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How do we live with cancer?

Lorikat's picture
Lorikat
Posts: 557
Joined: Jul 2011

Wow! I don't know how to ask this without sounding like I have PMS, as in "poor me syndrome" but here goes....

I am 6 months out of treatment and in remission and I don't know what to do next. I learned from y'all how to fight the battle, and I made it! Yeah!

Now, how do I SURVIVE surviving? Depression has hit big time! I don't know what to do NOW. How do I stop thinking about cancer? I have another chance at living and I need to know how.......

Please others share how they have managed to "mainstream " back into life or if anyone actually has. Thanks,

Lorie
"

mxperry220
Posts: 360
Joined: Mar 2011

I am 3 years 3 months post treatment. Unfortunately I do not think cancer will ever leave or minds. It has become less prominent in my mind as time has gone by. There were constant doctors appointments for the first two years post treatment. I have most recently been moved up to annual visits with my doctors. My doctors told me in the beginning cancer would be at the front of my mind. As time would go by it would become less prominent and it has. I do know there are patient support groups in my area. I probably could have used them early on in my healing process but did not. Maybe your medical doctors can recommend something like that for you.

Even though I successfully completed the treatments I felt all alone after treatments. Cancer recurrence was constantly on my mind. During treatments my life was involved with daily radiation/doctor visits for six weeks. After treatment there was no one to understand what I was going through. I would guess the first two years were somewhat of a challenge emotionally. It has gotten much better and I am getting back to my normal self.

Hope this helps some.

mp327's picture
mp327
Posts: 2879
Joined: Jan 2010

Unfortunately, what you are experiencing is quite common among cancer survivors--me included! After treatment, I felt abandoned, even though I was still seeing my doctors on a regular basis. It was like being suspended in mid-air and not knowing when I was going to fall. I can imagine it's quite similar to what men and women in the military experience after they come home from war. While you are in battle, you don't have time to think about tomorrow, but only the present moment. Then all of a sudden you have all this time for your mind to wander. I think the suggestion of seeking out a cancer support group is a good one. If you are uncomfortable being in a group, perhaps you know of someone personally who is a cancer survivor who would be willing to talk to you. I think this a fairly common emotion for survivors, so please don't think it's not normal.

eihtak
Posts: 826
Joined: Oct 2011

Support groups can be very helpful, even just to have something to do if you are not working. Also an exercise routine, I take a light yoga class once a week but may increase to twice. I like it for the relaxation, meditation, stretching, etc., but also the social interaction before and after class. Years ago I worked at an elementary school and was thinking of volunteering there. There is nothing like working with young children to give you a different perspective on life. They speak without thinking which causes us to think a bit differently. If you do the support group thing don't be discouraged if you are not totally comfortable at first, sometimes it takes a little time or even a different group. Keep in touch with us, as always there is great support right here.

Angela_K
Posts: 374
Joined: Jan 2011

That's the question I asked myself after treatment ended in January of 2011. I went through some depression beginning in about April 2011 and after about a week of listening to Eva Cassidy CD's, crying a few rivers of tears and keeping the Kleenex company thriving, I finally felt cleansed. My GP prescribed me an antidepressant for a few months that helped.

Lorie, I think we stay so strong through the trauma of the diagnosis and then the battle itself, we find very little time to grieve until after it's all over with. It's like we can finally breath. And we are discovering that all of our bodily functions and sex drive, etc may never be the same, and so we are redefining who we are in that regard. And our hormones are WAY off. So there's a lot going on, sister!

An exercise routine is a good idea. Breaking into a good sweat for about 20 to 30 minutes most every day ALWAYS makes me feel better. I wanted to go back to work about 5 months after treatment and recall that first interview being a disaster. I was such a different person than I was just a few months prior. Weird! Then I went through a bizarre stage of interviewing just to practice and declined 2 job offers because I wasn't that into it.

I am just now really moving forward, leaving the 'cancer stuff' behind, not defining myself even as a cancer survivor as much as someone who now has her priorities straight(er) and a much clearer understanding of what's important and not settling for something I don't believe in or don't love doing. So I'm now a Pilates instructor well on my way to being certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as Personal Trainer with emphasis on cancer patient wellness. A complete turn around from being in the highly stressful field of health care administration.

I suppose my point is that you shouldn't put too much pressure on yourself. Understand what you're going through is so normal! Talk to your health care provider about your blues and know that you will get past this stage but be proactive about addressing it in the meantime . .which you've taken the first step in posting right here on this site.

You're still on the road of emotional healing. Give yourself some time.
Blessings,
Angela

Dog Girl
Posts: 100
Joined: Sep 2010

Lorikat,

I finished tx almost 3 years ago and fortunately I am NED. My next follow ups are within the next month or so and I am counting on continue NED which is the most important thing.
I had to throw myself back into work after my tx ended as my boss was extremely unsupportive and I feel out to get me. (I worked the first week of chemo/rad and when he called to force me out on medical leave he said "What is this company even paying you for?)

That is just to say that I hit the depression wall two years post tx. I think that I was so focused on getting through tx and then keeping my job, that I didn't even allow myself to feel anything for a couple of years. I only cried once and that was after tx was completed, but I would reflect on that my butt had been kicked/fried both literally and figuratively and have a little pity party which never happened during tx. I had been on a
mild anti anxiety dosage during tx which I do think helped, but then after a year of all the classic signs of depression (withdrawal from friends and activities, excessive sleep, etc....) I finally said "No mas" and asked my doctor for help. I had been reluctant to do that as I have always been a strong woman, both physically, mentally, and emotionally, and after all, I had beaten cancer, but I was not getting better on my own. My GP doctor said that our body as well as our mind has been through an assault (albeit a lifesaving assualt) with chemo and rad and things can get out of kilter. Bottom line I am now on an anti depressant and feeling much more myself. So I urge you to do the other things suggested such as support groups and exercise as I think they can help, but please do not write off getting rx help as well.

Dog Girl
Posts: 100
Joined: Sep 2010

Lorikat,

I finished tx almost 3 years ago and fortunately I am NED. My next follow ups are within the next month or so and I am counting on continue NED which is the most important thing.
I had to throw myself back into work after my tx ended as my boss was extremely unsupportive and I feel out to get me. (I worked the first week of chemo/rad and when he called to force me out on medical leave he said "What is this company even paying you for?)

That is just to say that I hit the depression wall two years post tx. I think that I was so focused on getting through tx and then keeping my job, that I didn't even allow myself to feel anything for a couple of years. I only cried once and that was after tx was completed, but I would reflect on that my butt had been kicked/fried both literally and figuratively and have a little pity party which never happened during tx. I had been on a
mild anti anxiety dosage during tx which I do think helped, but then after a year of all the classic signs of depression (withdrawal from friends and activities, excessive sleep, etc....) I finally said "No mas" and asked my doctor for help. I had been reluctant to do that as I have always been a strong woman, both physically, mentally, and emotionally, and after all, I had beaten cancer, but I was not getting better on my own. My GP doctor said that our body as well as our mind has been through an assault (albeit a lifesaving assualt) with chemo and rad and things can get out of kilter. Bottom line I am now on an anti depressant and feeling much more myself. So I urge you to do the other things suggested such as support groups and exercise as I think they can help, but please do not write off getting rx help as well.

Sundanceh's picture
Sundanceh
Posts: 4268
Joined: Jun 2009

I'd like to sit down a moment and talk with you today after seeing your post. As I approach my 8th year in the fight next month and looking back on having cancer 3x already - with a 4th time staring me right in the face.

The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that...
"I know less and less - about more and more."

Now, on to your bigger question..."How do I 'Survive' surviving?"

For each of us, the answer lies somewhere deep within the recesses of our own minds...it's found through that big grey mass that separates our left and right ears. The healing must start from there.

Now, I remind you, that this is a process...a process that cannot be rushed or hurried, but must be allowed to root and then blossom on its own timetable.

All of your energies have been directed to the "Fight or Flight Syndrome" that we use as our survival mechanisms...you have been so busy concentrating on the business at hand, that you have not had the time to properly examine and assimilate all of the feelings that you have stored up.

What you need is a release - you need to open up that release valve and let the steam escape, just like we used to do when we got the water hot on the tea kettle and listened for it to sing when the water reached a boil.

And more importantly...and this is very important....you must ALLOW yourself the PERMISSION to let all of your thoughts and feelings wash over you and through them - no matter which direction that they take you. You've got a lot of pent up emotions, both good and bad. And so you need to feel each one of those and let it pass out of your system.

It could be a variety of thoughts or feelings...and all of them will be valid and uniquely yours. Just don't closet them and for goodness sakes, please don't suppress them or make them go away through medication, if you can help it. I believe we have all we need to fight our fights upstairs.

Alot of people run to counseling or rush to medication to 'deal' with things...but really the answers are already inside us. How do we find them? And what do we do when we find them?

You have to get quiet somewhere (perhaps many times)...as I say, this is a process...and you have to ask yourself why you are feeling this way...and then try and look for the answers to why you feel that way....be honest with yourself, even if it hurts....once you can lay it all in your mind and see the picture, you can begin to draw some logical conclusions on "The Why's" of cancer....and this will help you and help spur your recovery.

Because, what you will find is that by doing this yourself, you will have become Enlightened, which leads directly to Empowerment. And from that marriage, your own Personal Growth begins to blossom....because you now see that you have what it takes (you had it all along) and that you can do whatever it is that you thought you couldn't do.

That is cancers' gift back to us - you have to have your eyes opened to see it...the irony of cancer is that it can sometimes "Give as well as Take." That's one of the fascinating dichotomies in the cancer world...and one that I find particularly inspiring.

You are one of those "Red Arrows" on a map, that says "You Are Here Now." And you're at one of the major crossroad in the whole journey itself - right where you find yourself posting from today.

How to get from one spot to the next?

Hey, if I knew that one, I'd write a book that can't get published:) LOL!

You'll never stop thinking about cancer....so much like cancer, the game comes down to how to "MANAGE" your thoughts on cancer, not getting rid of them. And really, Lorie...you don't want to really forget - because it's become a part of who you are and whether you know it or not, you have already changed...and I'm sure for the better.

The folks here know you better than I do, though we have talked a couple of times, but I feel as though I know you, which is why I felt compelled to reach out to you today.

I've been doing this nearly 8-years now...have had cancer 3x - and walked away clean 3x. I'm watching new spots now just 8-months past my 3rd recurrence fight last year....scans at the end of this month will probably tell me a little more.

But, what I'm saying is that we DO, because we HAVE TO. I've got to get up everyday and go to work to keep my health insurance and to put a plate of cornbread on the table and a lightbulb turned on.

Alot of times, the courage and strength and inspiration that people tell us that we are, simply come down to putting one foot in front of the other and doing that which we don't want to do - but "have to do." It may just be simply that.

We have to move forward...we don't have to race, but we've got to keep going. Or we stagnate as a result.

My dad is in his dying days now and 5-months ago, we had to totally walk into his life and assume all of his business obligations as well as his healthcare...all this while, I'm staring at another maybe cancer...and my wife is looking at cancer maybe for the first time.

And yet, work beckons and obligations and responsibilities are all that I have not only for us, but for my dying father as well...my mom is sick as well. Many days I say "how much more?"

But, there is nobody riding over the hill to help us - they weren't here yesterday - they'are not coming today - and I'm not holding my breath for their arrival tomorrow.

In the end, the 'business side' of the world just reallty doesn't care what happens to us...if one can't keep up in life, they are simply tossed to the side to make way for someone else. It's a sad documentary, but is rooted in the truth.

In the World Without Cancer, it's heartless and merciless at times....we got sick and as we tried to re-enter the mainstream of life, we find that we are the proverbial square pegs trying to fit into those round holes.

And when we can't do that, we are left with frustration, abandonment and feelings of worth that we are not now - what we were before. In reality, we are the same, but the packaging has been changed...we're 'new & improved' in a new way....and sometimes its a way that the world just cannot grasp because there are many that have not walked a mile in our shoes.

As for me, I've entered back into mainstream now 3x...having left work and my career to battle cancer...and then to return...through 4-major surgeries, 51x chemos, 55x radiations and too many other countless procedures I've mercifully forgotten about.

Time and Patience are the key, Lorie...not just to cancer, but to life itself. Those are two of the biggest running themes in my dialogue...I've often found that one of the keys to this life, is to simply OUTLAST the bad times in our lives...just find the strength to just do that for now. You'd be surprised at how good that strategy works...you only have to look towards me as the proof of that.

One thing I'd like you to keep in mind - "For each thing in life - there is a season."

Just get up everyday and do the best you can do...take whatever comes and then try and get up the next day and do it all again.

I understand depression...last year's fight had me so sick that I was in the biggest depression of my life....I was so lonely that I used to drive up to the Walmart parking lot and just park my car and listen to the radio and watch people come and go - just so I could feel some connection to the outside world again.

Life is hard - life with cancer is harder - and life around cancer can be even more difficult.

I think what I'm seeing is a woman who find herself in a very good spot right now...I mean that...you're in a good way. Why? Because, you are beginning now to look at where you were then - where you are now - and where you hope to be tomorrow.

And if that's wrong - then I don't wanna' be right:)

BTW, you can always talk to me anytime you need to...alot of my honeys have told me I'm a good listener, when I'm not runnin' my mouth through this keyboard.

LOL!

Take care, Lorie....and THANKS for sharing your feelings...this is how we grow:)

-Craig

P.S. I've often found that most of the storms in our lives eventually pass over us - but not before they pass right through us....

Angela_K
Posts: 374
Joined: Jan 2011

Antidepressants do not suppress nor do they make negative emotions 'go away.' They correct chemical imbalances, still allowing you to work through your emotions. They work beautifully when taken properly under the watchful eye of your physician.

Sundanceh's picture
Sundanceh
Posts: 4268
Joined: Jun 2009

I should have mentioned that meds are a good resource and helpful for many folks...I should have prefaced that. The edit key is no longer available so I can't edit that comment out. I know folks are helped out with them and that's a good thing. Depression affects folks different ways. We have alot of inner strength as well and that's what I was trying to point out.

Lorie - my apologies to you if this statement was taken out of context. We've spoke before and I've kept up with your story and am glad you are in a healthy state right now - sounds like your trip was a success.

Lorikat's picture
Lorikat
Posts: 557
Joined: Jul 2011

Thank you everyone. I truly thought I was one of the rare people who get depressed after being told they are in remission. I appreciate all all of you so much!

Angela...I DID go to my GP and he prescribed a low dose antidepressant. Was surprised I had not already had them, actually. I know they take a week or two to work but swear I already feel better...just being proactive and not wallowing I guess! I also went to the gym and "talked" to the ladies who teach the classes. (maybe next time I will do something, ha!)

I sat under the pergola in the back yard and thought of the things that I have enjoyed in the past....hiking up a local trail into the peace and quiet of the mountain foot heels. I used to love to lay on a flat warm rock feeling the cool desert breezes over me while I just......relaxed and opened my mind to feeling good. When did I quit doing that and why? Craig you are right in that now is the time to really THINK.

I love to dance so I think I will take some classes at the gym....I talked to the instructor and she said I could go at my own pace put suggested I start with yoga or pilates.....she's probably right..

I CAN DO THIS......WE CAN DO THIS!!! We are strong"........ Lorie

mp327's picture
mp327
Posts: 2879
Joined: Jan 2010

I'm so glad to read your last post and know that you are already feeling better! I would encourage you to do as you have suggested--get back to doing the things you love. It may take a little time, but you CAN do it! Hugs!

RoseC's picture
RoseC
Posts: 503
Joined: Jun 2011

The antidepressant I took during treatment did make negative feelings go away. I would wake up in the morning with a 'dark' feeling - not hopeless or anything, just dark. After taking a xanax I'd get a feeling of well-being. Not that I'm saying they're a bad thing, not at all. For me they allowed me less anxiety and that was a very good thing.

I'd go to that quiet place too Sundance, and think about things. It all worked out after some time. I'm glad I had the xanax when I needed it, and I'm grateful for that quiet, thinking place too.

Angela_K
Posts: 374
Joined: Jan 2011

Finding the right antidepressant to fit your chemical make-up can be trial and error. They are not designed to leave you with a 'dark' feeling or to mask emotions. That's why it's so important to communicate with your doctor to ensure he/she's prescribed the best antidepressant for you. Funny, but Xanax either put me to sleep and made me weepy when I did manage to stay awake. I only took a couple and then gave the prescription back to my doctor. We're all sooooo different.

Lorikat ~ Let us know how you're doing. We all care about you.

Angela

Lorikat's picture
Lorikat
Posts: 557
Joined: Jul 2011

That really describes the feeling.....dark and down. Yuck

RoseC's picture
RoseC
Posts: 503
Joined: Jun 2011

Yeah, yuck. It's not a good feeling. So glad you're feeling better today. :)

briniusyuzh602
Posts: 5
Joined: May 2012

Hi Angela,

Thanks for you suggestion. Antidepressants sometimes have side efforts. I read an article on mayoclinic. The article said there are some Antidepressants that don't have side efforts.

- sexy underwear

RoseC's picture
RoseC
Posts: 503
Joined: Jun 2011

I was lucky to be able to stay working (part-time) through most of the treatment until I came down with TTP. Then I spent two months in the hospital and four months at home recuperating. Very depressing. Returning to work helped so much. I got out of the house and was able to talk and socialize with folks from my 'previous' life. It got me back into the swing of life. I still had to go to lots of doctors appointments but at least part of my life was doctor-less.

Doesn't have to be work per se, but if there are things you can do now that you used to do but left to fight the cancer, I'd recommend finding those things (as long as you enjoyed them) and returning to them.

sandysp's picture
sandysp
Posts: 771
Joined: May 2011

I have battled depression recently also and have wondered if there was a connection. It is good you shared this. I was wondering if it might be related. I went to a counselor yesterday and didn't even bring up the connection but did talk a bit about it. Mother's Day is always a difficult (maybe even the most difficult) holiday for me so I can't tell what's what. I am glad mother's day is over, though.

torrance
Posts: 118
Joined: Jan 2012

Sandy and all....

Depression is a common side effect of cancer. If you think of depression more in the terms that your entire system is "depressed" meaning worn down from fighting cancer, radiation and chemo. All of your systems are trying to cope and they can't without helps sometimes. Antidepressants don't hide any issues, cancer related or otherwise, they just help you cope with them easier. My depression didn't hit until almost a year after treatment ended. I am using Zoloft with great success. My dr told me I would probably need to be on them for a year while my system healed and regained its balance. I was never told, nor did I realize that this would be a "side effect" from cancer. For me my depression was not being "sad" or "not wanting to participate" or anything like that, it was more a matter of coping.

Hang in there we'll get through this together!

Love ya all!
Joanne

sephie's picture
sephie
Posts: 521
Joined: Apr 2009

i have trouble not thinking of this every day because i still have pain in anus. still can not drive for long times due to pressure and it tears the tissue. yes, i hate it. so i know that i am depressed but EVERYONE always says ::: be happy that you are alive. be grateful for how far you have come. sometimes i want to yell at them but i do not. i need compassion and understanding and rarely do i get it. my attitude needs help. hugs to all of us. this c. is truly one that keeps on giving . sephie

sandysp's picture
sandysp
Posts: 771
Joined: May 2011

Hi Sephie,
My pain issues come and go and when they come, I feel despair. When they go I feel Euphoric. The push pull of these emotions is hard on me and those who know me. My husband says he has "compassion fatigue." He said that before I was diagnosed and continues to say it. He misses the person I was used to be. But we are both in our 60's now and no one is who they used to be when they were twenty years younger! I think I am getting "compassion fatigue!" lol.

I am so glad I have you people!

All the best,
Sandy

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