Unfinished business - return to work, or not?

Hi All - some advice if possible please? (Sorry - long post alert!)

I’m 11 months post a major stroke in my left occipital cortex which left me unable to move my right arm or leg, or see out of my right eye. I’m very fortunate to have made a good physical recovery, with everything now working again. Where I’ve continued to struggle is with energy levels and the fatigue we’re all familiar with, and which at times can still be debilitating.

I also have a colourful medical history of cancer (testicular, spread to abdomen and lungs, stage 3), 15yrs of end stage renal failure, 15 years of a kidney transplant (with a compromised immune system as a result of the medication), multiple skin cancers, septic shock, and a slipped disc in my back - all of which are possibly compounding/contributing to how I’m feeling.

I’m now 52, and despite all of the above, it’s always been my aim to return to work. I was even checking my work emails from hospital the day after my stroke and have been doing so everyday since - even though I’m officially signed off until the end of May. My employers have been great, and I’m also very fortunate that whilst my salary stopped after 9 months, we have a group insurance policy in place that still pays me a percentage of my income whilst I’m off. So again, I’m very lucky that - with some adjustments - we can still pay the bills and put food on the table, even if I didn’t go back to work.

My current ‘struggle’ is that having caught up with my boss yesterday, he’s told me that he’s been successful in securing a promotion within our organisation. As his Deputy, it would be a natural progression for me to take over his role - which is one that I’d always wanted and seen myself retiring in. So it’s an opportunity that feels like ‘unfinished business’ due to the stroke, which took away the control I thought I had over my life and career. (I should have known better than thinking I was in control!)

So how to explain my dilemma. I’m not yet back at work. I’ve aimed to get back every month for the last 10m, but seem to keep burning myself out in my attempts to get back to ‘normal’. I’ve always been able to push myself hard, but now it seems to come at a cost (fatigue, low energy, low immune system etc).

My heart is telling me to have a one last roll of the dice, push myself to get back to work and take back control. My head (and my wife) tells me that the price I would have to pay would be too high. I could go on, but hopefully you get the issue?

Any advice/shared experiences would be greatly appreciated.

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@IanJ it’s a difficult one isn’t it & ultimately only you know how you feel & whether you could cope. Some of the issues you describe make it sound like it may be a bit too soon for you to return but then if you don’t try you won’t know. I returned to work 4 weeks ago after 16 months off. I found it harder than I thought it would be & I am only working 9 hrs a week currently.

Not sure what your job is but can adjustments be put in place to help you return? If you’re honest with yourself are you ready to give it a go? Could you cope with your currrnt role never mind a promotion? If the promotion wasn’t an option would you be thinking about returning?

We all have to accept that the plans we had may no longer be possible post stroke & priorities often change.

I’ve kind of with @Loshy re enjoying life given what you’ve been through.

My final comment would be your health has to come first. If you don’t have your health you won’t be able to do the things you enjoy anyway.

Good luck.


Personally I don’t think it’s a difficult choice. You’ve clearly dodge several bullets over the years. This a serious warning shot, and considering it was major stroke, I say it might be your only one, the next one could be the one that takes everything away from you! Do you like playing Russian Roulette with your life?

I really really want to ask the hard question. So I’m just going to ask it anyway.
How do you feel about making your wife a widow for the sake of work and promotion?

The fatigue is not going to go away any time soon, if ever. That’s what’s preventing you even trying to over do things.
Listen to your Head, he’s the boss, before it goes bang and all lights go out. Listen to your wife, she’s your Head’s second in command. They both can’t be wrong.

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There’s more to life than work (as I found when I had my stroke). You’re currently doing the most important job you can have - working on your recovery. Concentrate on that (unless you need to go back to work).


I was a taxi driver working all sorts of hours six to sometimes seven days a week September 2021 had first stroke on the 20th and the second on the 24th was in hospital overnight after the 1st released the next day then went back to work then had the 2nd missed my daughter’s wedding because I was in hospital for 15 days I count myself very lucky there’s people a lot worse than me I’m recovering I walk with a zimmer my left leg and arm are slowly recovering but this has really opened my eyes to what’s important if you can afford to stay at home do it enjoy your life you might not be so lucky next time take care and enjoy your time with the people who love you all you are at work is a clicking in number spend your time wisely

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@IanJ ultimately its your call this one with the obvious input of your loved ones.your wife has cared for you throughout your significant health issues and must just want you to have a sustsined periodbof good health that you and her can enjoy together. At 52 youre a young man. But if my stroke has taught me anything is that

My stroke was May 25th 2022 and i am due to start back on a phased basis of work from May 1st 2023.

Im looking forward to going back to work but have now got other priorities in life like seeingmy son graduate from Uni in a few years time and being flown by my othervson whose training to be a commercial pilot.

My best pal passed away aged 55 last year from oesophagal cancer so that has also influenced my thinking post stroke too.

My wife and i have decided to downsize, move to bungalow as my left side is atill largely affected to cash in on the equity and live pretty much mortgage free in case i dont go back to work full time or have to change job roles.


Thanks for taking the time to read and respond folks, it really is appreciated.

I think deep down I always knew what the correct decision should be (which is not to apply for the role) and in all honesty, having pushed myself again this week to test my stamina levels, I’ve crashed and burned yet again, which has clearly told me that I’m not yet ready to go back - never mind to a bigger role.

I guess I’ve always been stubborn and had this belief that I can bounce back bigger and stronger - which has served me reasonably well in the past, however this time it feels different and I maybe need to accept and celebrate what I still have, rather than grieving for what I think I’ve lost out on.

Once again, thanks for your input.


The brain holds all the power, it doesn’t give very many second chances, there are no spare parts and gives away very little. It’s stubborn and some times a cantankerous so and so that takes no prisoners. You’d be a fool to try and defy it, you’ll certainly never get the upper hand with it…even the experts haven’t concord it yet. So what makes you think you can; that’s what we all come to realise after a stroke :smirk: So give in gracefully and work with it instead of against it :wink:

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