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Sadness or depression after surgery

LISAinTN's picture
Posts: 143
Joined: Aug 2011

Hi Everyone,

I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in late June and had surgery on July 22nd. I was just wondering if anyone has had a feeling of sadness or depression after the surgery? I sometimes wonder what in the heck my problem is because I should be thankful that mine was found early and it looks like they got it all with surgery. I AM thankful, but it seems like the whole ordeal from beginning to end went so fast that I really didn't have time to deal with it. Is it normal to feel sad or depressed afterwards? I just want to sit down and have a good cry, but I resist because I feel like I should be happy instead of sad. Any thoughts? Thank you.


Minnesota Girl's picture
Minnesota Girl
Posts: 119
Joined: Jul 2011

Lisa -

I just responded to your other post on recurrence. Let me just tell you I am only a few weeks ahead of you in all of this and can completely understand all you are feeling. I still get emotional at times, but I really do think it gets better.

Cry when you need to cry. It's okay to laugh, too. I decided early that, no matter the path from here, cancer is NOT going to define my life. I'm not sure if I'll every stop looking over my shoulder, but I am feeling more positive every day.

My Mom sent me a great quote today: Pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is voluntary. I'm putting that away for my cloudy moments. :)

MikeK703's picture
Posts: 235
Joined: Sep 2010

Today is the 1-year anniversary of my surgery. Today I cried for probably the hundredth time since then. There was no special reason for it. I was watching John Wayne in True Grit on my brand-new 82-inch HD-3D TV (my gift to myself) and all of a sudden I felt overwhelmed with sadness. It lasted about 2 minutes then I was back to normal. Last year at this time the doldrums would have lasted for hours even days. It's normal and it's okay. Things will get better. Believe it.
Best wishes,

Posts: 12
Joined: Aug 2011

Sometimes tears can be tears of gladness..let it out believe me you will feel better. The longer you bottle up stuff inside the more you will become stress about that has taken place. God has all things in the palm of His hands. Give it all over to Him; for he has made you glad!! Bless God for your healing. Take one day at a time. God Bless You. LFocus

Jamie1.3cm's picture
Posts: 188
Joined: Jan 2011

In addition to the jarring effect of a kidney cancer diagnosis, which is in itself depressing enough, there's also such a thing as post-surgical depression.

Immediately after surgery, it's due to an effect of the anesthesia. A few weeks after surgery, it is the cumulative effect of pain meds and constant physical discomfort.

I've had 4 major abdominal surgeries in the past 6 years, and for every one -- except this one -- I had pretty major depression. I used a different pain med this time around, and I was far better emotionally. If you have future surgeries, you can tell your doc that the pain med you used this time gave you depression. They are likely to prescribe something else.

donna_lee's picture
Posts: 1020
Joined: Feb 2009

I composed a lengthy letter last week but somehow hit the wrong button. My keyboard had been acting up and I now have a new one.

You are new into the game, and all of a sudden you feel like you need to be on top of all the plays, how to defend, how to score, etc. Crying is definitely OK-it provides a physical release for an emotion situation; and you usually end up feeling relieved when the sniffles dry up.
Post surgery depression, pain, anxiety, grief, expectations of family and others all play into feelings. Not to mention your sense of loss, feeling like you will miss a lot if you won't be around in the future; and somewhere in the back of your mind the feeling that they caught it and what would have happened if they hadn't. And what if it comes back.
It can come back, as mine did. Not once, but twice, and I had it cut out. Thus far, everything has been surgically accessible. I'm just past three years with No Evidence of Disease (NED), but have a CT in less than a month. I get anxious in anticipation of the CT and then a bit testy until I have the results. It's all part of the game we have to play.

People deal with it in so many different ways. For me, the more information I have the better. But today, I met a man who has had surgery, chemo and radiation, and still can't tell you what kind he had. His first reaction was, "Get it out of there."

You are welcome to have any feelings you want. But if you seem to be more sad than happy, or feel like hurting yourself, please, please call your doctor and get an appointment. I had been on an antidepressant long before I was diagnosed. It would probably been impossible to make it through, had I not been on something. And don't stop at the first pill Rx, as some may not be effective for you. My PC doc changed the anti-d meds 3 years ago and it was a disaster because it did not work for me. He finally put me back on the old one, but it was a wild ride for about four months.

So, as they say in Kindergarten, Put on your big girl panties and get ready to live the rest of your life to the fullest.
Best Wishes,

Kwilliams630's picture
Posts: 10
Joined: Aug 2011

Hi there! I feel the same way. I'm almost 2 weeks post op and like you I feel likely all went so fast I haven't had time to deal with any of it. but I think it's perfectly normal to have these feelings. I just deal with each emotion as it comes and make the best of each moment I can. I cry when I need to and laugh when I can. It's all we can do. I think the emotion from all of this will stay with us forever in some way shape or form. I wish you happiness and peace and just remember you have this network, for support and there are other who can relate and who you can talk to.

Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2011

Hi Lisa,

I am feeling this exact same way.


rae_rae's picture
Posts: 300
Joined: Oct 2010

I was depressed for months after surgery. I didn't feel sadness or the need to cry. It was more like an empty void kind of feeling. My recovery was long and slow. I couldn't walk up one flight of stairs or across a parking lot without pain and struggling to breathe for months. Its only now starting to improve though I still have incision pain and it's been almost 11 months.
I struggled with anemia and b12 deficiency for months which added to my depression. To be honest, it took the recurrence scare to snap me out of my slump and get back on track with life. Depression can be a real issue with surgery and the fact you had or have cancer.


Sara123's picture
Posts: 6
Joined: Aug 2011

I'm just a few days post surgery (surgery was 8/18). I'm glad I'm not alone. Today I'm wallowing in the mulligrubs but really trying not to. There are so many things to be happy about and so much to be grateful for that I feel guilty if I even take a moment to worry about what the future could bring.

I had no idea I would have so much turmoil post op. I'm happy and upbeat around everyone else but sometimes I feel like I don't really have a safe place to be myself. I know my family supports me but they are already worried enough.

Anyway - hoping this is just post op depression that I'll move on from. I'm looking forward to happier days ahead!

Posts: 61
Joined: Apr 2011

I too share the exact same feelings as everyone here. I had my left kidney removed June 2nd. Although I'm told the operation went well, prognosis is good, I still feel a great deal of fear. I'm currently going through some testing for a problem which "accidentally" found my kidney mass. (pelvic/ abdominal pain) can't find a reason for it, extremely frustrating. I'm experiencing some pain above my right hip towards my back. So, I'm kind of petrified right now. Had a urinalysis done this week, normal, some bloodwork, no results yet. Endoscopy, trans-vag ultrasound, and possibly another colonoscopy in the next few weeks. I became pretty depressed about three weeks post-op, and my family doc put me on 10mg Prozac once a day. He said it takes about 8 weeks to fully kick in. I do feel a little better, I worry at times, but it doesn't consume my days the way it did. If I keep reeeal busy, life is great, but when I'm alone, ehhh not so great. I don't know if "empty nest" syndrome is playing a major part in my anxiety, but that's a very distinct possibility. Eldest daughter just bought a new home with a fabulous man, and youngest is in her last year of grad school, also in a very secure happy relationship. I'm extremely happy that they've found such wonderful partners, but I do miss them terribly. We see each other daily, but I'm missing being a full time Mom I guess..This year since April, has rocked my world worse than any earthquake could. Talk about life changing. I know deep in my heart and mind I should be extremely grateful, I dodged a major bullet, but I wish I could just shake the fear I feel I'll have to live with the rest of my life. I have always lead a healthy lifestyle, good diet, exercised, non smoker, drink very minimally...active..Just one day I'd LOVE to wake up and feel the way I did Pre April 14th..My wish is that we could all enjoy peace of mind. I thank God every day for my second chance. My daughter is working towards her Masters in Psychology, she's been a great help. Now all I have to do is learn to listen to her and live the lessons she's trying to teach me.....The tables have turned....Enjoy the day, and God Bless, Katie

lbinmsp's picture
Posts: 266
Joined: Jun 2006

HI and welcome. Personally I think the concept of 'normal' goes out the window once we get THE diagnosis. My 'postop depression' didn't hit until about a month after surgery. I was carrying around a boat-load of denial when out of the blue it all caught up to me and I found myself crying at the drop of a hat! For me it seemed like I was in mourning and I guess in a way, I was. I was mourning the loss of who I was before someone said I had CANCER! That word changes you forever whether you're cured or in remission or .....
We've all said things like 'there but for the grace of God ...' when you hear of a friend or neighbor with cancer. OR if you had a suspicious mammo or biopsy and it turned out OK, we say 'whew - sure dodged a bullet this time'. Well, we are now the ones who couldn't outrun that bullet. I think we need to figure out what our 'new normal' is and if that means crying sometimes, or laughing hysterically over something stupid or crazy, or just sitting and watching a hummingbird for a while - then that's who and what we are now.

Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2011

Please don't fight these emotions, find a way to just express them. You will feel much better faster then you will by "being strong". Actually if you are crying then you are alive and strong. It just takes that awful four letter word T.I.M.E. I am glad you are here.

Posts: 126
Joined: Sep 2011

Hi Lisa and others,

It's good to know that others have felt depression after surgery too (not good that we're depressed but good to know that we aren't alone :). I'm 51, had surgery to remove a suspicious mass in my appendix, found out it was a rare cancer. So, besides the surgery itself, cancer diagnosis, rare cancer that not many doctors have experience dealing with, and, to top it all off, the surgery kicked started menopause!!! Haven't had a period since a month before the surgery (that was 4 months ago). So things do seem better now than a month after the surgery but still feel anxious, depressed, and overall blue. Even taking time off from work for a vacation day doesn't help - I'd rather be working since it keeps my mind occupied with other things. I don't mind menopause starting - is about the time for it anyway but sometimes it's hard to know what exactly is causing the blues. Anyway, helps to hear others experiences.

Take care, Ruffy

Posts: 61
Joined: Apr 2011

I know exactly how you're feeling. Everything happened so fast, the discovery, then surgery...Afterwards when all the dust settled I did become very anxious. I was prescribed Prozac 10 mg. , it did help somewhat. Had an apt. with my family doctor today, he upped it to 20 mg. Hopefully it takes more of the edge off. Talk this over with your doc, and try to stay optomistic, I'm trying to keep myself REAL busy, that helps tremendously...

icemantoo's picture
Posts: 3362
Joined: Jan 2010

I was sad and depressed before the surgery. Being told you have RCC and that you have to go under the knife can do that to you. After I recovered for a month or two I refuse to be sad or depressed. Otherwise how could I help out all the newcomers and get on with my life.
Having survived 9 years I believe I have all the recurrance issues behind me (the doctor always said those concerns were below 5% anyway). As seen from my other postings the loss of a kidney can create other health issues as you grow older (AARP plus 18), but what purpose is going to be served by worrying about that as well. My final voyage may only last another 20 or 30 years, so why not make the best of it.

Posts: 1
Joined: Aug 2015

I just signed into this group, looking for how others are dealing with post surguery depression. I was diagnosed with breast cancer (luckily very early) one week and had surgery the next week. Partial Mastectomy. They took the sentinal lymph node to biopsy  and it was clear, so I am supposed to be in good shape now. I feel really strange and when I try to explain it, people tell me I should be jumping up and down with happiness and gratitude that it was caught so soon and is now gone, I just feel really depressed. I don't even feel like I belong in the "survivor" group. I guess, because I never had to go through what so many others went through. I don't know. I am going to have radiation, tho. But I sit around really depression and don't know what is wrong or how to come out of it.

I feel so much like you, Lisa. I'm glad to know there are others out there with the same problems.

Thanks for letting me vent. lol

Hoping we can learn to cope better with whatever is going on.


Lampasas Texas

APny's picture
Posts: 1998
Joined: Mar 2014

Hi Linda, so sorry you have to be here. Did you know that there is also a breast cancer forum at CSN? Look on upper left side and click discussion boards. Of course depression is the same regardless of what cancer you have had to deal with, and you're more than welcome to post here, I would also post on that forum as there might be aspects unique to breast cancer just as there some unique to kidney cancer. Hope your depression lessens over time but if necessary don't be afraid to discuss it with your physicians or a therapist. There are short term meds you could take to help you through the tough initial period. Hugs to you and we all have been there with our fears, anxieties and depressions xx

Jan4you's picture
Posts: 1327
Joined: Oct 2013

For all suffering from depessiive symptoms, I feel for you.

Know that there may be a couple of different explanations. Often are beloved MDs do not know how to treat the WHOLE person. A good doctor refers you out to someone when your complaints go beyond their discipline and training.

So, a significant explanation that could cause such symptoms, often comes from reacting to that awful C word. We all know our personal experiences when the shock of that diagnosis, the planning for surgery, the anxiety and effects that the diagnosis and prognosis brings to our lives. For some it IS life changing.

That kind of "depression" may be related to how well we are coping, along with how our body/brain adjusts to surgery, to the cancerous tumors and medications. General anesthesia, plus the surgery, along is unsettling to the equilibrium our brain/body needs.

The other kind of depression is due to lack of good brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, that we need to maintain that equilibrium or homostasis, and be able to feel good. So combine the two and you can end up with a depression or depressive symptoms. BUT it is treatable!

Remember these depressive or anxiety type symptoms should be reported to your primary physician or a psychiatrist, but I would start with your primary doctor. Again, it is not uncommon after certain diseases, disorders and post surgery. It is common after heart surgery, for example. but know that many doctors are free to prescribe anti depressants which can be helpful, but not completely in my experience. Our brains need NURTIENTS too.

Yes, our BRAINS need nutrients to function properly. So we need to eat properly, drink fluids (not chemicals) treat Inflammation, edema or extra fluids which press on nerve pathways making our pain management difficult. Remember, we ARE what we eat (or don't eat). For many who eat the typical American diet are starving our brains of necessary nutrients.

And yes join an online or in person support group and again, see your primary doctor.

I am thinking of you all.. and here to support you, if you choose.
Warmly, Jan

todd121's picture
Posts: 1449
Joined: Dec 2012

I recommend having that good cry. For 10 minutes. Then quit and go do something else.

It takes months for your body to adjust. Your insides take much longer to heal than your outsides. My energy was low for months, even a year or 18 months.

It's a big deal. Feel the feelings. If you feel like crying, cry. Talk to someone about your feelings. Whatever you do, just don't let it go on and on. Tell yourself you can think about this for x time (20 minutes) and then you're going to do something else/think about something else. Just try it. Keep at it. It will get better.

But understand your body probably will have low energy for awhile, and that leads to down emotions very often. Get enough rest. Exercise. Drink water. Take good care of yourself.

Come here and write about how your feeling and we'll tell you how normal you are! :)


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