study in Sweden (because we needed another study) shows that 72% of women return to full time work after cancer treatment. The biggest factor in this seems to be those who had chemotherapy are less likely to go back to work.
I am not in the 72%. I work less than I did before. My situation is a bit unique I think. When we got married in 2005, I was working in downtown Boston. My husband would drop me off at the bus stop on the corner (thus motivating both of us to get to work on time). I would commute by bus and subway into Boston. By the time I got home, he would already have been there for at least an hour - thanks to his 10 minute commute. He would be relaxed and rested and I would be stressed out and cranky.
In the fall of 2006, I decided I had enough of my crabby boss who motivated people by yelling at them and decided to find a job closer to home. I started a new job in January 2007 and was laid off in May 2007 - two weeks before my diagnosis.
I quickly realized I could not job hunt while going through surgeries and chemotherapy and returned to a part time job at a local community education program that I had in the past. I stayed there for a few years and added a second part time job and left the community ed job and found another job. Now I work about 30 hours/week split between two part time jobs. I commute about 30 minutes each way to one and the other uses my living room sofa as my desk with my feet up on the coffee table. My cat is my office mate. This keeps me happy.
Juggling the two jobs allows me the flexibility to go to the gym three times a week, doctor appointments, coffee with friends, etc. Today is an example - I am getting my nails done (a very important meeting), then I have a meeting for my development job, and then am meeting a friend who lost her job for some networking. I'll be out until about 3 pm (note to burglars, the cat will be home so don't even think about it) when I'll return home and work a bit more.
I am actually using my brain for both jobs - they aren't just 'fill-in' jobs. The first one is a marketing job which is most of my background where I am in charge of websites, trade shows, out bound marketing, print materials, and all that other stuff marketing communications people do. I have had it for three years. It also gives me flexibility so I don't commute in snow storms or when I have (stupid) doctor appointments. The other job is development, fundraising, and outreach for a non profit where I plan events, write grant applications, and all kinds of other fun stuff. I've been doing this for over two years.
I think I can handle not being in the 72% but I am not sure chemotherapy was my sole force in these changes. My marriage certainly made me feel stabler about working part time. My back probably would have gone bad anyway and who knows if I would have had all my other medical problems. I probably would not have gotten lymphedema with out my cancer surgeries. But for now, I see no reason to return to full time work. I could if I needed to but I think I'll stick with this for now.