Is there a right time to return to work following treatment for Aplastic Anaemia? I know that there are almost as many opinions on this as there are people, in my own family everyone has a view, but there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. In reality it is down to you, your health and your employer’s ability to accommodate you.

I had my BMT in March 2018 and I returned to work at the start of October. Many people felt that was far too soon, but it certainly felt right for me. I had originally wanted to start my return in June or July with small offline projects, however sense meant that I allowed myself to be guided by my team of consultants and delayed that return.

In all honesty, being in work whilst still regularly travelling to hospital for tests and still taking immuno-suppressants would not have been a good idea.

I had a very good response to my BMT and all of my blood counts grew rapidly and strongly – by the end of August I was already starting to wean from ciclosporin – it was at this time that I started to explore the chance of getting back into work again. With agreement from my consultants and the help from the occupational health team at work I developed a 6-month plan which would see me transition from 3 very short days a week working from home to full time in the office and ready to manage a team again.

What going back to work looked like for me

I have been very lucky being in a company that is large enough to support me all the way through my illness. The chances I have received will not be open to everyone; my role gives me the opportunity to work from home and I have been able to work ‘behind the scenes’ without being chased on progress. It has given me a focus away from my illness and recovery and allowed me to feel more a part of life again. The whole process has been very good for my mental health and I truly believe that it has aided my continued recovery.

In October I was only working 3 – 4 hours per day, 3 days per week and that was really tiring at first, but things soon started to improve. I think it is all too easy to forget how tiring the use of the brain is and how we need to build this back up slowly in the same way we build our physical fitness back up. My transition back into the workplace has progressed well and at the start of February I completed my first 5-day week with full hours. I am still able to work from home, however I am spending more and more time in the office and starting to pick up more normal duties. The end of that first full week brought round a level of tiredness that I haven’t felt in a long time, probably linked to the 5am alarm calls for 4 of 5 days, but a weekend’s rest has soon helped to feel human again and I am confident that in a few weeks I will be feeling yet another step closer to full recovery.

The return to work has taken me away from the home more, taken me away from the additional time I had had over the past couple of years with my wife and children and has reduced the number of rounds of golf I am able to play each week, however I do not regret the transition back. I feel more and more like I can map my future with my family for the long term and I can be a valuable part of any working organisation. My mental health continues to improve following my illness and treatment and I am sure that working has helped this immeasurably. There have been frustrations and annoyances along the way, but these are all part of life and what make a working life ‘enjoyable’.

So, when is the right time to return to work? – there is no ‘one answer’, but it is when you physically can and when the time is right for you.

Blog by Phil