your voice. Try to meet each caller's needs in the best way possible.

If there's not enough paperwork/phone calls to keep you occupied, can you have a (not urgent) project for those times when there isn't paperwork to be done or calls to be fielded? Maybe an on-line continuing ed course? Or development of curricula for when you return to the classroom? or possibly a research project in your field?

The prospect of getting to work on a project you're excited about can help you engage with your paperwork in an effort to zoom through it and get to the thing you'd like to spend time on.



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Aug 3, 2017 02:41PM kira1234 wrote:

Sarah when I worked at the preschool part of my job was to run the front desk from 3 to close which was 6 for us. I really enjoyed that time talking to the parents. In my case I was the acting director so many responsibilities come with that job.

Dx 6/2010, ILC, Left, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 7/8/2010 Lumpectomy; Lumpectomy (Left); Lymph node removal; Lymph node removal (Left): Sentinel; Lymph node removal (Right): Sentinel Radiation Therapy 8/3/2010 Hormonal Therapy 10/5/2010 Aromasin (exemestane) Dx 2/2017, ILC, Left, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Surgery Lymph node removal; Mastectomy; Mastectomy (Left); Mastectomy (Right) Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Aug 3, 2017 06:27PM octogirl wrote:

I appreciate all of the replies from folks who assumed that the Director was trying to protect you Sara, but I have to say that I think you should consider the possibility that the Director is either being over protective or otherwise has issues with you returning to work in the classroom. I see from your second post that you do have some mobility issues, but it isn't clear that your Director knew of those issues when she said she didn't want you in the classroom. Are you getting reconstruction? Is she afraid you will look different and that would bother the kids? (My guess is that the kids are much less likely to notice or care than some adults might). Are you immunocompromised in any way (ie on chemo)? If so, that would be a reason to avoid little kids and their germs (though frankly, not sure the office will be that much more of a protective environment from germs than the classroom). As for the Tamoxifen: you may have no or minimal SEs, but if you do have SEs you'd have to address that at the time. No way to know in advance how it will go for you (and many women report that the SEs don't happen immediately upon starting the drug: you could be fine for two years and then get SEs).

Sounds like mobility could be an issue but there are likely ways to accommodate that issue that allow you classroom time (such as the suggestion to read to the kids, or to participate in supervision of less hectic activities, such as arts and crafts) If the arm/shoulder mobility is the concern is a kid really likely to injure you if you don't overdo use of the arm or shoulder?

I worked all through treatment and recovery from bc, but I had a very supportive boss (and a desk job). However, some folks in my workplace just seemed to assume I couldn't work during treatment. Even now, two years later, I recently had an experience where a boat operator wanted to keep me from a participating in a scuba trip because she didn't think I should dive after breast cancer. (She thought the letrozole might be an issue and that I shouldn't dive while on anti-hormonals). I educated her, told her I had my doctor's blessing, got a note from him and dove right in. One big difference between that situation and yours? I have no legal rights to go diving. You do have legal rights and protections related to accommodation in the workplace if you are temporarily disabled. Listening to your body and being patient is a good thing if you need to do that to heal. If you'd heal better doing your regular job, I'd have longer talks about it with both your doc and your Director, and consider asking for that accommodation.

Dx 6/18/2015, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 7/16/2015 Lumpectomy; Lumpectomy (Right); Lymph node removal Chemotherapy 9/9/2015 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 12/15/2015 Hormonal Therapy 1/15/2016 Arimidex (anastrozole) Hormonal Therapy 4/8/2016 Femara (letrozole)
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Aug 3, 2017 10:05PM debiann wrote:

Companies are always worried about workman comp injuries. I teach during the week, but work part time at Walmart on the weekend. For my final surgery (nipple, areola and a slight revision to the shape), I asked for the weekend following surgery off. The doctor's note said for an 2 additional weeks, don't lift over 10 pounds. My immediate supervisor was fine with this, there was plenty I could do without lifting, However, human resources considered this an "accommodation" and it had to be cleared with their insurance company.

I had to do a phone interview with someone from the company, who determined I could not have the accommodation because she feared I might be tempted to lift more and I could "re-injur" myself. I had to miss three weeks of work.

"I live knowing it will be ok when I'm not." Dx 3/2014, IDC, 2cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ Surgery 4/3/2014 Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel Targeted Therapy 5/8/2014 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 5/8/2014 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 9/29/2014 Mastectomy: Left, Right; Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap Hormonal Therapy 11/5/2014 Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Aug 4, 2017 12:12AM sm627 wrote:

Hi All thanks for writing back,


Thank you for suggesting reading books to the children at my preschool we have a small library outside of the classroom that I could take some of my well mannered children out for story time. I will talk to my Director and see if that is possibility. Thank you for the office tips I will be sure to follow them smiling well talk on the phone sounds like a good one. One thing I can do in my spear time is finish my "children's" files and reports that I didn't get to back in May. If you have any other office advice I would love to hear more. Thanks again. Best to you!


Thank you for being my inspiration to have a good work ethic in whatever kind of job I end up having. You are such an amazing person taking on so many different responsibilities and working so hard to make sure that everything you do is done well. I am glad you enjoyed talking to the parents. I too enjoying talking to the parents in my classroom it is nice to find out how they are doing in their lives, and I think it helps form a good relationship with them that, in turns, helps you learn more about how best to help their children grow and learn. Wishing you all the best!


Thanks for your questions and thoughts about my situation. I haven't gotten reconstructive surgery yet my breast surgeon wanted to wait before doing that to make sure that she was able to get all of the tumor out. The kind of tumor I have does not respond to chemo or radiation so that is not an issue. The only way to get rid of the darn tumor is to surgically remove it. I know my director would not have a problem with me looking different around the children. At my preschool we teach our children about how not everyone looks the same, and how we should respect everyone no matter what they look like. Regarding the children some of the children in my classroom are very challenging, and in the past I have gotten hit, punched, kicked and spoken to with lots of colorful language, so I think that it the main reason why my director does not want me in the classroom to keep me safe. I will just miss all the children that don't cause me bodily harm. Thank you for the info about tamoxifen and the side effects taking a while to show up. I am glad you were able to work through your BC and had the support of your boss it makes all the differences to have support during these very difficult times. Hope you are doing well.


It is nice to hear from you again thanks for helping me out with my current issue. I appreciate you sharing your story with me about Walmart I am so sorry you had to go through so much not only with your surgery, but just trying to get back to work seemed to be such a struggle. Are you still currently working for Walmart or have you found a different part time job? It is not fair how teachers have to have more then one job just to make it in this world. I hope something chances were teachers are valued more in our country. Hope you are doing well and wishing you all the best.

Hugs to all,


Diagnosed at 32 years old. DX 5/30/2017 Borderline Phyllodes Tumor 17cm. Surgery 6/27/2017 Mastectomy(right). Hormonal Therapy 9/25/2017 Tamoxifen

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