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Help for Coping with Post-Treatment Depression?

Posts: 12
Joined: Sep 2007

Hi, All

KathiM's sister here again. Thanks so much for the wonderful warm welcome you all gave me in response to my first post. It was great!

Now I have another question I need help and support for. After finishing 7 weeks of treatment, somehow I thought I would take a few weeks to heal, then I would be myself again. But instead, I fell into this deep, dark depression. I am on anti-depressants, but they take a couple of weeks to kick in. Did anyone else go through this? Anyone have any ideas/ tips/ support for how to stay reasonably functional (as opposed to crying when anything goes the slightest bit wrong) while waiting for the anti-depressants to start working? Any help and/or support will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks! Barb

KierstenRx's picture
Posts: 249
Joined: Nov 2006

Hi Barb,
Two weeks after I finished chemo in June I landed myself back in the hospital with a small bowel obstruction. Surgery was done, but that seemed to have been a major downer for me. I could not seem to snap out of the funk while recovering. I was already taking trazodone to help with sleep and decided to go on Lexapro. That definitely helped, but it did take a couple weeks to kick in. During that time I prayed a lot, meditated, wrote pages in a journal about what I was grateful for. My many pets (3 german shepherd and 2 cats) always seemed to calm me down. Whenever I would get really upset and start crying my husband would pull out a deck of UNO cards. My competitive spirit would then come back and I would end up whipping him just about everytime. I also made myself go outside everyday for some fresh air and sunlight. I would walk up and down the driveway to get some light excercise. I am in full blown menopause at 33(had a full hysterctomy with bowel resection in February). My oncologist put me on a low dose estrogen (says should be safe since I have no uterus) and it seems to be helping. Also I continued to stay in touch in with friends, family, and coworkers even though I didn't really feel like talking. Even on my worst days talking to my best friend always made me laugh. Lastly, retail therapy....not good on the bank account, but good for my mental health (after losing 100+ pounds I am a MAJOR clothes horse). When I was having a particularly bad day I ordered the whole Bobbi Brown fall makeup collection (I absolutely love it). Be kind to yourself and don't beat yourself up. You have been through a lot and it WILL get better. I know for myself after being so strong through diagnosis, chemo and radiation, surgery, more chemo, broken foot, bowel obstruction and surgery, and seeing a plastic surgeon for a wound that just won't heal I think eventually it just all caught up with me.


vinny3's picture
Posts: 933
Joined: Jun 2006

Hi Barb,

It's natural to sink some after going through treatment. As you said, you would think you would just take a little time to heal and then you are ok. But while healing you also know that your life will not be the same. The beast or the thought of the beast will always be in the background. You wonder what is next and how can you make plans. Then you will come to the realization that you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I found that it made me appreciate the gift of life more. I also found that walking alot for exercise helped, especially as I listen to my Ipod. I like to hear that dancing music.

Hang in there. Dick

Brigid64's picture
Posts: 5
Joined: Sep 2007

Hi Barb.I'm in Australia. I had my surgery in Dec 2005. Felt strong and got through it well. Took on the 7 months of chemo and managed to continue working part-time on the non chemo days. Started a new job at the same place in January this year (2007) and everyone said, well, you're over your cancer and you've finished treatment and you've got the all clear, so now it's time to get on with it...but that's not how I felt. I too am depressed. I have just taken 8 weeks off work to re-assess my 'wellbeing' and to make some changes. I am on medication for the depression. I have joined a gym and I am trying to exercise 3-4 times a week. Not too full on, just gentle bicycle and treadmill at first to get my cardio fitness back. It is hard when the chemo and treatment is all over and you think, what next? Everything that you are thinking and feeling is completely normal. Lots of other people have experienced the same. I also burn aromotherapy oils during the day, there are specific ones for relaxation, harmony, it helps me. Talking is also important. You need to express how your feeling and have your feelings affirmed. Once you understand that you are not alone is this journey, you will start to heal. Take care of yourself. Brigid.

jams67's picture
Posts: 927
Joined: May 2006

You need to think about that age old question:
Is the glass half full or half empty?
Your feelings are real, but there are many things you can do to push that sadness away. As the others said, exercise, get out with people, join a group or class. Meet friends outside of home for coffee, lunch or dinner. Take a drive or walk out in the country, drive out of the city at night-look at the sky. Realize that God is very powerful and He will take care of a lot of the things we worry about. Stay busy and enjoy the life you have, it's a gift, that's why they call it the present.
Looking forward,
Jo Ann

Posts: 90
Joined: Jan 2007


I just finished close to 10 months of treatment and have hit the same wall as you.
I thought I'd be just fine and prepare for an upcoming reversal surgery.
But found the same emotional response as you. Asking the questions like: what's next? How can I ever look at life the same again? What's the new normal?

My answer so far has been to begin exercise and get out to see the sun.
I'm also making sure that I plan time out with friends and family. In an attempt to preoccupy my mind at times and allow myself to deal with the changes in smaller bites.

I wish you all the best in your travels. Stay positive and celebrate in some way each and every day. Treat yourself in some small way, because you have earned that.

warm regards and positive thoughts of the future for you.

robinvan's picture
Posts: 1014
Joined: May 2007

Hi Barb, and Welcome...
There's a book by Susan Nessim that speaks of the "Emotional Aftermath". I think she names it very well. I wrote a piece on it in my cancer journal. There's also a link to her book which you can probably find in your library...
It may be helpful just to know that "this too shall pass" and hopefully you'll find a place of equilibrium down the road a piece.
BTW... Nice to meet you.
Rob; in Vancouver.

jams67's picture
Posts: 927
Joined: May 2006

Thanks Rob. You always offer the best insight. I can usually get there, but it's by a convoluted path.
Jo Ann

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

I know not everyone would be comfortable going this route, but I went to a counsellor (therapist). I found it very helpful. When I started describing what I was feeling, she told me I was experiencing something similar to posttraumatic shock -- and I think she was probably right. She had me talk through some of my experiences -- and also voice outloud some of my fears. I found it all helpful. As others have mentioned, I also found excercise (in my case, walking) helpful. Time helps. I know that can't bring you much immediate relief -- but I promise that it does. Meanwhile, good luck and thinking of you.

Posts: 12
Joined: Sep 2007

Thanks, everyone, for all the great support and wisdom. I have started a walking program, and am trying to get out more and also do more "normal" things. I also have a therapist and agree that that has been very helpful. My therapist also mentioned a form of post traumatic stress, and I think that sounds right for me, especially since I was so positive during treatment, and only crashed when it was over.

Anyhow, thanks so much for all the support; my sister KathiM was certainly right when she said you guys are terrific!


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