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Personality changes after treatment

dragonfly2
Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2008

I'm new to this so... as the wife of a two time cancer survivor, I have noticed great personality changes in my husband after 6 months of intense treatment; radiation and chemo/ stage 4A. We are all adjusting to living with cancer again, but I was wondering if anyone else experienced great personality changes in themselves (which may be hard for oneself to detect), or in their loved ones after treatment? It is now 9 months post treatment...and I am so glad to have him around and cancer -free, but I rarely catch a glimpse of the man I married. Does any other person have the same experience?

slickwilly's picture
slickwilly
Posts: 339
Joined: Feb 2007

dragonfly2. If you go down the first list here to "long term effects of treatment" you will find a bunch of letters that relate to this subject. Many of us talk about the emotional toll cancer has taken on our relationships. Its very common for us to want to reduce stress in every way possible. We tend to keep the positive people in our lives and get rid of the negative ones. We struggle with the side effects of the treatment. Many of us feel our families can't possibly understand the fear, pain and frustration. Many times that is because our families just don't listen. Or they don't want to hear the bad parts of a conversation. Having cancer once lets you know it can always come back. Twice and he proubly feels like he is living on borrowed time. In my case, 2 years after cancer I ended up on disability. Not by choice as I fought hard to keep working and support my family. Having worked since the age of 14 I was completly lost. A large part of my life had changed and I didn't know what to do with myself. I felt worthless inside as I was not moving ahead in life. I have forced myself to do things around the home and to help other people even if it causes me pain, as the reward is much greater than the pain. I am not the same energetic person involved in community activities, physical labor and surviving on 6 hours of sleep a night because I didn't want to miss any part of life. But I do the best I can. Work with your husband and be understanding as I am sure you are. Try to do the things you once did if he is able to do them. Talk and if he won't talk you might want to try a therapist. Being around young people or helping others makes some of us feel better. I never expected my wife to change with me as I would not wish this on anyone. I just want the understanding, support and friendship. And when I have a good day I try my best to return the same to her. And I make an effort to do things we once did. We loved to go camping. Its hard as I am usually in pain. But I go anyway and if things get too bad she stays and I go home until the pain lets up. If I don't feel good I don't stop her from enjoying life. I have missed many Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. But she always brings me a plate of food. I hope you and your husband find that middle ground but sometimes it takes time. Slickwilly

dragonfly2
Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2008

I read your profile. Your pain brings me pain. Perhaps I can take some of it from you. Ok?

judyloo's picture
judyloo
Posts: 39
Joined: Jun 2008

I sure did see a huge personality change in my husband - and my self included. My strong, independent type A personality husband became a shadow of himself literally because of the weight he lost (over 70lbs) and because of the losses/depression he was dealing with. I got on the phone to family and friends and told them he needed their support any way they could give it - in person or by phone calls/cards. It did help enormously. However I recognized he was depressed and with some encouragement from me had him talk to his Doc about it and they put him on medication. After a few week he did "mellow out" a bit altho he still has some bad days. i think I was/am just mostly angry at the MD who failed to diagnose him as quickly as she should have - in fact I was angry at ever Doc who came to us with bad news. Guess we care givers are also set up for our own bout of depression. I have not gone on meds but there are days when I feel so sad or angry I wish I could make that choice. I used to be a very calm even keeled person and at times I now wonder who or what I am. So yes, cancer has changed us fundamentaly - I am thankful when I saw "my" husband begin to return to me. Yours will too, be patient and supportive - and if he is depressed get him some help. AND - just as importantly, take care of yourself and your needs. One good thing did come out of all this we both now believe in the power of prayer - so one is being said now for the two of you.

dragonfly2
Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2008

Thanks so much for your comments. I found them both helpful. I will be praying for both of you too. Slick, are you still going through treatment? Why are you still having such pain? I know head and neck cancer is painful because of what I witnessed, but don't things get a little better week by week? And I also wanted to say that I am the one who wants to reduce the stress. My husband is going full throttle to the point in which he overdoes it. I want to slow down and enjoy the simpler things. He is the one who is burning me out. I know that there is a part to be grateful he is like this, but he is also angry and tempermental. He will not take the anti-anxiety med or the anti-depressant the dr. perscribed. He says he's had to take enough medicine and will not take any more than he has to. We talked about several issues and he is trying to be more aware of his attitude and how it affects the kids and me. He's very nasty at times, and he was never like that before. He verbally mistreats us at times and then is sorry for it later. We are coping with this new person. Judy, I have also seen the weight loss. My guy lost 50 lbs. I can't imagine 70 libs! My husband went from a stong type A person to a TRIPLE A type. He is no longer big and strong, but we joke he is scrappy. He kinda likes that. Humor helps get us through, and so do anti-depressants. He would not take them but I told my Doctor that I need some. This is the second time I have had to take them. The first time was after his first round with cancer. The first time I was on them for 1 year (after he finished treatment). I felt so much better. This time, I asked the Dr. to put me on them while he was in treatment. I was sick with worry. I work full time and carry our health insurance so I needed to continue performing on the job. We also have 4 kids. Two are young and still at home, and I needed to be "together" for them. Well, anyway Judyloo... the antidepressants are just temporary for me and they are wonderful. I had no problem going them off them before, and I hope the same happens this time when I am ready. I pray all the time. I will now pray for you Slick and Judyloo and your families. Thanks for the response.

slickwilly's picture
slickwilly
Posts: 339
Joined: Feb 2007

If your husband is going full throttle I suspect that is his coping skills at work. Keep busy and don't think about what you have been through. But you really can't hide from having cancer and all the mental problems that come with it. You will proubly read many cases here where cancer checks, hospital smells ect are triggers. And years after cancer we fight depression and frustration. When I returned to work I could not multi task or remember anything and I was never so frustrated and depressed in my life. I took anxiety drugs for 4 months until my brain started to get up to speed again. Even though I didn't think it made a difference my wife said it did. We don't always know what is best for us! You asked about my pain problem, and my life is an open book to anyone that asks or I would not be on here talking to anyone. I had a small amount of arthritis in my neck in 2001 that would cause neck pain and move to a migraine about 2 times a month. After my cancer treatments which included 25 shots of radiation to my face things progressed fast. I returned to work but the pain and headaches now took up half the days of a month. My normal night at work started with Oxycondone, Motrin 800 and flexeril. I don't know how I stayed awake or did my job. Then my left arm quit working. I worked for another month as I loved working and knew it would be the end for me. I went to U of M at Ann Arbor and they diagnosed spinal stenosis, degeneration of the spine and compression of the vertebres on nerves. As it covered too large an area and Radiation makes bone brittle there was no way they would do any surgery. It took 3 months of physical therapy to get my arm moving again. A change in weather or any movement of my head can cause pain for up to 8 days. So bad I am leaning over a toilet. I am limited on some drugs that can help by my Meningioma brain tumor. I tried arthritis drugs and I could not walk in 3 days. My body chemistry is all messed up after having chemo. I have tons of pain drugs, muscle relaxers and anti inflamatories. I rotate the drugs so I am not dependent on any of them. And I hate drugs just like your husband. I fight every minute of everyday. But I still have a sense of humor and don't take my pain out on anyone. I push myself to do things and back off when the pain gets too strong. Last night I had a face to face with a caregiver who lost her husband. It helps me as much as them. And I talk to God alot. I am on disability but have not given up on life. My brain says I am 20 and my body says I am 80. Gotta hate that. Still fighting Slickwilly. My e-mail address is slickwilly007@msn.com if you would like to talk. Its always a good thing to get stress out.

Christmas
Posts: 91
Joined: May 2005

I'm a survivor, and this is my take. I do notice, and I've been told that I get irritated very easily. I used to be very mellow and do not get excitable. I'm not sure if this is a medical and/or psychological reason. I've shot off my mouth inappropriately a couple of times. I do not LIKE unpleasant surprises at all. Little things like someone at work remove a printer without informing me. It's like I can't control myself and start to vent by loudly complaining about the inconvenience to me. I know that it's a minor thing, and my behavior is inappropriate, but there's no control. There are times when I'm involved in a discussion in a topic close to my heart (e.g. women's rights), and I get every excited and loud in expressing my position. NEVER used to be like that. Little things that go wrong would get me very irritated.

Maybe mentally, I think that after what I've gone through, life is short. So cut the
BS and get out of my way.

I've put my foot in my mouth more times than I can count.

Anyone else notice any changes?

dragonfly2
Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2008

Hmmm. I guess we are not alone. My husband also vents loudly, and it is impossible to stop him. He just gets louder and louder and louder. Yes, life is short and there is alot of BS. I understand the "get out of my way" feeling. I have always been like that deep down, but I am quiet about it for the most part. You make me smile.

dragonfly2
Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2008

Thanks, Slick. After reading your response and the reponse of others I feel like I was the one with cancer when my husband was the one going through treatment. I don't mean to be a cry-baby but I can honestly say I think I feel the way many cancer survivors feel. Grateful for everyday, push myself to do things, gfet tired easily, fear the return of the disease. Maybe I feel this way because of the love I feel for my husband, but it is wierd. I keep alot of my feelings from him because I don't want to bring him down, and he is going full throttle- which I do think is a denial and coping mechanism to some point.

I cannot believe all that you have been through. I admire the "perseverance for life". Your strength gives me strength and helps me understand how difficult and complicated things can get. You are really a super human-man to have such insight in the midst of a difficult situation. You seem to have such clarity. Thank you for sharing your insight, and thanks for your email address. I may be contacting you.

TereB
Posts: 288
Joined: May 2003

Hi Dragonfly,

Cancer is more than the tumor, surgery and treatment. It affects our emotions too. We get all sort of feelings, fear, anger, depression, etc., and many times we don't even notice until it's been going on for a while.

Many times, if the cancer recurs, we think we are not going to make it and we try to do all the things we may not have time to do in the future. I know it sounds sort of silly but I did clean closets in the house and tried to give away all my stuff. I tried to finish all the projects I have started and not finished, etc. I was physically tired from all the work I was doing and all of this was causing a lot of stress.

I've changed. I don't think my personality has changed, I'm basically the same person I've always been but now I am more patient, don't pay so much attention to the little stuff, enjoy a lot of things I had ignored before. My priorities have changed. There were times when I was in treatment and I was cranky and impatient with my family. I now have peace and tranquility most of the time which is what I wanted.

Two things that helped me were faith in God. Every day I thank Him for another day, for the beautiful sunset or whatever and I ask Him to give me strength when I am worried about test results or beginning to worry about something. I also ask Him to hold my hand when I go for tests and I am very nervous. It has worked for me. I am not exactly expecting a miracle or anything like that. What I know is that when I am so nervous before a test and trying hard not to cry, when I ask God to hold my hand, I stop being so afraid. I have worked with my mind so I can have my tests without sedatives and actually am able to take a nap during the MRI. Faith in God does not mean a certain God, any Supreme Being you believe in will help.

I also saw a psychiatrist that really helped me out of my depression, helped me deal with the tumor coming back, the fears, etc. She didn't give me any antidepressants at first. She told me antidepressants work better if you are in therapy, they are an aid in therapy.

There are many antidepressants in the market, not one works for everybody. Also, the dosage is not the same for everybody since they affect us all in different ways. I take the smallest dose and that just works fine for me.

Perhaps your husband doesn't want to take the antidepressants because of how they make him feel; maybe the dosage needs to be adjusted or he needs a different antidepressant. Maybe he will benefit more from therapy.

I believe your mind can do many things. I have a primary tumor in my head and mets in the neck, lungs, all along the spine, pelvis, etc, etc. My two biggest tumors shrank once without treatment. My doctors cannot explain it. I think my mind had something to do with it. When I am calm and relaxed, my tumors tend to go dormant. I've been battling this since 1987 and I enjoy life more than I did then even though at that time I was not a very unhappy person.

Many oncology depts. have social workers experienced in helping cancer patients deal with the disease and all the new feelings that we all get when we are diagnosed.

I will remember you and your family in my prayers,
Tere

dragonfly2
Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2008

Thank you, TereB. For some reason I didn't think of suggesting to my husband to try a different antidepressants or different doses. It seems such a logical thing to do, but my normally logical brain did not go there. Thanks! I will suggest that because after this weekend, I can see he really needs some help in that area. I also think if I could find a support group in my area, it would be beneficial. Maybe I should start one. There are several people in this small town that would benefit from it. You have given me some new things to think about. xoxoxo

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