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Going back to work after a transplant?

Hi everyone,

This week Anthony Nolan launched a report about going back to work after a transplant. I was hoping that some of you might be able to share your experiences here for others worried about going back to work or who are facing challenges around this.

If you've gone back to work, what have your experiences been and what's been helpful for you? If you haven't, what are the reasons around this?


PS. You can have a look at the report here: http://www.anthonynolan.org/sites/default/files/Way Back To Work - Full.compressed.pdf We're now looking at ways to help support people wanting to return to work.


  • I was lucky as far as work was concerned. It was a big worry to me when I was first diagnosed as I couldn't have afforded to have gone onto sick pay, knowing how long my treatment was likely to take.

    After speaking to my regional director though I found that I was entitled to 9 months full pay due to my length of service, and that a directors prerogative could also extend this by a further 3 months which I was granted. This gave me a full 12 months on full pay before it would drop to sick pay, which gave me some comfort.

    In the event I actually returned to work about 10 months after starting my treatment (7 months post transplant), albeit in a reduced capacity and working from home mainly due to the risk of infection. This has continued for some time and now, just over 2 years after my transplant I am returning to work full time without restrictions. As a construction project manager my biggest risk was returning to a construction site with the inherent risk of lung infections from building dust, but last week my doctor confirmed that my immune system was now adequate to make the risk to me minimal.

    I have to say the company I work for (which is a large construction firm) has been fantastic, and those around me have been very supportive, particularly those who have managed me. I was always keen to return to work as soon as I could and even though I was working part time on 'light duties' initially, I always felt that I was repaying their loyalty to me.

    Returning to work full time is a real boost and makes me feel that I am finally over this hurdle in my life and back to the normal life I had before it all began.

    Combined with being able to pay off my mortgage thanks to a successful claim on my critical illness cover, the pressure financially has been lifted and has no doubt given me fewer worries and possibly helped my recovery.

  • Steve,

    Pleased to hear you are still keeping well and by the sounds of it back to and enjoying work. Some good points in your post which may help others.

    For me I took the opportunity to retire 2 weeks before transplant, I have said before that I had no symptoms and was self employed with no intention or thoughts of retiring. The work I did was unique and I actually enjoyed going out every day to work! Had it not been for transplant I would still have been working.

    Nearly 3 years on with transplant and recovery in between I find there are sometimes not enough days in a week. Walking with a Macmillan group twice a week, some pottering about, looking after grand children one day a week and a couple of days away as and when is quite exhausting! Albeit enjoyable.

    Pleased that you are getting back to normal, don't over do it and enjoy your leisure time with those around you.

  • I am a freelance project manager so taking a year out for the treatment was a bit nerve wracking to put it mildly.

    As soon as I was able, I arranged to do some work with my professional association (the Association for Project Management) on a voluntary basis remotely. They were (and are) a great bunch and it really helped to be able to do things "like my job" on the understanding that I would get them done if I could. It gave me a reason to get up and also enabled me to use the off work time to build up my professional knowledge.

    I actually found that I was able to do a small amount of work from home 8 months after transplant but was astonished how tired it made me even after that amount of time.

    I have been able to return to work part time after 12 months but am having to do a real dance with respect to my immune system which is still not great. Carrying hand cleanser and keyboard wipes around with me not to mention a mask for emergencies! My customer has been fantastic and I am really enjoying doing real work again.

    Working is definitely good for the soul.
  • I am a primary school head teacher and I love, live and breathe my job. A stem cell transplant and lots of bug-ridden small children does not sound like a good mix, but following my transplant last August I couldn't wait to get back to school. After 3 months, I started popping in for odd days and working from home. It gave my recovery a real boost and by 6 months I was back on a phased return. I was careful to have rest days if I felt I needed them, but generally I think working helped me recover faster than I would otherwise have done. I'm not saying that my approach would be right for everyone, but it was right for me. My staff and governing body have been brilliant and, discovering that I am still alive despite two rounds of serious illness, I now live for the moment and inject even more fun into the life of my school than I ever did before.
  • I returned to work last September on a part-time basis 4.5 months after transplant, starting at 15 hours a week initially (I'm contracted to do 40) with a full-time return in the New Year. I was fortunate in that my employer has a very good sickness policy with 6 months at full pay so didn't feel under any financial pressure to rush back to work; my main motivation was trying to engage my brain again and get some social interaction rather than sitting at home brooding.

    I guess I have been lucky in that I haven't really experienced any significant GvHD issues post transplant so had tapered off most of the medication well in advance of going back to work.

    I've not really experienced any health issues since returning; I do find that coughs and colds take a little longer to clear up but otherwise I've stayed fit and well.

    I would however echo the sentiments expressed by others in terms of how tired going back to work can make you - I started at three days a week with Tuesdays and Thursdays; having a day for my mind to recover seemed to work pretty well.

    I'm now coming up to a year post transplant and to be honest I feel far fitter and strangely much more content that I did before. I guess going through an experience like SCT does put things into perspective. No more sweating the small stuff - life is too short!
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