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Carina’s work story

Reducing my stress by rethinking work

Carina, 45, was diagnosed with hairy cell leukaemia in June 2017. Following chemotherapy, she’s been in remission since November 2017.

Carina, 45, was diagnosed with hairy cell leukaemia in June 2017. Following chemotherapy, she’s been in remission since November 2017.


I carried on working through my treatment for leukaemia. Looking back, I’m not sure how, but it helped keep my mind focused on something other than being ill and going through treatment.

It sounds crazy perhaps, but I was afraid that without a focus I’d sink, as I was virtually housebound due to the impact my leukemia had on my immune system.

After being told I was in remission, I knew for certain that I needed a change of direction and that I wasn’t interested in continuing in the role I had.

Changing my job role

I had read an article that said moving jobs isn’t always the best thing, but changing your job role within your current company can change your life completely. That’s what’s happened for me. I’m considerably less stressed now and it’s given me a positive outlook.

Looking back, I realise that a lot of the stress was probably caused by my exhaustion, or made worse by it. I now appreciate how bad stress is for me.

Reducing stress

So, you could say that from a positive angle, the leukaemia stopped me in my tracks and made me reassess my life. You can’t completely get rid of all stressful situations, but what I wanted to do was reduce the chronic stress – the everyday constant worries.

There are probably people who feel like they can’t extricate themselves from that kind of stress, particularly when they’re stuck in the middle of it, but the reality is most people can do something.

Even a small change can have a big impact on reducing stress. Since changing my role at work, I wonder why I didn’t do it years ago.

Working from home

I now work part of the time from home, and this helps me to manage the fatigue, as and when it appears.

Usually on one of those days I have a half-hour nap at lunchtime, which I can’t do in the office. I like to do it even when I don’t feel like I need a nap, on the basis that it’s prevention rather than cure.

Working from home, I don’t have the stress of the commute, which can add to the tiredness and might bring on my fatigue even more.

Thinking about the future

Until I was diagnosed I was focused on my career, but now my focus is on being as well as possible, for as long as possible – as while hairy cell leukaemia responds well to treatment, I will definitely relapse at some point.

I also want to support others going through what I went through, and hopefully make them feel less alone. I’m a buddy for Leukaemia Care and I have qualified as a Pilates instructor. I am thinking about doing more training so I can teach Pilates for cancer rehabilitation. I might yet decide to go off on a complete tangent.

For now though, staying with the same company but having a slightly different role has been like having a new job.

Janssen-Cilag Ltd has supported Blood Cancer UK with funding for the production of this web page and others within the ‘Living well’ section. It had no influence over the content.

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