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Completed Chemo Still Depressed?

STL Mark
Posts: 3
Joined: Sep 2008

Hi to Everyone. I'm new to this forum so if I do something wrong please let me know.

I know this sounds really whiny and stupid, but here's the thing: I had a type 1 Stage 4 tumor removed from my colon in November of 2006. I completed Xelox chemo program (daily oral Xeloda and biweekly Oxiliaplatin) in June, 2007. I lost two friends to cancer while I was in chemo. We had all been friends for years before we were all three diagnosed about the same time. All PET Scans and CT Scans since I completed chemo have come back negative.

So why do I still feel depressed? I am happy that the cancer is no longer there, but it seems I still relive the trauma of the cancer. I know I'm not out of the woods, but I still should be overjoyed that the tumor is gone and doesn't seem to be coming back. I almost feel guilty for not being ecstatic.

Has anyone else experienced this? I don't know why I feel this way.

sladich's picture
Posts: 430
Joined: May 2007

I've been very depressed and sad at times. I'm much better now (dx 9/2004, 3 recurrences). When I completed my chemo I felt a loss. I was fighting the cancer and all of a sudden, there was nothing. There was a sense of loss, fear, anxiety, etc. I know exactly where you are coming from. I lost two friends last year that I met when I was first diagnosed. I definitely have survivor's guilt. There are so many emotions with having cancer. Cancer sucks,


apache4's picture
Posts: 272
Joined: Jul 2007

Hi Mark,
This has nothing to do with cancer, but what does the STL stand for? I was a "GSTL" for Target Stores for years and STL was Store Team Leader. Just wondering.
'thought of something else. So were you diagnosed Stage IV Colon Cancer? Where are (were) the mets? Don't quite understand your dx.

STL Mark
Posts: 3
Joined: Sep 2008

Hi Apache4

STL is a common abbreviation for St. Louis. I live in the St. Louis area.

My tumor was in the sigmoid colon. My Oncologist explained to me that there are different grades of tumors. Mine was a type 1 which meant that it was slower growing and less aggressive. The tumor had reached stage 4 which they explained to me meant that it had grown all the way through the colon wall and was invading my bladder.

jenjerandkatesmom's picture
Posts: 37
Joined: Sep 2008

You're talking about it! Cancer treatment IS traumatic. This is a great place to get your feelings out on the table so that you can move on. God only knows why we feel the way that we do but it sure seems that we all seem to have a lot in common. Losing friends, no matter what the cause is sad! I'm sincerely hoping that this depression that you are having is a temporary thing and that talking about it helps you feel better. If it's hanging on, though, it might be best to contact your doc. -Sharon

CherylHutch's picture
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

Hi Mark. Yep, what you are feeling is totally normal and can be expected when you finish a treatment. When I went through the "orientation" at our Cancer Agency... the one where they explain the set up, the building and it's different floors/departments, what I can expect, the sort of hiearchy of my medical "team", etc., they also went over what I could expect once the treatments were over. They said that it was totally normal to feel depressed and actually missing the routine of coming in for chemo and appts. It's not that you miss the actual chemo, or the appts... it's just that you are so aware and conscious of the need for each of the cycles, no matter how rotten they may make you feel and then all of a sudden it's over. No one is telling you to come in, no one is taking blood, marking anything on charts, no one is even scaring you. Even your oncologist may have said, "Ok, fine... we'll see you in 3 months." and boom, you are no longer involved.

This will pass and just keep your fingers crossed that you do not have to return for treatments... that would be such a good thing!

I remember I felt that way too and then felt bad because how in the world could I be missing chemo treatments... was I crazy?? And then, when the scan showed that it had spread to my adrenal gland and lung, I felt horrible and couldn't help but think that my missing the attention I was getting during chemo was now responsible for bringing on the spread!

Sometimes our minds just do crazy things to us ... so don't question it. Just tell yourself that what you are going through is not uncommon but if it lasts for too long, go to your doctor and let him/her know that the depression is not going away.



Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

I had a similar feeling when I finished treatment. I couldn't believe it -- but have since learned that this is a fairly common reaction. In my case, I ended up seeing a counsellor (therapist), which was very helpful. (Not everyone's "cup of tea", I know, but it was useful for me). The therapist told me that I was experiencing something similar to "post-traumatic shock" -- and that kinda made sense to me. From the moment of diagnosis, I stepped on that crazy rollercoaster we all know too well, and I had been in "fight mode" for months. So, when you finally stop -- well - -reality hits. I am sorry for what you are experiencing now and I hope you are feeling better soon -- and find some peace. Best wishes, Tara

Kanort's picture
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi Mark,

We are glad you found our group and are already comfortable expressing your inner feelings with us. Acknowledgment is half the battle. Yes, stopping chemo is a loss. I missed seeing my oncologist on a weekly basis....I missed my chemo nurse...l missed sitting in the infusion chair chatting with fellow warriors.....I missed having somewhere to go to confirm that I was doing well. After a while, those feelings passed being replaced with the feeling Debbie mentioned…survivor’s guilt!!! Sometimes having a goal or a plan of something to look forward to helps refocus our thoughts and energizes us. I hope you feel better soon.



mk1117's picture
Posts: 46
Joined: Jun 2006

STL Mark -

You are definitely not alone. I am almost 4 years post-diagnosis. I've lost several friends in the past year, and recently I started feeling guilty that I'm doing so well. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I can completely relate. I recently started taking a new anti-depressant, so we'll see how that works. If I can't seem to break out of this mood, I've decided I may try counseling to see if that helps. It is definitely survivor's guilt.
Hang in there.


lfondots63's picture
Posts: 822
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi Mark,

I'm glad you found us and congrats on the end of chemo! I'm stage 3 dx Dec.2005. During chemo like the others said I was in fight mode. Kept me going through the whole rollercoaster. Then all of a sudden you are done and not sure what comes next. It is scary and upsetting. Survivors guilt is also normal. So many wonderful people loose their battle to the beast. It will take time and you may again have some depression. I know that when I hear of someone doing poorly that I have met on this site, I get depressed. Even if I never met them in person they are still part of my family. Also others that I have never even met going through this battle makes me sad. HUGS and if there is no improvement maybe talk to your onc or a doctor to see what they might suggest.

Lisa F

vinny3's picture
Posts: 933
Joined: Jun 2006

Hi Mark,

What you are feeling is not unusual. You put in so much effort with the chemo and fight that when you stop there is a letdown. It feels like you are no longer fighting although you actually are. It gets better as you get into more normal activities. You have been spending time on the treatment and now will be spending time, hopefully, on enjoying your life. I'm assuming that your stage is actually IIb, the tumor depth is 4 (through the wall of the colon) but there are no nodes or signs of mets.

Keep up the good fight and surveillance.


Posts: 75
Joined: Sep 2008

Hey Mark, hang in there. As long as the cancer stays in remission, believe me, you will get better and feel better. It's a long journey staying free of cancer and a lot of hard work. Just think of the alternatives, you've got a good jump on this thing, I pray it is gone forever. Go Cardinals! Next year anyway. love, randy

quiet witness
Posts: 7
Joined: Sep 2008

Hey Mark,
I have had bouts of depression and guilt too. I lost my brother to cancer when I was a kid and I felt guilty for living. For a long time I believed I should have died rather than him. I too went to therapy and it did help. 25 years later, I married the girl of my dreams, we had a child, bought a house and my career took off. After 10 years of marriage my wife was diagnosed with stage IV non small cell lung cancer with mets to her spine. She died 6 months after dx. Again, I felt sad and guilty. I was ten years older than she and fell into the same mental trap thinking I should have died and not her. Again, counseling pulled me through. In particular I learned that most of my trouble was that I was operating under the assumption that if you live a good life, are kind to others etc then bad things shouldn't happen to you. In other words, I thought life was fair. It isn't In July of this year I scheduled a scopes to my stomach and colon. MD thought I had an ulcer. Turns out I had stage III B colon cancer. I was shocked and felt my world spin out of control, but I knew the drill and went for more therapy. I have completed two rounds of FOLFOX and I can tell you the chemo has caused me terrible depression. My shrink increased my antidepressants and I have a good gruop of friends who will listen to me day or night and that helps, but sometimes neither works I have to wait it out. It feels like I will never be happy or normal again when I amn in that space but each time it eventually passes if I keep doing what I need to do, take meds, see therapist, talk to friends, share time with my boy. I have rambled on a lot. Hope there is something in what I said than might be of help.


jams67's picture
Posts: 927
Joined: May 2006

I have felt that way too and have been told that it is post tramatic stress which makes sense. I didn't take an antidepresant right after my chemo, almost 2 1/2 years ago, but 2 weeks ago, I went to my PCP and he did blood work for this and that and gave me an antidepresant. Not sure if it will help make me feel better. I'm just tired all of the time and one of the side effects the first few weeks of this new med is fatigue so I now feel like I'm swimming up river. I am just thankful that I'm still swimming.
Hope we both feel better soon and can get on with life.
Jo Ann

Posts: 1048
Joined: Jan 2007

Hi. First of all , Congrats on being cancer free and I'm very sorry about the loss of your friends. I think what you are feeling is pretty normal though. You've been through a mighty stressful time in your life. Things are returning back to "normal "slowly and lets face it , even though you are cancer free which is awesome, you have gone through a traumatic experience and nothing is the same as it "was". That doesn't mean though that it can't be better than it was either! So don't beat yourself up over not being ecastatic, but do stop punishing yourself with survivors guilt. You didn't do anything wrong by becoming cancer free. I know it's hard to understand, but God chose a different path for your friends. I have no doubt they are in good hands. God Bless and send you positive thoughts.


Buzzard's picture
Posts: 3073
Joined: Aug 2008

I have 1 word to say about depression and before I say it let me tell you that I was doing the same thing...Driving I would have to pull over because of breaking down I couldn't see to drive. I thought of my 4-6-14-23 year old kids all the time. Cried , stayed indoors, felt sorry for myself......I have never taken any types of medicine for any length of time in my entire life but I had had enough and I went to my family doctor and told him I wanted an antidepressant......The one word ......"Prozac"............best thing I have ever done...I am only on 10 mg a day but it gave me back the only control I have in this situation and that was my trouble , I had no control over what was happening to me . I now do and it doesn't effect me one bit except for the fact it keeps me from dwelling on it and I haven't had another episode since I started taking it.....I am from Western Ky so Im not far from ya but I do know exactly what you are going through. Try it and give it a week or so to start working and I bet ya you will notice a large difference in the way you feel.....promise...

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