Coronavirus support

You can find all of our latest coronovirus information on our website at www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/coronavirus

rockandhardplace

'Shielding' whilst on chemo and returning to work in a school

So I have asked my medical team several times about what I need to do to protect myself now I have received my extremely clinically vulnerable letter and that patients on chemo no longer need to shield. The guidance does not seem clear to me at all. I work in a secondary school , although have not been there since May and only recently started chemo. I was hoping to return to work but really confused if it is safe for me to do so. I work mainly 1to1 with students in my own room with own entrance and washing facilities. I can quite easily avoid being amongst the main school community. And although we are big school, we are rural and have lots of outside space and most movement around the school is outside rather than inside. But we also currently have some of the highest rates of Covid in the country. My bloods are currently all OK but of course this could change at any time. When schools went back after last summer holidays, at week 3 SO many students were absent due to minor illnesses - not Covid related. I really want to get back to work but I am so confused as to what to do. On top of that I currently have a stinky cold and cough. Not Covid related but due to the risk I had to spend all day in the Acute Medical Unit on Tuesday in isolation while they ruled out Covid / infection/ blood clot etc before I could go home. Plus I had to have 'just in case' intravenous antibiotics. Which as it turned out I did not need as there was no sign of infection. But this experience has now made me more cautious. Medical team says school need to do a risk assessment. School have asked for advice from my oncologist. I just seem to be going round in circles. Anyone else had more concrete advice? All my oncologist said was take sensible precautions both at home and when out - wear a mask, wash hands regularly and avoid crowds. All ofwhich I do.

Deemar

@rockandhardplace I can appreciate your confusion as the guidance is unclear. I understand why you would like to go back to work but wonder if you could do 'on line' sessions with your students from home instead. Your employer should be working to support you. I am not sure how many cycles of chemo you are expecting to have - but maybe you can delay returning to school physically until we see how things go over the next term. Hope you get some good advice soon.

rockandhardplace

Thanks @Deemar. I have spoken to my manager today and I am going to stay at home until after I speak to my oncologist next weds. One option is to just go in for 1 to 1 meetings with individual students in a controlled way. I live very locally so quite easy to do this. There must be lots of other people that are on chemo that ARE going to work. Or am I being naive. I am due to have 6.months with bit will be reviewing that after 3 months to see how it is going.

Lucy118

@rockandhardplace, that seems a sensible way forward. Going in for one to one meetings does seem sensible too. When I was on chemo I avoided seeing anyone with any illnesses. That was pre covid and then my chemo stopped half way through as it was at the start of covid, and they were worried continuing was too risky. As long as you are really careful and wear masks and ensure you wash your hands and it’s just one to one, then that will probably be ok, but your oncologist will be able to guide you. You also may find that you can’t work everyday, or may need to cut your hours down, as you may find you’re too tired. It affects everyone differently. Good luck :x::x:

Stella 2020

Hi @rockandhardplace , could you wear a FFP2/3 mask when talking to the pupil? Make sure there is good ventilation at the same time.

rockandhardplace

Thanks all for your input. Oncologist advised that as my WBC and neutrophils were low that a) I should pause on the Capecitabine for the moment and b) that I should avoid face to face contact with students for now. I have returned to work but just doing some admin and supporting parents and colleagues by phone. Expecting to get an update on my bloods today to see what the situation is. It is SO great to get back to work and a bit of a routine.

Wegwe

@rockandhardplace I understand how you feel about returning to work; it’s nice to still have some sense of normality every now and then, and not to be a patient all the time.
I finished chemo and my blood is pretty much back to normal, but I’m still careful with face to face meetings - even more so after I found out that at least one colleague from whom I wasn’t expecting it is unvaccinated and refuses to test. Early in summer a child in my son’s class was sent to school by his parents after having tested positive (!): they couldn’t cope with the stress of having him at home any more.
Incidents like this limit my confidence that other people will behave responsibly. In your position (in the middle of chemo and with low blood counts) I would be even more careful; you really don’t want to get COVID on top of everything else right now.

rockandhardplace

HI @Wegwe.Yes I am in agreement with you. I was a bit more gungho a couple of weeks ago in terms of the risk. I was being very careful when out and about - keeping my distance, wearing a mask, sanitising etc. This was before my return to work. And I still came down with a really bad cold and cough. So I had to go to the AMU twice in one week and get checked out and have blood tests intravenous antibiotics and chest :x: Rays to be on the safe side. I had to spend 1 night on the ward to wait for a chest :x: ray and other results. I felt more at risk being in the hospital . And goodness knows what I spread around to the other patients! I have had a chat with my oncologist and we are both now considering if there is any benefit to be gained from the adjuvant chemo versus the risks. I only got to take 11 days worth of the cape before I was told to stop again. Just waiting for results of most recent blood test to see where I am at before restarting - if I decide to try a second round. The hospital was supposed to phone me today but they didn't! TBH I feel more at risk of carrying on with the chemo and getting Covid and becoming seriously ill or worse.