Topic: Did you retire before you had planned to as a result of cancer?

Forum: Employment, Insurance, and Other Financial Issues — Employment, insurance, and financial concerns are common. Meet others here to discuss and for support.

Posted on: Nov 21, 2019 08:40AM

Posted on: Nov 21, 2019 08:40AM

moderators wrote:

Many people in the workforce look forward to retiring one day, and most of us try to do our best to plan for retirement. But some of us encounter medical issues that might force us to consider an early, unplanned retirement. Did you make the decision to retire before you had planned to as a result of your breast cancer diagnosis? How did you come to the decision? Were you prepared? What have you ended up doing in your retirement? Share your story and we may include your voice in a new article on Breastcancer.org about facing an unplanned retirement due to breast cancer.

Thank you!

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Nov 21, 2019 04:13PM illimae wrote:

Absolutely. I had a 401k since I was 25 and the last 11 years have also included a retirement plan/pension from my employer. I was diagnosed stage IV de novo in 2016 but continued to work, brain mets were found in 2017 and I still worked until summer of 2018 when treatment related SE’s became challenging to manage while full time. At 43 I went on extended leave and plan to retire officially next month. Unfortunately, at 44 my only option is early retirement with a 26% penalty and a distribution over many years (retirement plans formula, not how long I may actually have left). This leaves me with enough to cover my portion of my husbands healthcare premium plus maybe $5/mo. Laughable but I’m grateful for the good insurance. I’ll rollover the 401k after I retire, so hubs will have it and I was able to get an accelerated death benefit payout for current needs.

Diagnosed at 41 Stage IV De Novo Dx 11/16/2016, IDC, Left, 5cm, Stage IV, metastasized to bone, Grade 3, 3/13 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+ Chemotherapy 1/1/2017 Abraxane (albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel) Targeted Therapy 1/1/2017 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Targeted Therapy 1/1/2017 Perjeta (pertuzumab) Surgery 6/26/2017 Lumpectomy; Lumpectomy (Left); Lymph node removal Radiation Therapy 8/10/2017 Breast, Lymph nodes Dx 10/5/2017, IDC, Left, 5cm, Stage IV, metastasized to brain, Grade 3, 3/13 nodes, ER+, HER2- Radiation Therapy 10/19/2017 External Local Metastases 10/19/2017 Brain Radiation Therapy 4/18/2018 External Local Metastases 4/18/2018 Brain Radiation Therapy 5/22/2019 External Local Metastases 5/22/2019 Brain Surgery 1/21/2020 Radiation Therapy 2/16/2020 External Local Metastases 2/16/2020 Brain Radiation Therapy 7/20/2020 External Local Metastases 7/20/2020 Radiation therapy: Bone Radiation Therapy 12/4/2020 External Local Metastases 12/4/2020 Brain Targeted Therapy Tukysa (tucatinib) Chemotherapy Xeloda (capecitabine) Hormonal Therapy Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
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Nov 21, 2019 11:46PM meow13 wrote:

Yes, I kind of felt pushed out early at age 56. But I guess I am happy.

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Nov 23, 2019 06:44AM Albertan wrote:

I too felt pushed out of my company. I had not planned to retire so soon. I had a single mastectomy and chemo. The chemo affected me, as it does many others, with "chemo-brain", and was diagnosed, after a full day of testing with cognitive impairment. The testing was done at the request of the insurance carrier. My company kept pressuring me to come back to work, in spite of the cognitive diagnosis. The insurance carrier seemed not to believe their contracted person who had done the testing and diagnosis.

So I was pressured by my company to return to work, the insurance company did not believe their own testing and were refusing to support me any more, I had cognitive impairment. I felt completely unsupported by the organizations that were badgering me, so I retired. Not happy about the circumstances. Happy that I'm out of the rat race. Hope I've got enough money to see me through to the end of my life.


Dx 8/2012, IDC, 1cm, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Nov 23, 2019 08:30AM flowergal wrote:

At age 69, (2018) I was still working part time but had gradually decreased my days down to just one per week . I had been thinking of quitting completely, but still enjoyed the work and the people I worked with. When I had the biopsy and before I had the result ( which was most likely cancer), I decided it was time to quit . Even though it was only one day a week, I was still locked into this and would sometimes be asked to do some extra days . I decided there were things I wanted to do while my husband and i were still able to enjoy . I told my employer that i would retire as on June 1st regardless of the outcome of the biopsy. The diagnosis was IDC and I had surgery and radiation. My employer understood my decision and gave me a nice retirement party and gift in June.

Since then, I have been enjoying my gardening and as my husband says ,I am happiest when digging in the dirt! I also enjoy a daily long walk with our dog. We have taken an Alaskan cruise for our 50th anniversary and plan another this coming February.

Financially, WE are doing ok and have some savings to rely on in our old age. Medically, I am on Medicare and a supplement which covers our medical expenses.

I still get called by my office manager occasionally to help out and have gone in to work a few times since I left but it is up to me to say yes or no .

Dx 1/2018, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IB, Grade 1, 1/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-, Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Nov 24, 2019 08:55AM BlueGirlRedState wrote:

I did decide to retire early, at 58. I was minimally eligible, with years in. I knew I would not want to return following a bi-lateral. So I ran the numbers. It was going to be tight, but I think it will work out. Had a 401K like retirement through work, and savings. My last day at work was a sick day, getting round 4 of chemo. This was the second time for me with BC, and now I am going through a third time. So much for successful treatment. I think retiring early was the right decision for me, even though finances are a little tighter than I thought tney would be. I do not miss work, and really enjoy not having to plan trips/activities around work Did not anticipate having cancer for a third time, and the incurred costs.

2009 ER+ left breast. 52 yrs. Lumpectomy, Sentinel node removal, negative. Radiation 6 weeks, tamoxifen 5 years. Dense lumpy left breast, normal right. Acupuncture offered at facility as part of integrative medicine. It really helped with anxiety/stress during radiation treatment.

2016 ER+ left breast. Probably a new cancer, but unknown. 4 rounds TC Aug-Oct 2016, Bi-lateral (my choice) Nov 2016, no reconstruction. 2 sentinel nodes remove, negative. Cold Capping using Chemo Cold Caps (DIGNICAP not available). Anastrozole 1 mg starting May 2017. Joint issues noticed immediately. Stopped Anastrozole after 3-4 months due to joint stiffness in. After several months of no AIs, fingers were feeling better. Started tamoxifen March 2018

7/19/2019 - swelling in R-arm, opposite side from where lymph nodes removed. Noticed 6/18/2019. Could have been swelling earlier but wearing long sleeves. Trip to urgent care. They did ultrasound, concerned that there might be a clot, there was not. Started seeing lymphatic therapist 7/2/2019.

8/2019 CT, Breast/chest , neck/thyroid ultra sound

9/2019 DR ordered biopsy, said it could be lymphoma, cancer, benign lymphatic. Biopsy R-axilla. Cancer. Genetic test showed no known markers (20+ looked for)

9/29/2019 PET scan, no indication of spread. Arimidex and Ibrance prescribed to shrink tumor prior to surgery.

10/2019 – Stopped Tamoxifen. Started Arimidex and Ibrance. Brand name Arimidex so far does not seem to have the SEs that generics did, but stiff/trigger finger on left middle finger returned.

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Nov 24, 2019 10:22AM Patty66 wrote:

I had worked really hard for about 5 years to become independent from employers and get my graphic design business on its way when the news hit. I was very sad to let go of this dream but decided really fast that from hereon out my family and myself are worth spending all my time on. Fortunately, my husband’s income is sufficient to keep us afloat.We can continue to raise our 3 kids and take care of our elderly Moms.

Altogether, I believe that my cancer was brought on by an overload of stress (several deaths in the immediate family and an overwhelming workload which I think had me already on a path of depression/burnout). It almost seems that I was brought back to my senses by this life-changing diagnosis.

Dx 8/31/2019, IDC: Mucinous, Left, 1cm, Grade 1 Dx 8/31/2019, IDC, Left, 2cm, Grade 2, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 9/9/2019 TAC Radiation Therapy Breast Surgery Lumpectomy: Left
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Nov 24, 2019 12:51PM vlnrph wrote:

After treatment for early stage disease, I went back to my part-time job for 18 months then quit at age 55. I had been retired for 12 years while our son was growing up then worked for a decade to cover my husband’s loss of employment and also private school tuition! My profession was a well paying one.

The opportunity to do extensive volunteering and enjoy a small hobby income were mainstays of both time periods, until metastatic disease arrived. Fortunately, I had enough recent Social Security credits to qualify for disability. Putting in more than a few hours a week would jeopardize that. We travel as my health allows.

With fatigue and anemia, frequent rest is required which means that I cannot keep up the pace of a busy location. Also, the ability to avoid crowds with their nasty viruses and other infectious organisms is probably to my advantage since I can run errands, go shopping, etc when stores are lightly populated.

Dx 3/7/2011, ILC, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 1/25 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Nov 24, 2019 04:57PM ChaCha57 wrote:

Yes. I, as many others have shared, felt pushed out of my job. My job description was changed making it physically impossible for me to manage while recovering from my cancer treatment of surgery, chemo, radiation, herceptin and hormonal therapy. Luckily I had been with my organization for 20 years and was within less than a year for eligible retirement so they had to let me retire intact if I covered my own medical through cobra for 11 months and 3 weeks. I worked PT closer to home for a couple of years and finally took early social security at 62. It will be tight but I’m thankful for my benefits to have covered me as well as they did and even though I didn’t plan on leaving my job I think it was for the best for my medical recovery. It takes a lot longer to recover than we are advised at the onset

Kathy Dx 3/1/2012, IDC: Mucinous, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ Surgery 4/10/2012 Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary Chemotherapy 5/2/2012 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Targeted Therapy 5/2/2012 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Hormonal Therapy 10/31/2012 Arimidex (anastrozole), Aromasin (exemestane), Femara (letrozole) Radiation Therapy Whole breast: Breast
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Nov 25, 2019 10:50AM moderators wrote:

Thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings with us. Please continue to share. It's very helpful.


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Nov 30, 2019 09:37PM KatherineAriadne wrote:

I am in the middle of making this decision right now. I was diagnosed with ILC on August 30, and it is stage IV with metastases to bone. I'm taking Arimidex and getting radiation therapy, then will probably start Ibrance after my radiation is complete. I am only 57 and I'm a physician, and had not planned to retire until at least age 65. Because of bone metastases, I do have a fair amount of pain (thought it was just "getting older" and "arthritis" prior to my diagnosis...I have a reasonably high pain threshold so I was able to go into some pretty good denial). I also have horrible fatigue, which was present before my radiation treatments. I do have a long-term disability plan so I could use that while I'm making my decision, but somehow I feel like it would be "giving up" to stop working. I'm afraid if I let this change my life drastically, I will be giving in to the disease and potentially shortening my life. Financially, I should be at least okay, but I don't know if I would be emotionally.

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