I was off work for just over a year. Mainly because I was off with the flare up of indeterminate colitis for four months, that was even before the surgery. I found that very difficult as I worried all the time about work and being off for so long. Work were always brilliant though and gave me no reason to worry, it is just in my nature.
My managers came to visit me before I had surgery just to check in with me, and they tried to reassure me which helped mentally. I feel very lucky to have good support at work as I know that is not always the case for a lot of people with invisible illnesses.
I then had emergency surgery and many complications so was off work for another six months, three of which I was still in hospital and the rest I had a proctectomy and the recovery from that too. I got paid for some of it but then went on to statutory sick pay, which was hard because it was a lot less than my wages. That stopped and I went on to ESA ( employment support allowance). Not only are you recovering from a very big operation, your income takes a big drop.
During this time I kept in touch with work and had a meeting or two to decide how and when I would return and what they could do for me when I got back. I was a full time assistant manager for an opticians. I made the decision to drop down to a senior optical consultant role and drop a day, but first I had six weeks on phased return, adding an hour or so at a time each week until I got up to my normal time.
I let them know that I may need more time when I go to the toilet, not only to pee the same as everyone else, but to empty and tidy the bag and clean up my leaky perineal sinus, I also need to be able to take a drink of water on to the shop floor. I find this awkward as other staff members would like water too, but I really need it to stay hydrated.
I started back in January this year, and all has gone very well. My colleagues made a fuss of me and because I am very open about the surgery, most of them knew what had happened.
I was pretty tired in the first few months, I wasn’t used to being on my feet all day. The toilets are a little way off the shop floor ,which is a nuisance if I needed a quick get away, luckily so far I have not had an accident with leaks from the stoma. My main issue ,is the leak from the persistent perineal sinus, as I often feel the need to clean up a bit, and change my panty liner.
When I need to go to the toilet I still think some people don’t understand the urgency sometimes and when the bag fills up I feel I want to go quickly just in case. If we are busy I don’t feel I can just go which can be stressful. I don’t want to be considered a moaner or an employee who could be a problem to them so I just carry on and hope for the best. If any employers are reading this, please make sure your employee is ok and not just going along with everything when really they need to know that they are supported with any extra concessions that will help them return to work safely and comfortably.
I have now been back at work for 10 months and feel good. I have kept the four day week and it suits me for now.
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