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Dad and Depression

Posts: 5
Joined: Nov 2006

Hi! My dad has recently been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. He had an open colon resection about a week and a half ago. He will need to undergo Chemo and Radiation. Since, he returned home from the hospital he has been very depressed. He sleeps most of the day and is up all night. He does have a history of depression and has been taking medication for it for many years. The doctor has given him sleeping meds but, he seems to be taking more than the recommended doses. He also seems to be taking alot of his pain medication.
Does any one know if this is a normal reaction to finding out about cancer. What can we do to help him? Should he talk to a professional or go to a support group? Surgeon just said he would be the same way in his shoes and gave him a new anxiety med. I am really worried his depression could hinder his treatment! Please, let me know what you have done in simular situations.

vinny3's picture
Posts: 933
Joined: Jun 2006

Sorry to hear about your dad. How old is he? That can sometimes affect the reaction but also if he has had problems with depression in the past it makes him more likely to have it now. Hopefully he is doing some walking. That is one thing which can help. That may help to get his day/nite cycle reset properly. One caution, if he is taking medicine for anxiety that can deepen the depression unless he is really anxious. Is he getting an antidepressant? Many of us have had the chemo/radiation and most have tolerated it fairly well.


Posts: 5
Joined: Nov 2006

Hi Dick,
Thanks for your insight. He is 56. We are really trying to get him to walk but he is reluctant sometimes. I think he is taking antidepressants and antianxiety meds. But I did noticed he seemed more depressed when he started the antianxiety meds.
Thanks again

lfondots63's picture
Posts: 822
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi Mandy,

I'm sorry that your dad was dx but glad you found us. This site is great and maybe looking up some personal stories here to read to him will help his mind set. He is still very young and has a long life yet tell him. It is normal to be sick but like Dick said, maybe he is on too many meds or the wrong kind? I'm stage 3 also and was dx last December. I actually had my tumor out on my birthday. The team in OR didn't realize it was my birthday until someone read my chart. Of course they all then wished me a happy birthday which made me just start bawling. Not a very good time to do that! LOL. I got out of the hospital on Christmas day which was the best present I could get! We can help you and your dad with some of the things that are coming with chemo and his journey so please come back and keep us posted. Tell him also, welcome to the semi-colons which is a very cool group to be in. HUGS and know that we have been there too.

Lisa F

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi Mandy, no better place to seek help than in our cyber world, welcome.I would be surprised if there were no-one here that went into depression/anxiety after dx,surgery/chemo/rads.In fact as your dad was only resected 1 1/2 weeks ago I would suggest that what he is experiencing is a more a normal reaction than the exception.You say he "seems" to be taking higher doses of meds.Are you guessing here or are you certain?
I would think that he is still fairly sore from the surgery and that will take some time to settle down. As for the sleeping patterns that is not unusual either.As long as he is able to get enough sleep, that at least is a positive. As many know here I had major sleeping difficulties for quite some time, nothing I did reversed the situation and I spent many hours on here in the wee hours when I should have been zzzzzing.
Also some depression/anxiety meds tend to act like uppers/downers. They can improve things and make one feel better but once they wear off they can also make one feel absolutely horrid. A bit like feeling great after an evening out and a few drinks...then the "down" side of "the morning after".That is the nature of some of these medications.I agree with Dick....walking is a must, and probably the easiest and beneficial excercise which will also help the healing process.(he will probably tell you he is still too sore)
As for depression, he is not unlike all of us.His world has collapsed and now he also has to face chemo/radiation.That in itself is an unknown journey for him.I know it scared tha hell outa me Mandy and I am sure the others here will agree.
Your dad needs re-assurance for his future.Lisa's suggestion of reading the personal pages of others here on CSN is a good start.Show copies of their stories to your dad and he will realise that having cancer is not the end.He is only weeks out of surgery....hopefully in time his mental and emotional state will improve.
Oh....it will also help us to know more detail of his cancer.We are all very different in our dx.
Ross n Jen

Posts: 553
Joined: Mar 2006

I think it is pretty normal for your dad to feel this way (especially if there is a history of it). When my dad was first diagnosed last year, I had to take anti-anxiety and depression meds and I wasn't even the one going through this. My dad was also depressed at times right before surgery, shortly after, and sometimes during chemo. I think he still gets depressed sometimes. Give your dad some time and be patient. He is going through a lot right now. I do think that your dad should contact a professional. I'm not surprised that his surgeon is so laxed with prescribing the meds. Sadly, docs don't really hesitate to write those scripts without trying to get some help for their patients in addition to the meds. You are both in my prayers. Let me know if there is anything I can help you with.


KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

First of all, welcome to the semi-colons, by proxy! I remember 2 weeks after my resection...I had my nights and days mixed...something to do with my bowel LOVING to wake me up with emergency "runs" to the toilet!!! I slept during the day, grabbing as much sleep as I could to catch up.

Normal? To be upset after being told your whole world is going to change? YOU BET!!!! I am 51 years young now, I look at it as getting all the big stuff out of the way when I'm young, so I can REALLY have a blast as I get into my 70's and 80's!!!!

I was fortunate, I surprised myself at my high pain tolerance level...(except for needles...I STILL insist on pediatric, 'butterfly' needles..sigh...just a softie!!!)..so I didn't need much of the pain meds...

Talking to a counselor about his fears/reactions/thoughts is good...but, just knowing all of my reactions were 'Normal' made it ok for me.

BTW, how are YOU holding up? Remember to take care of you, too....a healthy caregiver is a good caregiver!!!!

Hugs, Kathi

goldfinch's picture
Posts: 737
Joined: Oct 2003

Definitely normal! How to help him though, I'm not sure. Definitely reading him some of the stories here is a good start. I think SpongeBob has mentioned the book "Chicken Soup for the Surviving SOul". Bernie Siegel's books have helped me quite a bit too. Your dad needs to have something to look forward to each day. I'm not sure if you can find that for him, or if it's something he needs to do. Physical activity is always good. Getting outside.
Let him know there is hope.

Posts: 5
Joined: Nov 2006

Thanks Everyone!
The stories are a great idea.
Where can I find some inspirational survival stories. Any recommendations.

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Ahoy, Mandy -

Welcome to the SemiColons. I think it is awesome that you are working so hard to get this info for your dad.

Depression is normal. There are some studies that show that chemo induces symptoms of depression, but not actual depression (don't ask - that's all I know!) I would have him discuss this with his doctor - including his entire history.

As for support groups... I have sat in the big circle-type support groups, done one-on-one work and checked out a number of sites like this one. For me, personally, this is the best support group hands-down. Urge your dad to sigh-up. There are lots of "lurkers" reading this post right now who have never posted on CSN - but they're still getting good info, and they can see that there are lots of people "just like them". Knowing that you aren't the only one out there with a certain set of issues and concerns is huge. If this isn't the right fit for him, check at his cancer treatment facility, they should have info on support groups. Your local American Cancer Society should also have info - contact them through www.cancer.org

For some great inspirational stories go check out various SemiColon's personal pages. Look over to the left side of the screen right now. Right about in the center, in blue, is a hot button called "Personal Web Pages"; click on it and enter some basic info or a couple of key words and you're off to inspirational Nirvana.

Thanks for what you're doing for your dad, it's a very valuable thing.

- SpongeBob

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