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Depression and Drinking after diagnoses/treatment

SIRENAF42's picture
Posts: 203
Joined: Oct 2008

I have a family member who is battling a different form of cancer than what I have battled. He has been fighting Lymphoma for 3 years now. Recently had a bone marrow transplant and since then, he has been battling depression.

They always come to me to find out how I got through my cancer and my diagnoses, but when I stop and compare the two, I feel somewhat guilty. I dont know if it is survivor remorse or what, but he has been through so much, as compared to my surgeries and treatment, I really dont know how to make him feel better.

He recently started drinking again. Only 60 days after his bone marrow transplant, and actually was so intoxicated he was stumbling in his front yard and tried to drive his car and hit a neighbors car.

Again, they called on me to help.... At this point I was sooo disappointed in him and angry I didnt really know what to say other than ask him if he was trying to kill himself?

Everyone deals with cancer differently, and I am trying not to judge, but I just wanna scream at him I dont understand why after fighting for you life, you would consume so much alcohol you almost end it by drunk driving?

Does anyone have any advise for me that I can share with him and his family. I have told him he needs therapy on how to deal with cancer and his "new" life, but he ignores the advise.....

Thanks all!

MarineE5's picture
Posts: 907
Joined: Dec 2005


I might catch some flack for this, but you can only do so much. The only person you can change is you. I learned this the hard way. Years ago, I tried to talk to a alcoholic family member and the only one that gets upset is the person trying to help.

Each one of us deals with this cancer or any problem by fight or flight. Many here are fighters or they wouldn't be posting. Then there are those that will get tired and give up. You can advise your family member,and even drive him to the Doctors for help. But he doesn't have to listen and take the advise if he doesn't want to.

This may sound selfish, but you have been down a rough road also. You make sure you take care of yourself. Help as much as that person seems to want or ask for your help. When your family member really wants help, they will ask for it. You could try a family intervention, but will it work ? Many of us have the positive attitude and feel everyone does, and that isn't always true. Our minds are a powerful tool in this fight.

My Best to You, your family member and Everyone Here

ratface's picture
Posts: 1319
Joined: Aug 2009

You have two issues going on right now with him. Depression and probably alcoholism. A month ago I drove my nephew to an AA meeting. Alcoholism does cause depression and the two are intertwined. Yes it sucks when you wreck the car and hurt your hand and can't work etc... I've also done a fair amount of drinking in my time. Marine is right you can't really change drinking behavior, they have to. You can certainly help by providing resouces or in some case denying others.

What is his cancer prognosis. I thought Lymphoma was very treatable and many times curable. Again we all know how each case is different. You could have a very empathetic conversation about cancer with him and try to determine which is casing the depression, the drinking or the cancer. Offer to take him by the hand if need be to whatever resource he needs, i.e. AA or cancer support group. Make sure he knows you care and the door is open. You may have to wait for him to walk through.

Is he on medication and does the alcohol have that multiplying effect. perhaps he needs differrnt medication. I sure as hell don't know. One day next week I'm seeing two separate psychologist 3 hours apart trying to find the right answers myself. Before my cancer everything I had planned was crystal clear, planned to the moment. Now the best i can describe it is that someone has taken the deck of cards which represent my plans and shuffeled the deck so makes little sense.

I only know two things for sure. (1) uncertainty is making me crazy (2) I need to relearn how to live with my level of uncertainty

It's an honorable and wonderful thing you seek for this fasmily member. I really do think you are in a position to help.

Kent Cass
Posts: 1898
Joined: Nov 2009

Perhaps this family member has given-up the fight. Not that simple, of course. Only the family member knows how deep it goes, Sirena. I do have intimate experience with alcoholism, which runs in my Father's side of the family.

Do not let this drag you down. You are only a player on the periphery, Sirena. If said family member has been fighting a 3-year battle, I would suggest that you stay on the periphery. Do not know how close you are to the said, but do know where it all can take one, Sirena. As man, w/Strength and Honor, I can't say anything more about me. With some, Sirena, there just comes a time...

Priority-One is you taking care of you. IF, you feel strong enough, then you might consider getting more involved. HOWEVER, YOU MUST REALIZE, your family member most certainly needs Professional help. One does not drink during battle w/drugs- such as that is forbidden to those who want to continue life. Could be all you can do is facilitate said family member's confrontation with the alcohol issue. Your call, Sirena. Keep us informed on this matter.


Scambuster's picture
Posts: 973
Joined: Nov 2009

Hi Sirena,

It is unclear if he is an alcoholic or just turned to the drink because of his recent condition ie the Cancer & Depression. If he is already on medication for depression, then as you know that is a very bad cocktail indeed. IF not, then he needs medical help (for the depression) and hopefully that will turn him around.

If there are underlying alcoholism issues, then that is a very difficult one indeed. As with Ratface, I was treated for depression post treatment and the effects were remarkable. I hope that is his case. As the others have said already, you can only do so much and he has to make the decision to get help.

All the best.


SIRENAF42's picture
Posts: 203
Joined: Oct 2008

He was in remission for Lymphoma for one year, and it returned, little tumors everywhere, the biggest one in his aeorta (spelling?). I hate to say it, but he drank after his last treatment and during remission. I keep telling him over and over, cancer seeks and destroys. Why add alcohol to a body that is at its weekest. All it does is make you weaker and the cancer has even a more fighting chance to win.

He is not suppose to drink, doctors have told him, but I think he thought he could have one or two and no big deal... but he just had his bone marrow transplant and they told him it was like he was a newborn. Now at 60 days "reborn" he decided todrink. Just stupid!

He is my ex husbands brother. I stay close to him so he can spend time with my kids and we were both diagnosed with cancer several months apart from each other. So we became cancer buddies. I just want to scream at him, because I dont understand. Sometimes I just dont even want to call or visit because I dont want to deal with what I call stupidity, but then I have to do whats right and help those in need. Its just crazy.

I think I am going to print these emails and let him read them and tell him he HAS GOT TO get in counseling for cancer survivors and alcoholism. If he doesnt, like you all said, thats his choice and I will step aside.

Thanks ALL OF YOU for helping me understand. Great people us survivors are!!


cwcad's picture
Posts: 117
Joined: Nov 2009

"I only know two things for sure. (1) uncertainty is making me crazy (2) I need to relearn how to live with my level of uncertainty."

I believe these two things to be true. I am not sure how to find it and keep it but I do know that "making a choice" has directed me towards that very path.

Good luck Sirena! Frustrating as it must be one can only do so much. What is the saying..? You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink.

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