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Post Cancer Depression

donut1970
Posts: 2
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi. This is my first time to this site. My wife found it for me. I am a 33yr old colon cancer survivor. I just celebrated my 1 yr cancer free anniversary. I had ulcerative colitis for almost 10 years and was diagnosed at my annual checkup in September 2002. I had Stage II Cancer and went through preventative chemo for 6 months because they were not sure if the Dr's got everything. I went through everything with a very positive attitude and tremendous support from my wife and family. I had surgery in Oct 2002 and was given a temp ileostomy, began chemo in Nov 2002, developed 2 clots on both lungs in Jan 2003, dev an allergic reaction to a bronchial drug in March 2003, had my drop down surgery in June 2003 and ended up back in the hospital 2 days after my release due to excessive passing of blood (I ended up blacking out at home). I am now seeing a urologist due to complications from the surgery.
I feel like my wife and I are growing apart (I am probably pushing her away because I want her to be with a healthy person). She tells me she isn't going anywhere and will always be at my side, but I feel like I cannot reciprocate those feelings. I am sadder now after I have been given the clean bill of health than I was during the entire surgeries and treatment. THere are days I just want to run away and leave everything behind and start my life over all alone where I do not know anyone. What is wrong? Is this normal? I thought these feelings would come during the entire recovery stage, not after everything was over with. Are there other men out there that are experiencing these things? Any other women out there that are dealing with some of these things? Am I going nuts? I get scared to go to a crowded bar with people smoking. The other night I left my wife at the bar with her friends and never said goodbye. I have never done anything like that before. Needless to say, we had a HUGE fight (after 2 days of not speaking to each other. I didn't think I did anything wrong.
I thought since my life was changing I should change jobs as well...big mistake. I hate it and I do not like my new boss. He is an extremely negative person.
I feel all alone and want to know if I am just overreacting. Can anyone offer advice?

andreae
Posts: 238
Joined: Sep 2003

My heart goes out to you. I'm just so sorry... I know when ppl. say that to me I feel like telling them that their sympathy doesn't really help but those are the only words I can find to convey how sad I am that you, me and everyone on this message board has to face this demon. Nobody ever said that life is supposed to be easy but why does it have to be so hard sometimes? I'm a twenty-one year old, diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer last January. I received pre-op chemo, surgery (I now have a permanent colostomy) and post-op chemo over a period of 9 months. The treatment finished and they gave me a CT two weeks later that revealed mets. in my lungs. I have just finished my second cycle of oxaliplatin and Xeloda for metastatic cancer. Now that the backgrounds done, firstly, I want to congratulate you on your cancer free year - that's one piece of good news. Physically, how are you feeling now? It's sounds like you had a tremendously tough time and faced complications due to treatment... As for emotionally, I can't totally relate to the post cancer experience b/c I have yet to go into remission but, even with the cancer still in me, I am doing physically better and have been trying to piece back my life since May, after my surgery. It's not easy (to say the least). I think it's PERFECTLY NORMAL for you to be reeling from the experience and you seem now to be trying to find a "new" normal. B/c I think that's what cancer survivors have to do. Back in the summer, I was pretty unhappy b/c I didn't have my old body, I wasn't as physically able as I always had been, etc. I began to come out of it when I gave up on trying to fit into my old life and my previous normal. I've come to accept that it's not going to happen. My perspective, body and mind have completely changed... it doesn't fit the old mold. I'm different now, not necessarily bad different, but different none the less. Cancer is known as a life-changing experience - and that's putting it mildly. Now, I'm staying busy trying to find my new normal. If it's any consolation, I think I have managed to find it... I'm happy now. I have a lot more good days and fewer bad ones. It will happen for you too, but it's a long journey. I know that feeling of wanting to start a new and different life... Maybe it's because you feel as if you are a new and different person and can't relate to your old life. But although cancer has probably changed you, it probably hasn't changed you completely. I bet you have retained some of your old likes and habits and talents, ect. I try to view that my cancer experience as something that has been "added" to my old self. In many aspects, I'm still the same old Andrea - I still love school, studying, a little partying, children, ect. only now I'm also a cancer survivor. I haven't completely changed my life around (I have the same friends, I still go to school, ect.) but I have had to make adjustments. It sounds as if you are really unhappy in your new job... Can you get your previous one back? You deserve happiness.

Anyways, this message is too long and convoluted, but I hope I have managed to offer some reassurance. There are fabulous, beautiful ppl. on this message board (that's the one thing I like about cancer, the special people you meet) that I'm sure can offer more clear guidance. I guess I just wanted to let you know that you are normal and that you are not alone. I encourage you to post whenever you feel like it! You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely,
Andrea

pattieb
Posts: 176
Joined: Mar 2003

Way to go andrea you put it so right.
I do think what you did to your wife was very wrong, it sounds like you are trying to punish her for your cancer. Maybe you should try to get some counciling. Yes we do change after we get cancer but some people need alittle more help to adjust to all that has happened.
Pattie

aspaysia's picture
aspaysia
Posts: 257
Joined: Nov 2003

Treatment kept me so busy I did not have time to stop and think about anything but staying on schedule and following doctors' orders. I was not contemplating my mortality or any of that stuff. It was not until things got quiet that it really hit me...I have what??? Cancer. The big Cee. Is this a movie-of-the-week or what? I needed anti-depressants to get me through that stage.

You could benefit from therapy: counselling, drugs, whatever. Just posting on this board required getting your thoughts ordered and you explain yourself very well.

It is indeed a heavy load you carry. my friend. Worrying about what it is doing to your family is a guilt trip that never goes anywhere. So don't beat yourself up. You did not invite this disease. It comes unbidden and stays until it is thrashed soundly by modern medicine.

Go back to Aleftina's msg of 12/11 and read the thread she started about how people feel with this monstrous thing growing inside them. Love it or hate it.

I am still waiting for some big change in myself like you are supposed to have after a near-death experience. But darned if I'm not the same old me and people treat me the same old way. I was hoping to milk this thing but can't get away with it.

We are praying for you.
Aspaysia

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2600
Joined: Apr 2003

Ahoy, donut1970 -

From a guy's perspective.... (thank you, ladies, for your thoughts. You are extremely in tune!)

I went through some significant depression when I was sick. My wife served me with divorce papers the day after my surgery (thank heaven I was on a morphine drip and 250 miles away!), my kids were turned against me, I was completely alone and lived in a new area where I had no friends, I had to get a P/T job just to make ends meet to pay support, and my x2b was seemingly having fun heaping as much BS on me as she possibly could. There were many times when I would go to sleep at night wondering why I was pushing through every day - for what? I wondered if it wouldn't just be easier to fall asleep and not wake up, discontinue my treatments and just fade away.

I understand that feelings of depression are quite normal when on chemo. I had a bout of depression back in 1997 when I separated from my then-spouse (why the hec did I ever go back?!) and I knew that I didn't want to go there again, so I started going to group therapy. I was their poster child - when people sobbed about having arguements with their spouse, I told my story. I did a lot of mentoring with people in the group. I began to see that there was a purpose for me and that helped me.

Obviously you have a purpose, too. Obviously you are beginning to see that. I would offer that you are experiencing your mid-life crisis a few years early since you have been afflicted by a disease that kills so many people. Your perspective on so many things is changing. I went through it, too.

I offer this, donut: you have a wife and family who stood by you through your worst hours. You cannot find that sort of dedication just anywhere. By acknowledging that you feel badly about the way you have handled the situation, you are taking the first step toward making it better. That's the key. Push forward from here. "Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." - Carl Bard

As for your job... you must do something you are passionate about in this life or you will decay. I am fortunate, I found a job I love when I was 17 and I'm still at it. My advice is to hang tough in your present job WHILE you look elsewhere. You will find it.

You are a survivor because you have a purpose. You are an integral part of a much bigger Plan and you still have important work to accomplish in this life. Your family loves you dearly - don't take that for granted. You obviously love them, too or you wouldn't feel out of sorts. "Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, you learn at once how big and precious it is." - Maxim Gorky

Finally, (assuming you're still reading this) to echo what the gurlz said, I would like to close with a quote from the Dali Lama that is so appropriate to cancer survivors:

"...the period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one's life. Through a difficult period you can learn, you can develop inner strength, determination and courage to face the problem. Who [what] gives you this chance? Your enemy [cancer]"

Be well. Always remember you have a purpose for being here.

- SpongeBob

2bhealed's picture
2bhealed
Posts: 2084
Joined: Dec 2001

Run away? YOU BET! But since I cannot run away I do the next best thing. I get a massage for an hour and a half and lose myself in bliss. A bit of pampering goes a long way. I also chose a special destination and went away for a weekend with my hubby and did everything I wanted to do...I chose the agenda. I also went into counseling. I 'ran away' to vent to my counselor weekly. I moved out of negative relationships. I distanced myself from unhealthy behaviors and embraced new healthier ones....(like maybe don't go to smokey bars and choose something else to do with your wife).

Your feelings are all so normal. There are more times than I can count that I want to STOP, GET OFF, START OVER! But in life there are no "do overs", only do betters. So I am trying to do this second chance better than the first. It can get very lonely walking this road too when you are wanting to change and other family members are not on board. But hang in there and ride it out.

BTW Congrats! on the one year cancer free!

peace, emily

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