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Working with Lung Cancer versus disability


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Good morning all!  

I'm trying to decide whether to go back to teaching nursing in January.  I really love my job, but will have to remain full time for at least a year.  (2 more semesters).  I think I can manage this while continuing on treatments, but I'm just not sure.  I'm currently on FMLA. 

I have Stage IV NSC Adenocarcinoma diagnosed Sept 1st, 2021  with an EGFR mutation  diagnosed the 20th of Sept. The primary tumor is in my right lower lobe, with "fluffly" mets throughout both lungs and a met to my sacrum.  I've been on Tagrisso for 35 days with amazing results so far- my energy and breathing are 75% improved and my cough is gone.  I have a CT scan of chest, abdomen and pelvis this Wednesday and follow up appointment Nov 4th with my oncologist. 

I'm exploring my options currently.  I've requested the disability information and have spoken to my boss about teaching the minimum hours required.  I'm only 57 so I can't pull from my retirement yet.  It's all quite confusing.  I would like to keep my health benefits, although I am covered under my husband also.  So that shouldn't be an issue. 

Any input is welcome! 




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As a fellow Tagrisso-taker, I don't see any reason why you couldn't resume working. My Tag side effects are minor and manageable (but my poor nails are a wreck, lol). If I weren't happily retired, I could go back to work. 

If you have fatigue during the day, consider taking your Tag at night. And have your PCP monitor your B12 and sodium levels (the latter particularly if you're drinking lots of fluids as generally recommended).

I'll bet that in a couple of months you'll be feeling very close to normal. That's how good this drug is. 

In a response to another post, I mentioned the private LUNGevity Facebook group "Tagrisso (osimertinib) Patients & Caregivers Group". You might find it helpful. Others are considering the same decision as you are.

I'm sure others here will weigh in as well. Best of luck! 

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Hi Cordelia,

I was 51 at the time of my diagnosis (with a different mutation).  Like you I was on FMLA & short term disability.  I hated my job anyway so returning to work wasn’t much of a debate for me.   What I did learn is that when filing for long term disability two very important details:

1. I was eligible for a COBRA extension to 24 months which covered the time until full Medicare eligibility.  

2. Once I filed for SSD (after exhausting the short term disability) I could draw from my 401k without penalty.   

We hired a financial management company that had experience in dealing with disability and we were shocked when they told us I could “retire”.  

For me trying to live with minimal amounts of stress particularly from office politics was a good decision. 

The fatigue from these targeted therapies can be unpredictable however no one needs to suffer in silence. A good palliative care clinician can prescribe a stimulant to help improve memory and concentration.  


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  • 4 months later...

Hello! I haven't been very active here, just wanted to update you on what I decided.  I love my education job, but I decided it wasn't fair to sign a full-time contract if I then went back to work and couldn't manage my full workload.  I have qualified for SSI disability, but I don't know if I can pull from my retirement.  I'm not sure how to find that out. 

I am going to try going back to my part-time job (yes I worked 1.5 jobs at the time of my diagnosis!).  I am allowed to do that on disability, and I really like that it can go on hold if I earn more than the limit.  And that I don't have to reapply.   

I start working from home doing a triage nurse phone job on Saturday.  I do four hour shifts, so that will give me a good idea if I can handle the stress, as I'll be working with Home Health and Hospice patients with cancer, and back in September, when I was first diagnosed, that was difficult.  

I'm thrilled to be back with my coworkers, most of whom I admire and some I'm very good friends with. They've all been very supportive of my time off, bringing me helpful and lovely gifts that mean alot to me. 

Tagrisso is remarkable- but I have to do my part to live with cancer by avoiding germs (thus not being with college students right now), managing my stress and maximizing life -work balance.  

I'm going to go check out the boards to see how you all are doing since I've been out of touch! Thanks for your help and perspectives. 


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Thank you for posting about this, Cordelia. I don't feel ready to stop working, but am concerned about stress, the impact of future treatment on my effectiveness on a job in the event of future treatment, etc. I think your solution is brilliant. 


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