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Post-Radiation Anxiety

TravelNutTexas
Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2013

Hi All,

 

I was diagnosed with Stage 2 bulky Hodgkin's Lymphoma last September.  Completed 12 chemo treatments 2 weeks apart and then 17 radiation treatments.  Had my last radiation on May 22.  After each chemo I was really sick - nauseous, depressed, fatigued, etc. - for about four days, and then OK, or at least able to function, until my next chemo.  I took about a month off between chemo and radiation, and then took about a month to complete my radiation.  Started with the fatigue and burning in my chest after only a few days of radiation - the burning and trouble swallowing is now gone, but the immense fatigue is still present, and what's worse is that since about a week into the radiation therapy I've been having extreme anxiety and panic attacks.  I think some of it might be because I just don't have the disposition to be able to do nothing all day without feeling very stressed about all the things I'm not able to do.  I'm self-employed and can't really take a leave of absense from my job so I've been working when and as I can.  I'm a financial planner and office at home so I've been able to maintain a light workload, mostly just answering emails and phone calls and meeting with clients only when necessary, but I do worry about the work that is piling up.  I have a wonderful husband who is helping around the house and he assures me that I am very slowly getting better, but I certainly don't see it from where I'm sitting, or lying as the case may be.  Every day it's just a struggle to get out of bed without just having a complete breakdown, and every minute it's just an effort to hold myself together and do the things that need to be done.  My oncologist says give it time and talk to my primary care physician about increasing my antidepressants, but I know from prior experience that increasing the dosage of my antidepressants will temporarily make me feel jittery and that's the last thing I need right now.  Help!  Has anyone else dealt with this kind of thing?  Oh I should mention that as of my last set of scans there are no visible signs of cancer left in my body and I am so grateful for that, but had I know what the radiation was going to do to me I might have skipped it and taken my chances.  This is just torture.

 

Shelli in Texas

jimwins's picture
jimwins
Posts: 1983
Joined: Aug 2011

Congratulations on your remission and welcome to this site.  Lots of great folks here and you'll hear from many I'm sure.  I'm sorry you are having such difficulties but understand you are not alone here.  You have been through a lot and not just physically - I think many of us go through something like post traumatic stress disorder when it's all over among other things.  We're so busy just getting through the treatments that when it's completed, the "in treatment robot" sort of shuts down and we are flooded with all kinds emotions, thoughts and actual physical issues that we are overwhelmed. I think a lot of us go through some form of depression once it's over.  There is also grief over the loss of what we were before cancer.  You hear many times here "cancer changes your life forever".  

To get through things we have to process them and that can be as difficult as the trauma itself I think.  During the shock of diagnosis, the chaos of treatment and follow ups, we protect ourselves by tucking away alot of the grief, fear, depression, etc. just to get through the war against cancer.  Once it's over, those things we put on the shelf, start tumbling out.  It's okay to have a meltdown, a hissy fit, a crying spell, a fit of anger about all of this.  You didn't deserve this and have every right to be human about it.  You have to be selfish for awhile to process all of this and that is perfectly normal.  On the other hand, if you feel you've gone beyond what is reasonable for you in dealing with this unsuccessfully, then you might want to get some professional help. - there is nothing wrong with that.  

I know I havent given much advice but wanted you to know you are not alone and are welcome here anytime.  We're not experts but we are waliing or have "walked the walk".  Take some time and be good to yourself - you deserve it.  I hope things get better for you soon.

Big hugs to you in Texas,

Jim

Rocquie's picture
Rocquie
Posts: 465
Joined: Mar 2013

Good to see you "out and about" today. Excellent post and one I really needed today. Thanks!

Cheers,

Rocquie

jimwins's picture
jimwins
Posts: 1983
Joined: Aug 2011

That is so sweet of you to say.  I can tell you I'm much better at listening and giving advice than listening to it or myself.  I still grapple with all the same demons we all are facing.  I just know how to laugh really hard :).  I hope your day is getting better.

Hugs - Jim

 

Rocquie's picture
Rocquie
Posts: 465
Joined: Mar 2013

You do realize that you only finished your treatment 2 weeks ago? Maybe your anxiety stems from unrealistic expectations of yourself?

Jim has said everything I would (and I need to hear those same words today) so I won't repeat. Just read what he wrote--he is very wise.

I'm happy for you that you have a wonderful husband who assures you that you are getting better. Believe him. Trust him. Cut yourself some slack and take the time your body needs to recover from a terrible disease you have conquered.

Congratulations on your remission and big (((hugs)))

Rocquie

 

TravelNutTexas
Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2013

Jim, et al,

 

Thanks so much for your comments, they are so very helpful...yeah I know it's only been a couple of weeks but I'm not the most patient person in the world and I'm not very good with "processes."  And you're all absolutely right, I am in mourning for the person I was before I was diagnosed. I was so determined that I was going to beat this thing and that everything would just go back to exactly the way they were before.  Well, as we all know, that's not the way it works.  Yes, crying, screaming, hissy fitting, I'm doing plenty of all that.  I have appointments with both my oncologist and radiation oncologist this week and I'll talk to both of them about what I'm experiencing, decide if I should enter some kind of therapy, etc.  The physical symptoms I can deal with, even the depression and fatigue to some extent, it's just the incapacitating anxiety and panic that is intolerable.

I truly appreciate the support of everyone who has posted here and wish all of you a peaceful week.

 

Shelli

NANCYL1
Posts: 225
Joined: Jun 2012

 

Hello Shelli:

I am sorry to hear about all the difficulties.  I am on Rituxan for lymphoma.  No radiation.  But, I do know a thing or two about anti-depressants.  Some people are very sensitive to them, as I am.  I take Lexapro (generic: Escitalopram).   Had to work up to 10 Mg. very slowly, via cutting the pill in quarters and working up to 10mg.  Some doctors don't seem to realize that this helps big time.  I think it is better to go to a psychiatrist who is used to working with these pills.   Also, sometimes Atavin (generic: Lorazepam) may be needed to balance things out, but too much of that can be depressing.

I hope this might be helpful.

Nancy

NANCYL1
Posts: 225
Joined: Jun 2012

Shelli:

There are breathing exercises to prevent panic attacks.  There is also self-hypnosis.

Here is one:

 

Breathe in slowly to the count of 4.  Hold breath for count of 4.  (slow count).   Breath out slowly to count of 4.  Hold breath for count of 4.  (slow count.)

 

Nancy

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