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All TopicsForum: Stage IV and Metastatic Breast Cancer ONLY → Topic: Disability Retirement?

Topic: Disability Retirement?

Forum: Stage IV and Metastatic Breast Cancer ONLY —

A place for those managing the ups & downs of a Stage IV/metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. Please respect that this forum is for Stage IV members only. There is a separate forum For Family and Caregivers of People with a STAGE IV Diagnosis.

Posted on: Oct 11, 2011 03:42PM - edited Oct 11, 2011 03:47PM by Faith316

Faith316 wrote:

I am a teacher and trying to decide whether to apply for disability retirement.  I was first dx. with IDC in 4/08.  Had lumpectomy, axillary node dissection with 2/8 nodes positive, AC x 4, 12 weekly Taxol with concurrent Herceptin and then 30 rads tx.  During my radiation, I presented with symptoms of IBC but all my doctors said it had to be side effects from radiation.  It was debated from about 3/09-6/09 when I finally convinced them to biopsy it, and it was IBC.  So, all my chemo and rads had been totally ineffective. 

I was referred to MD Anderson and my onc there stopped the Herceptin (which I had been on for 9 months at that point) and switched me to Tykerb and Xeloda which immediately began working.  A month later my IBC rash was gone and all the other syptoms abating.  I stayed on both T and X for 6 months and stopped the Xeloda in 1/10 right before my uni-mx and another node dissection.  Pathology on all of that shows NED.  But, I remain on Tykerb to this day --- 27 months so far.  My local onc wants me to stay on Tykerb for 5 full years, but that is not definite.  Going to see what my MDA onc thinks.  I go back there in January.

Although I have taken off at various times during this so far 3-1/2 year time period since my original dx, I am currently teaching (140 middle school kids).  I come home totally exhausted.  I feel weak a lot of the time and have the typical chronic diarrhea (from Tykerb) every day.  The fatigue is hard and working is just  wearing me out, but I am torn about what to do.

My local dr says that because of it being recurrent, he considers me stage IV.  I know that an IBC dx is a pretty poor prognosis.  Everything I read (and I read a lot) says that only 25-50% of IBC patients will still be alive after 5 years.  I hope to be one of the lucky ones but only God knows.

I am struggling with whether or not I want to apply for disability retirement or not.   I don't want to work up until the point that I am maybe really sick again and have no time to enjoy retirement but I also feel guilty considering doing this.

Anybody else go through anything like this and have any advice for me?  I'd especially be interested in hearing from women who also take Tykerb but replies from any and all will be appreciated.  Anybody know how likely it is to get a disability retirement with a Stage IV IBC dx who is currently -- we *think* --- NED?  (Of course we are all just a scan away from that changing aren't we?)

(Applying for it requires me to stop working for 6 months which would mean long term disability again and then possibly being denied.  If denied and have to go back to work, it would put me that much further from my 30 years to be eligible for retirement.  I currently have about 28 years in.   28 years seems so close to 30 when you read those numbers but the fact is that teaching for the rest of this year plus two more years is a lot of time. I am ready to not work but just not sure what to do.  Feel guilty if I quit but also don't want to regret not quitting sooner if I have a third recurrence.)

Sorry for so long.  Thanks for taking the time to read.

DX 4/08 IDC, ER-, PR-, HER2+, IIB, Grade 3,lumpectomy,2/8 nodes,4 AC,12 wks.Taxol,Herceptin,30 rads. DX IBC 6/09 while still in treatment. Now Stage III. 6 mo. of Xeloda done, still on Tykerb. Uni-mx & another node dissection 2/4/10.
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Oct 11, 2011 06:31PM Chickadee wrote:

I didn't feel guilt so much as having to accept myself a retired and "old" lady. Sometimes I still feel left out and searching for a purpose to my days. However, I didn't expect the complication of osteoporosis and fractures and a collapsed vertebra. I'm glad to have the time to take care of me.

Stress can't be helping your cancer. I say, you earned it. Now if they could transfer you to something less stressful so you could earn your full retirement that would be nice. Without that I would start the process.

I'm in such bad shape, I'm wearing prescription underwear." Phyllis Diller 1917-2012 Dx 9/1/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Oct 11, 2011 06:45PM bak94 wrote:

I just got accepted for ssdi. I am stage 3C, possibly stage 4, all scans looking good right now. I am still in treatment and have not had surgery yet. I need to have bmx, rads and hysterectomy still. I know how you feel, I have always worked, but it was just getting too hard for me. I am a hair colorist and it is very physical, as I am sure your job is also. I was working for the 6 month period, but only 2 days a week and they approved me. Mine is not disability retirement, but if you look at the ss website, you will see that ibc is a qualifier for disability, as long as you meet the other criteria. Good luck with your decision.

Not really sure what stage I am-Some docs say 3C, others say stage 4. I had no auxillary nodes positive but had internal mammary nodes positive and possibly mediastinal node positive. It's just a number anyways, right? Dx 12/15/2002, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 2/40 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 1/2/2003 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Underarm/Axillary Chemotherapy 2/5/2003 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Taxol (paclitaxel) Radiation Therapy 7/8/2003 Breast, Lymph nodes Dx 4/5/2011, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIC, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Chemotherapy 4/27/2011 AC Targeted Therapy 5/14/2011 Avastin (bevacizumab) Chemotherapy 7/29/2011 Abraxane (albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel) Surgery 11/30/2011 Mastectomy: Left, Right Radiation Therapy 2/11/2012 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 4/10/2012 Aromasin (exemestane) Hormonal Therapy 8/2/2012
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Oct 11, 2011 06:48PM CoolBreeze wrote:

I work for a school district too - did you check into what they offer and what your contract says?  I can go out four months, with pay, yearly for medical.  (I'm a principal's secretary in a High School).  If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness, I can get a year's full pay, then I can go on state disability.

Teachers have better benefits and more rights than secretaries do and maybe there is something you are overlooking.  I know that our teachers can take a medical leave of absence for a year with their job saved for them, and it can be renewed for another year.  One of our teachers is out on her 2nd year after having a baby.  She is allowed to return to her job, at her school, when she is ready.  She also is allowed to substitute,so she can make some money.

So, the first thing would be to call HR at your district and find out what's in your contract and what you can do.  You might be able to get a couple of years to rest and then reevaluate in a year or two with your job saved for you.

Also, due to the dire financial problems many school districts are having, you might find there is a buy-out for early retirement.  You might be able to buy those last two years and go out with 30.  It saves the district to be able to pay a younger teacher. 

I know it's tough.  As Stage IV I can go out any time but I really like my job, and I also find that the distraction of work keeps me healthier.  Yes, I'm like you - I come home and I'm very tired.  I sleep.  I don't cook much anymore.  But, I think if I was home I would probably just sit all day and that's not good for you either.   I figure as long as I can get there every day and I'm not calling in sick all the time and I'm reliable and feel okay, I'll continue to work.  

I can't imagine being in a school with tykerb though - I always wondered what would happen if they put me on that.  The bathroom is NOT close to my office! 

Ann's cancer blog: www.butdoctorihatepink.com .....multicentric/multifocal IDC/ILC+DCIS/LCIS/ADH Official dx? "Your breast was a mess." ~UniMastectomy/Chemo/Herceptin/Tamoxifen/Recon Almost Done! Oh wait. mets to liver 5/21/11 Now Stage IV Dx 8/17/2009, IDC, 4cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+
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Oct 11, 2011 06:49PM chainsawz wrote:

I started out stage iv in 2008 and it took 3 years for me to finally leave work....now I wish I had done it 3 years ago and not waited!!!!  You don't realize how exhausting work is, until you retire and then you will be able to use all that energy to fight cancer!  Leave now if you can and get some rest :>

Lisa -mets to lungs & brain - clear lymph nodes.....the weakest step toward the top of the hill, toward sunrise, toward hope, is stronger than the fiercest storm. Dx 7/21/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, mets, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Oct 11, 2011 07:16PM Enjoyful wrote:

I agree with chainsawz.  I worked for almost a year after my stage IV diagnosis, but had to quit because of the exhaustion and medication side effects.  You're certainly not doing your body any good by pushing it to the point of exhaustion every day.  Retire if you can.  Rest.  Relax.

BENGHAZI! Dx 9/2004, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 4/14 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 8/28/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IV, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Oct 11, 2011 09:04PM KSkier wrote:

don't have the answer...but chiming in to ask you to keep us posted.  I am also a teacher (high school) and have been plugging away at this for three years.  I enjoy seniority in my position, but this year I have two courses in my caseload that are "new" to me and require more preparation and I also have two little ones at home.  Particularly exhausted and unenthusiastic about work today...and pondering the same questions.  I have about 23 years in - - so I think "early" retirement can come to me in two years also.  But I am the primary wage earner in the household - - health insurance for me, my kids...so many pressures.   And I am also having trouble finding ONE person in the district who has the ANSWERS.  People on this site keep mentioning HR, SSA...but in a school district I feel like none of that is consolidated.  I call one guy about health insurance, another guy about disability, someone else about retirement.   I just want someone to hold my hand and give me straight answers!  Any other teachers out there know who I should talk to?

Dx 8/15/2008, IBC, 6cm+, Stage IV, mets, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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Oct 12, 2011 01:08AM Lena wrote:

If you have Stage IV cancer and a sufficient past work history, you're automatically eligible for SSDI at least. When I told the SS representative in the phone interview that I had Stage IV IBC, she said we still had to go through the formalities/paperwork and she'd still have to confirm my illness with my doctor but once paperwork was in and my illness confirmed, it would go through in only a few weeks. She was right. I was expecting 6 weeks from that, but the award letter came in only 3-4 weeks. It's true you have to be receiving SSDI benefits for two years from your date of disability before you can go on Medicare, but if you're Stage IV and have worked enough to be generally eligible for disability payments, there shouldn't be a problem with GETTING your SSDI benefits.

Why buy shampoo when you can get real poo for free? Dx 2/9/2009, IBC, 6cm+, Stage IV, Grade 3, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2+
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Oct 12, 2011 02:23AM tammie wrote:

I dont have ibc im stage IV idc and was told upon diagnosis that i couldnt consider tryin to do my job as i work with the disabled and can be very physical at times.. I applied only a few weeks ago and they are telling me that i should be recieving payments within a month..The woman on the phone today says its because of my stageIv dx and the paper work my dr filled out i apparently dont have to wait 6months..I dont know how much help that is just figured i would share in hopes you could have the same luck...Best wishes and do keep us posted big HUGS..Tammie

Everytime the wheel turns round bound to cover just a little more ground!! Dx 10/8/2002, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIB, 0/7 nodes, ER+/PR+ Surgery 10/28/2002 Lumpectomy: Right Radiation Therapy 5/7/2003 Breast, Lymph nodes Dx 9/7/2011, Stage IV, 0/7 nodes, ER+/PR+ Radiation Therapy 9/11/2011 Bone
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Jun 15, 2013 12:26AM acceptance wrote:

I don't think California teachers can collect SS (social security) benefits. ???

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Jun 15, 2013 12:30AM acceptance wrote:

Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs. We are surrounded by 30 or more active minds and bodies at all times. Then there are an incredible number of demands on us every day from students, parents, administrators, state standards, cleaning the classroom, correcting papers, designing innovative lesson plans, and the list goes on. It is a wonderful profession of giving but when the big "C" comes along it's incredibly difficult to continue to meet all those expectations. There's that part of teaching you can't give up either; teachers are givers and they love what they can do to help young people.     ***Retire or not to retire if you can? Difficult question.

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Jun 15, 2013 01:01AM PaulAndSandy wrote:

As others have said, a Stage IV diagnosis is almost a guanteed approval of SSDI. In my mom's case, not only was she approved once she found out she was Stage IV, but because her cancer was recurrent and she developed lymphodema years earlier from another BC surgery, they gave her 12 months of SSDI back pay. She was approved in August 2012, but they determined she was disabled from the lymphodema as of June 2009. They can only do back pay going back 12 months but at nearly $2k per month, she got a nice lump sum of $24k, plus $2k per month until she passed away last month. It definitely helped her financially and she didn't have to stress about not having money to enjoy the last year of her life. I talked her into applying because she kept saying, "They're not going to approve me so I'm not going to waste our time filling out the forms." Thank God we did! So yes, if you're getting that exhausted from work and you've worked all these years paying into SSI, that's what the SSDI is there for.

Mom battled breast cancer for nearly 12 years from Stage IIIA, to Stage II recurrence, to Stage IV mets. I'm here to share what I have learned over the past 12 years for anyone interested. Dx 11/30/2001, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIA, 3/7 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Dx 6/1/2010, IDC, 1cm, Stage II, 1/9 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Dx 6/8/2012, Stage IV, ER+/PR-, HER2-

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