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Dealing with partner's depression

micknvic
Posts: 7
Joined: Dec 2008

Hi: I live in Australia and my partner was diagnosed with colon cancer in October. After seeing an oncologist and getting info about chemo (and having appointments set up for chemo preparation and delivery), he decided he did not want to go through with it. He did talk it over with the doctors and instead will be blood-tested and scanned every so often. His reasons for not wanting to go thru with chemo were that 1) his quality of life, he felt, would be greatly affected (friend of his went thru chemo, but passed away a few weeks ago) and 2) he wants to try alternative therapies.

I was very upset when he told me of his decision, initially, but realised that it was his life and his choice, so I told him I'd support him in any way he wanted.

I work full time and since his operation to remove the tumor (in October) he's not really been able to work, due to tiredness and just the after-effects of the operation. He's not coping at all, which I expected, and I have a real problem with him just doing things around the house when I'm away. I'm fairly sure he's dealing with depression (although he has a strong religious faith) and was prepared for that, but I do need him (and continually ask him) to help out at least some, even if it's just putting his dishes in the dishwasher. This sounds trivial, I know, but I cant continue to take care of work, him, and our home; it's exhausting and has been a drain on my own health (I'm battling a nasty case of bronchitis).

Has anyone else experienced this with a partner? Can you make suggestions as to how I can deal with it?

Thanks:
Mick

Karmar
Posts: 43
Joined: Nov 2008

Dear Mick,

I can totally relate-My husband had Kidney cancer 2 years ago-I to feel into that role of fulltime caretaker nad worker.There is no way to get a person to do things that they be unalble to do and it sounds as he may very well be depressed. Something you 2 should disscuss with the doctor. After all the years taking care of my husband now I am the one very Ill. I know for me to do simple task takes great effort and I get very saddened by not being able to do normal activaties,Such as house work. I take an anti-depresent eveyday and it has helped me to stop crying day in and day out. Pain killers help give me a boost to do light duty. Being a care taker is the most diffucult position. You must take care of yourself.As i did not am paying for it now. I too remeber being angry that my husband was unable to do anything. I think we do it more out of hurt because we cant take away the problem,old saying we always strike out harder on the ones we love. Take time for you to revamp-I will keep you in my prayers.
Karen

micknvic
Posts: 7
Joined: Dec 2008

Thanks, Karen, for your insight. My partner is able to do things around the house - not sure I made that clear - but just won't do so right now, which is why I'm thinking it's depression-related. Knowing that doesn't make it any easier, though!

Thanks again - you're in my thoughts, too.

Mick

CherylHutch's picture
CherylHutch
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

Hi Mick,

I'm glad you found us here... if for no other reason, this board is fabulous for support, getting information, and finding out that there are others in the same situation you find yourself.

I'm not sure how much your partner finds himself using the computer, but maybe you can point him over to this board, where he can read about what others, who have the same cancer DX are doing, what their treatments are, how they are feeling does it/doesn't it cut into their quality of life, as well, what the caregivers are going through and how hard this is on them as well. Sometimes, by reading what others are going through and what questions they are asking, he might get a much bigger outlook of the whole picture rather than just what he is going through personally.

It sounds like there might be some depression involved and, more than likely, he is overwhelmed by the whole diagnosis! We all were/are and still have our moments where we question ourselves and what the heck is going on in our lives.

I live on my own, although I do have a huge support network with family/friends. These friends share the duties/chores of a caregiver so it doesn't fall all on one person's shoulders. For those of you caregivers who are the sole caregiver PLUS you have to struggle to work, support and look after the patient... well, I really don't know how you do it other than you have a huge well of love for your partner.

The reason I suggest your partner come here and read the posts, or ask questions he might like to have answered by people in the same position as him, I think he might find it very enlightening to find out that the treatments (chemo, radiation, surgery, etc) have NOT ruined our quality of life. Granted, while on the treatments there are times when we have side affects that are not always the best... but we all are so different, there's no way we can tell anyone what they are going to feel when going through treatment. Some people continue working, take off a rest day here and there when they need it, others are on Long Term Disability, so are not working and are using the time off to focus their energy on healing, relaxing, resting, etc. Like I say, everyone is different, everyone's situation is different and yet we all are battling the same battle. I bet if you were to take a poll of all the people who post here and ask, "Since starting your chemo/radiation treatments, has your quality of life gone downhill?" you'd be amazed at how many of us can honestly say, "Well, we are still in treatment or about to start treatment for the second (or third, or fourth) time and I feel great! If it wasn't that I have to go in and get my treatments, I would never know I was considered sick with a chronic illness".

I get a chuckle out of my doctor (family doctor)... once a year he says, "Ok, while you are here I'm going to give you a flu shot... it's that time of the year again. And, it's a freebie, because we'll put you down as having a chronic illness". Flu shots up here cost $15 unless you are elderly, a health care worker, or have a chronic illness. If you have a "chronic illness" not only can you get your flu shot for free, but your caregiver can as well ;) So I said to my doctor, "Oh, am I considered ill?" And he laughed and said, "Well, they wouldn't believe me if they saw you, but what the heck, we can certainly give anyone the paperwork should they ask" ;)

So, do discuss the possibility of anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds with your partner's doctor and if one can nip the depression in the bud, then maybe he will be more receptive to seeing that a lot of us are doing fine and still fighting the battle.

Hugggggs,

Cheryl

micknvic
Posts: 7
Joined: Dec 2008

Thanks so much for your comments, Cheryl.
Yes, I'll suggest to my partner that he come here and have a look - and if I'm really lucky, he might even agree to!

Right now, the only support that he gets is from his church friends (he's what's known as a "born again Christian", although I'm not a particularly religious person myself) although he'd mentioned awhile back that he'd might be interested in joining a cancer support group in a nearby town.

The religious aspect has complicated things...he's tried to adopt a "bacause of my strong faith, I'm not afraid to die, if it comes to that" attitude, but I know he's scared. I also know how stubborn he is, and there is no way now that he'd start chemo - no way. So that just is not an option, from my standpoint.

There's a lot more to add here, and I will do so when I can - was a rough week at work and I need to chill this weekend!

Thanks again Cheryl - take care!

Mick

micknvic
Posts: 7
Joined: Dec 2008

Hi Cheryl:

I've been reading some of the other posts on this site and wanted to add some info: my partber was diagnosed with stage 3, with metastatic adenocarcinioma found in 4 of 15 lymph nodes.

Mick

CherylHutch's picture
CherylHutch
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

Well, that was sorta like me... I was diagnosed with Stage 3 (tumour had perforated through the intestinal wall but no sign of any other tumours anywhere in the colon, and had 17 lymph nodes taken out, where 1 out of the 17 tested positive for cancer. I had the surgery (colon resection), then 8 months of chemo and 6 weeks of daily radiation. I finished the chemo at the end of Oct 2007... and it was in March 2008 that they found the right adrenal gland was positive for cancer and a couple of nodes in my lungs. In reality, we have no idea if the cancer was there all along since we didn't have our first PET scan until March 2008, or if it was a spread sometime after the surgery. I have since had the right adrenal gland removed in June 2008 and on Tuesday I will be going for a Radio Frequency Ablation of 2 nodules on my lungs.

It has never ever dawned on me to "give up" or think that this is all hopeless. It is not hopeless... and as long as there is a treatment, be it drug-related (IE: chemo), or radiation, surgical or any other procedure (like this RFA procedure on the lungs), then the disease is treatable.... chronic, maybe, but still treatable.

The way I look at it.... 15 years ago, colon cancer was fatal. There wasn't too much they could do and only a small handful made it to the 5 year mark. Likewise, so was AIDS. In the mid-80s, if a person was diagnosed with HIV or AIDS then you had maximum about 2 years to live and the only treatment really was AZT. Nowadays, there are more treatments to "treat" colon cancer and there are more "cocktail combinations" to treat AIDS. People in North America are not necessarily dying from colon cancer or AIDS... they are living with it. There's a big difference between dying from a disease and living with it. Of course, one has to want to live and be open to whatever treatments are available to keep you alive, happy and healthy :)

But you know what I have found?? The words that doctors use.... "You are Stage 3, with metastatic adenocarcinoma in 4 out of 15 nodes..." are enough to put terror into the strongest of hearts! The "C" word is terrifying enough, but throw in some M words and that long A word... well, the mind just goes into spin mode... and the brain goes into total denial. "He/She CAN'T be talking about ME!!" "If I just ignore it, it will all go away and I won't have to deal with it". Then, let's not even talk about what our ears hear but what our brain actually takes in. When they say to bring someone with you to appts. so you have a second pair of ears, trust me... it's needed!! There are soooo many times I swear something has not been said, or I wasn't told and I'm totally shocked when it's mentioned in passing the next appt. How come I haven't been told this??? And then my friend, who was with me, will gently remind me that I was told, by such and such doctor at such and such appt. It scared me that I did not remember such important information... but apparently that is very common, whether one is on chemo or not (if you are on chemo, then we refer to this as chemo brain ).

So, yes, your partner has been given some big million dollar words... and they are scary words but they are only words. The real question is... what treatments have the doctors offered... and what treatments is your partner willing to take on? Me, I go for all of them ... I figure the more the merrier... and if one treatment doesn't work, maybe the other one will. And if none of them work, well, it won't have been because I didn't try everything known to mankind :)

But I plan on beating the monster with the help of my doctors and their knowledge, along with my attitude and the fact I have way too many things I still want to accomplish and share on this planet :)

Hugggggs,

Cheryl

claud1951's picture
claud1951
Posts: 429
Joined: Jun 2007

Hi Mick!,

As Cheryl asked,,,do try to get your partner in here.

I, too, was (notice the WAS ??>>grin) Stage 3. 2 out of 28 nodes were spotted with cancer.

Went through 6 months of chemo and now, over 1 year after chemo, I am NED (No evidence of the disease). Tell you partner to keep an open mind about all kinds of treatment. And having a good attitude helps so much. Plus having a great Caregive, like you, does too.

People are all different in how they react to the chemo. Chemo can be changed if it's to bad for that person. I had to change and honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. You just have to take one day at a time.

There are some people that also have gone with Alternative Medicines. Maybe they will respond to your post.

I'm sorry you and patner are going through this time. Just remember to try and keep your energy for moving forward.

Claudia

micknvic
Posts: 7
Joined: Dec 2008

Hi Claudia:

Thanks so much for your comments.

Things have become very strained the past few days - it's like he's starting to direct a lot of anger towards me and I am totally confused. We had/have a guest come stay with us for the Xmas holidays (she is the person who rushed him to hospital for the surgery that showed the tumor in his bowel) and he has been almost hostile - me and the friend bought him a nice Xmas present (gift voucher to one of his favorites stores), which he opened and didn't comment on; he also didnt do/give anything to either the friend or myself for Xmas, which I really surprised me. Luckily, I had an inkling that he wouldn't buy her anything so I went out and got something for her.

This has been going on since last week - lots of passive-agressive hostility, short-tempered, etc...I'm wondering if he's blaming me or our friend for his condition, or what. As I mentioned, I am way confused at this stage, hurt, angry with him for the way he's treating us, and all the rest.

This is really a bummer of a time for me....

Faith88
Posts: 55
Joined: Sep 2007

Hi there,
I really feel for you as I too am caregiver to my DH and it's not been easy, although he's been appreciate and not as withdrawn.
Not trying to get too psychological here, but it seems that some people in their distorted perception of sparing loved ones, want to alienate them--that way then when of if they do give up or leave, they are not faced with the burden of dealing with the pain and going through all that the one with the disease is going through, and consequently the one suffering can be spared knowing that at least he's not dragging you down the same road.

I know it can get confusing and sometimes not even comprehensable why people behave under certain circumstances and everyone is different when faced with life threatening illness. The thing that is frustrating is that his is not life threatening! He has somehow spun it in his mind to be so, is what it seems.. I really do hope he can find someone who can help him come through this --I feel so much for the both of you and everyone who is involved. Prayers to you.
~Faith88

kmygil
Posts: 881
Joined: Feb 2007

Hi Mick,

Caregivers are the most awesome people on earth! You put up with so much, do so much and all this while trying to deal with your own fears. I don't know how your partner feels about this, but I am a great proponent of antidepressants. I would not have had treatment, nor been as positive about the final result without those wonderful little pills. It may take a few tries to get the meds & dosage right, but it can make ALL the difference in the world.

If he refuses this option, well that's his right, but if YOU need them, take them. This whole thing is hard enough without depression making it harder.

Hugs and prayers,
Kirsten

micknvic
Posts: 7
Joined: Dec 2008

Hey Kirsten:

It was great hearing from you!

I'll be referring to my partner as "Dave" from now on.

I am quite sure that he would never even consider taking anti-depressants for the following reasons:

1) he'd never admit he's depressed

2) he's not in favor of traditional medicine - he takes only "medications" which are "prescribed" by his naturopath.

On the other hand, I've been on Zoloft for almost exactly 10 years now, and there is no way whatsoever I'd ever go off them - they changed the quality of my life so dramatically and positively.

But Dave will not take anything in that line...as I mentioned in a previous post, he's extremely stubborn - a "cut of his nose to spite his face" stubborn! As you might expect, this sort of attitude can be extremely frustrating.

Thanks for your comments - and it sounds like you have been really proactive in dealing with both cancer and depression - good for you!

Mick

kmygil
Posts: 881
Joined: Feb 2007

Hi Mick,

Please tell Dave that I am begging him on my knees to get some antidepressants and to at least CONSIDER "regular" medicine. A lot of people use a combination of "regular" medicine with traditional or homeopathic medicine with very good results. Try to emphasize that it's a process, not an end. I understand your frustration; don't let it get the better of you and make your spirit ill.

Whatever his final decisions are, I am keeping you both in my prayers and sending positive energy your way.

Hugs,
Kirsten

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