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Depression After Surgery

Posts: 428
Joined: Jul 2011

We are now three weeks post surgery and my husband's biggest post operative problem is his mind not his body. We have so much for which to be thankful for; pain is at a manageable point, bowels are moving good and wound is healing nicely. But he continues to be paranoid, anxious, and generally disinterested in the world including his family. I am started to get angry at him because everyone has been catering to his physical and emotional needs but he is unable to reciprocate. He doesn't return people's calls or texts and is uninterested in visitors. When our children are laughing or sharing stories, he does not join the conversation. It's like they removed his personality along with the tumors. Those of you who have walked his path, what am I suppose to do?

Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3372
Joined: Jan 2010

I went thru a mild depression after surgery. Called the doc and got a light anti-depressant.

Talk with his doctor. He may refer him to someone else, but make sure he gets some meds. His mental health will have an impact on his overall health.

The need for meds may not be just from the surgery. It is a daunting thing to have found out that we are mere mortals and that our time on earth has a limit. Hopefully the meds will help and will only be needed temporarily.

Marie who loves kitties

pepebcn's picture
Posts: 6352
Joined: Aug 2010

quite normal, post traumatic stress, visit the psych and have some anti anxiety pills , I was operated on December and took me till February to be
in good mind shape! but it will pass not problem!

plh4gail's picture
Posts: 1238
Joined: Oct 2010

There were and are still times when I took Xanax for that. It's an emotional roller coaster. It's got to be hard for you seening this happen. But remember that for him, just because he made it through a treatment, he might be angry and resentful of the change in his life that he didn't ask for. That's how I felt. It's getting better but I still have some bad days. Get him some meds and encourage him that its ok to take them to help his emotions and give him love and patience. Just be your normal self


John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

Pepe' is right, it'll pass (maybe) in time.

Between the anesthetics, pain killers, and other nifty mind-bending
drugs they administer during surgery (some can last weeks/months after),
it's a wonder we don't cry ourselves back into the ER.

Couple that with the impact of "after surgery shock" and the
final realization that you really have c a n c e r...... and you have
all the makings of what's called "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder".

The family would like to be happy for the holidays, but he's
still reeling from the reality; from finally comprehending the
fact he has a terminal disease.

It's sobering! I personally have to drink three times as much
since my DX; it's that sobering!

I don't like drugs, hence I don't like anti-depressants. If there's
a reason for being depressed, that should be resolved, not disguised
by a layer of drugs. Of course that's -my- biased opinion, and
those that use drugs will insist differently (not that there's anything
wrong with that).

The poor guy needs someone to talk to, but no-one can possibly
understand what a DX of cancer does to you, than someone else
with a DX of cancer.

That's the reason those of us with cancer hang out here. Most everyone
here has had a cancer diagnosis, and each and every one of us with
that diagnosis knows exactly what it's like; we know the feeling inside
us and what it does to us..... all of what it takes away from us.

We can talk to one another, knowing that we are all the same,
but hubby's family members only think they know what it's like.

As close as I am with my wife of 48 years, I'm not sure if she really
knows the devastation I feel deep inside; the horrible feeling that
I'll be hospitalized again, perhaps for the last time; a feeling we
all share here.

Give the guy a break, he needs comfort and time... and maybe
some sort of a diversion....

Having a buxom stripper hopping out of the holiday cake would
be OK.... (just sayin')

Best health to ya'll,


Posts: 428
Joined: Jul 2011

Okay, I may consider giving him a break but not so sure his heart or others parts could take a stripper so soon after surgery. I considered doing it myself but fear my arthritic knees would prevent me from popping out of that cake at a speed that turns men on. Lisa

John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

"I considered doing it myself but fear my arthritic knees would
prevent me from popping out of that cake at a speed that turns men on. "

The slower the better, Lisa...... t h e .. s l o w e r .. t h e .. b e t t e r .. !

So the stripper says to him: "I'm here to give you super sex !"

And he says: "I'll take the soup."

Have fun; think healthy!


tommycat's picture
Posts: 790
Joined: Aug 2011

After my first big surgery, all I wanted to do was break plates--if only I had the strength! An anti-depressant may help him feel like himself sooner rather than later. (I like John23's idea of the stripper in the cake, but doubt your husband would find it funny now.)
On the followup to the Dr., it would be more than okay to mention his mental state. Your husband will thank you for it later as he is--rightfully so--not himself now.
We are all here for him AND you~

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Dearest, Lisa

John has a good handle on the situation and I agree with what he said. It's early on in the fight and his first steps of awareness are washing over him. He is dialing out right now as he assimilates his feelings and reasseses his life.

My heart breaks for you and your husband. I want you to do me a favor. I found this in the book and it speaks to me on some of what may be ailing your husband. These words might help him - I know they will help you:)

Just tell him that Tex understands where he is at and what he is feeling. Tell him I licked cancer 3x in 7 years and that things can get right - but it takes Time and Patience. And give him some room to "grow." He is starting a new growth spurt as we spoke.

Please read on....and accept this gift from Santa Craig this year. Tears are in my eyes as I write you and I just felt this incredible desire to help you and your husband for the holidays.

Remember, you're together - and you have your family. He will pull out but it's all been in fast forward for him and now that the train has slowed down, he's had the time to begin thinking - and believe me, that's where he is right now. It will not all pull together magically or overnight. Just because something looks over - it 'ain't.' We'll talk about that another day.

Enjoy the holiday!


I’m truly convinced that pain and suffering are human elements that are absolutely essential for human growth to occur. Without these two elements present in our lives, then as people, we cannot grow and reach our full potential.

It’s not so much that we are going to have pain and suffering somewhere in our lives – rather, the issue is how do we ‘manage’ those feelings when we find them on our doorsteps?

With cancer, we never get to choose any of the dates of our pain and suffering. Those days are made for us by our various medical schedulers and then become “The Days of our Lives.”

Like a game of poker, we never got to choose our cards – we merely play the hands we are dealt.

Pain and Suffering are the price of admission to our cancer matinees. They are our membership dues to the Cancer Club. However, as time passes and the wounds begin to heal, we ourselves begin to experience a transformation towards personal growth.
This is what the world sees and how the world will remember us. It seems we cannot have one without the other – they go hand in hand.

Pain and Suffering is like when you prune your hedges before each spring. By cutting deeply to the quick, it triggers that reaction in the plant cycle that stimulates new growth in the spring. When those wounds heal and you look at your hedges later, it looks as if there were never any damage done

“It’s sort of like that with cancer, isn’t it?”

The ‘cuts’ reside so deeply within each one of us that we begin to think we will never be whole again. If we can weather those storms, then what blossoms from that ‘pruning’ action turns into a beautiful work of art.

You see, with cancer, there is a part of us that does die, yet there is that part of us that is reborn. It is a subtle reminder of the cycle of life and how that works.

I think of all the human emotions that we experience, that Pain and Suffering is the hardest of them all, and yet it offers the greatest yields in our potential as human beings.

It is when we expose that vulnerable side of ourselves and open the door to our hearts that gets us in touch with our human “Frailties and Fallibilities.”

That willingness to take a closer look at ourselves and acknowledge our shortcomings, while also having the ability to express our inner most feelings to others, is where the beginning of personal growth begins to take root and start growing.


You’ve probably heard the expression, “You Never Walk Alone.”

There’s a lot of truth in that statement when talking about cancer. We might think we’re alone sometimes, but really there are several roommates that want to bunk with us along the different stops in our journeys.

Let’s get to know a few of the players who just might show up on your doorstep.

HOPE. What an interesting fella’ this guy is, right?

He’s a very elusive guy and if we’re not real careful, he can just slip out under the fence and take off out of our lives – and when he goes he’s sometimes hard to find again.

And when Hope moves out, Depression can move in. Then, he invites Despair, Hopelessness and Loneliness to the party and from there the lives we once thought we knew can begin to slip away and then disappear entirely until there becomes nothing but existence.

And that’s a very bad place to be – especially for too long.

I know these ‘roommates’ intimately since I spent the second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011 with them on a daily basis. They are not nice ‘house guests.’

They don’t pay any rent – they don’t clean up after themselves – they don’t do any chores or run any errands and they try very hard to rob us of our lives.

So, it becomes up to each of us to play the role of landlord and ‘evict’ our uninvited houseguests and find a way to get Hope moved back in with us, so that we can flourish once more and feel some sense of optimism.

“What is my definition of Hope?”

I’ve come to think of Hope as that “Intangible element of humanity that we cannot see, but one that we feel.”

It’s the single common denominator that every one of us shares. It’s the driving force behind our individualism and more importantly, the one thing that we ‘cling to’ and ‘reach for’, in times of dire circumstances that beset each of us, somewhere in our lifetime.

Hope is very important in all of our lives. This is especially true for the cancer patient and their caregiver. With such a grim diagnosis to contend with any of us are looking for a nail that we can hang our hats on. Having Hope with you during your cancer battles is a priceless gift to possess.

I believe it is “The Straw That Stirs the Drink.”

Hope keeps our spirits high and our beliefs in what we are trying to accomplish even higher. A life without hope is very sad, but a cancer battle without hope is something I would not want to go through for too long. It’s like most of the things in life – you never really miss it until it’s gone or has been taken away from you.


When you’re in treatment and have depression, it’s very hard to see the other side of the valley. You’re generally feeling so badly and have lost interest in many things as well as life and the things inside it. It becomes a little bit harder to appreciate all of the little things in life that we take so much for granted anyway.

I’ve found it’s like a lot of things in life – we all just want our share of the pie – we want what the other guy has. By this, I’m not referring to materialistic trinkets, I’m thinking more along the lines of ‘being well.’ We see everyone else well and we just want what they seem to be having - their health.

It’s just good old-fashioned basic human nature in its most primal state. There’s nothing wrong with it at all. It’s just a basic human need that we desire to have met.


Before we close out the subject of depression, I wanted to take a moment and discuss the topic of depression medication as it relates to having cancer.

It appears to me that as a society, we tend to over medicate the population. I suppose it seems only natural to do so.

After all, since we were all children we have been taught to ‘take a pill for this – and a pill for that’, and then all of our worries, concerns, and hurts will just go away, right?

“But, do they really go away?”

“Or are we just masking the symptoms of what our normal feelings should really feel like and what we should be experiencing in a more natural way?”

I believe that by suppressing our feelings and emotions with meds that we may be doing more of a disservice to ourselves than we can foresee. The human condition is a volatile sea of emotions even with our best faces on.

With a cancer diagnosis, we have suffered major, mental trauma and we have to look at it from the standpoint of a natural grieving process.

The emotions that come with that are Disbelief, Denial, Anger, and finally Acceptance.

Trying to put a lid on this cauldron with medication, is like putting a band-aid on a surface cut. It only acts to cover up the external wound, but it does not treat the internal wound, which in our case are our feelings and emotions.

We need to allow ourselves the permission to have our moments of grief for what has happened to us, and to be able to express our thoughts and feelings in an outwardly fashion of our choosing, providing it does not harm others. And we need to be able to come to grips with our situation on our own timetable.

“Does anyone remember the good old-fashioned tea kettle?”

You’d fill it up with water and place it on the burner and when the water heated to a certain temperature, the water would boil and then release steam through the spout and make that whistling sound?

Think of our feelings and emotions just like that. As they reach a boiling point they need a natural way to escape and let off that steam. By allowing that process to occur, we are allowing the human body a natural method to vent its frustrations and keep ourselves sane.

Suppression and stuffing your feelings deep down inside you has never been a real solution. We can keep our feelings and emotions buried deep down inside us for many years, but eventually our minds and bodies can only withstand so much and as Popeye the Sailor used to tell us, “Thar’ She Blows!”

Please do not be embarrassed by what you may be feeling or experiencing. It is all part of the normal human condition when in the grieving process. Just be glad that we have the capacity to recognize and understand our emotions and also have a healthy way to unload those feelings before they can eat us alive.

One important note I wanted to emphasize is that not all of us react the same to trauma conditions or the need for medications. Depression meds may indeed be a good option for many of you.

If you and your doctor feel that you need them, then this may be the best course of action for you to take. We need to do whatever it is we need to do to keep us functioning enough to continue our treatments and fight our fight. As I’ve said before, I’m for whatever works for you.

Love you guys!


-Santa Craig

Posts: 428
Joined: Jul 2011

Your gift of words is accepted with the same spirit it was offered, love and compassion. I fully intend to re-gift this one in the future to others who could benefit. You are truly a remarkable and giving person. I am hoping you get that stripper John was talking about for Christmas. Lisa

Posts: 370
Joined: Aug 2011

Well, this surely hits home with me. I am five weeks post surgery and while I am not depressed all of the time, I'm still having my days. I cried so much when I got home from the hospital. I kept thinking I should be relieved and happy because it was over and I had such a good pathology report. But like others have said by having surgery, I've been through a lot as has your husband. I think the procedures can evoke a kind of post traumatic stress. You still don't feel good, there are different aches and pains and you wonder what next? I can't take antidepressants but I do use medications to help me sleep when I can't and I try to get outside as much as I can, which helps me.

If he is willing, a antidepressant may be helpful or if he could talk to someone who understands what it is like to be in his shoes. I have made a friend of another cancer survivor in my community who is in treatment presently. We talk on the phone sometimes and that is helpful.
Sorry you all have to go through this.....
Sending you light.

Posts: 1736
Joined: Jul 2007

I didnt realize it until later, but I was the same way, not sure if I was just kind of waiting to die or what, but looking back I can see I was just a shell, but I still can not tell you or anyone why I was like that. I am guessing it is depression, FEAR, and a lot of ANGER....if there is any way for him to seek counseling I would suggest that, or find a support group where he can be with others that are in his foot steps...my partner used to say or scream at me YOU DONT HAVE CANCER, being that surgery and chemo were successful, but in my mind the cancer is still there, it has been 3 years NED and I still struggle. Others are able to go on with their normal lives and I am happy for them, but some are not....I am now in counseling found a good counselor and working on me....Guess I am saying he is not alone, if he ever wants to talk let me know, would be glad to talk to him...


abrub's picture
Posts: 2174
Joined: Mar 2010

While I agree that just treating the symptoms, and not the underlying issues is the wrong way to go, we also know that biochemistry affects mood. Your husband has been exposed to numerous drugs and trauma, all of which shift the body's natural balance. Part of his depression may well be due to this, and thus meds may help him re-achieve his norm; basically nudge him in the right direction. There is no shame in using tools to achieve this.

Interestingly enough, I was on antidepressants for several years prior to my dx. After my surgery, while in the hospital, I stopped taking them, and have never needed to resume. Yes, I have bad days; we all do. But at this point in my life, anti-depressants are no longer needed. However, I still work closely with a therapist, who gives me a place to unburden without having to dump my entire load on my wonderful husband. The therapist also helps me to see things more clearly, and has been a wonderful help to me.

Speak to his drs - consider all options; medication, meditation, acupuncture, relaxation, music, whatever. Help him find what gives him comfort. And yes, he'll have to come to grips with having cancer (tho I'm not sure I ever truly believed that I did, or what I went through.)

cindybob's picture
Posts: 61
Joined: Aug 2004

I truly believe that I would have died post surgery beccause I was so PHYSICALLY and emotionally depressed that I needed help. And there is no way I would have asked on my own. I still credit my life post surgery on a friend who went to the Dr. with me and INSISTED on Anti-depressants. I took something light, I can't remember what it was but it helped me eat, and it helped me heal. I may have taken them a month or two. But I honestly believe that I would have let myself shrivel up and die without the medication. And I also believe that the depression was PHYSICAL, which is totally connected to the mental. One needs to support the other. Once I could eat again, and get SOME energy, I could heal. I was very, very sick. Some people bounce right back, but I needed meds. And I would have not asked on my own.

All the great words, great ideas, great intentions in the world won't work if you don't have the energy to care. There are so many great fun things in the world but depression makes them not matter in the least.

Also, my husband is bi-polar, so taking care of someone that you want to smash over their head because they can't respond to people REALLY going out of their way to help makes one (Well, me at least) so ANGRY, and Guilty, and frustrated. You are doing great trying to show your appreciation even when he can't. So, HUGS to you! Try to make time for yourself away from seeing him so down.

Regardless of the road you choose for your husband...to medicate/not medicate, therapy/no therapy, nutrition, etc. You are entitled to any feelings that you have as well. I DID need meds. But of course respect any feelings that you have on adding them or not adding them to whatever you husband needs. I often look back or talk about how much worse I felt after surgery. I was very sick for a long time. The worst part was seeing how other people could go through cancer and not miss work, etc. I didn't function; I was a blob on the couch. It wasn't until I was finally strong enough to guess answers on Jeopardy again that I knew, really KNEW, that I was not dying and that my mind was coming back. I wasn't mean or negative-I was vacant. I just wasn't here.

I say this becaue you won't be able to guess what will bring him back...for me--meds until I had the energy to think of answers (Or Questions) for Jeopardy!

Please keep us updated on how both of you are feeling. That's why we are here!

braelee2's picture
Posts: 130
Joined: Sep 2010

I also went through depressions after surgery, I needed. Some mere to get me through it. Its normal is what I was told.

tootsie1's picture
Posts: 5065
Joined: Feb 2008

I think it's very normal to feel the way he's feeling right now. Give him time, dear. I know for at least several weeks after my surgery, if anyone came to see me, I would just cry.


Posts: 265
Joined: Aug 2011

This is such a hard time...I hope your husband is feeling better. Going through a long cancer treatment is so hard but I keep telling my husband it will get better. It just takes time but he still has moments of depression also. I think trying to stay busy and occupied as much as possible helps a lot. Take care, hugs, teri

alexinlv's picture
Posts: 194
Joined: Jul 2010

Thank you for bringing this subject up. My husband is 2 weeks post surgery and i noticed he's very down which has not been like him at all. So I found this post and told him and he was happy to hear that others have felt the same way. It's such a long road, isn't it?!

Posts: 28
Joined: Dec 2011

Hope your husband is doing better, you have been in my thoughts. The one thing I have asked for is something to help me sleep (chemo and steroids get the best of me). I can also tell you that I did well after surgery but have struggled here in the holiday season. I'm still fighting but my family worries when I spend too much time on these boards, I think Buzzard said to give yourself a break sometimes - easier said than done. I also do much better when I concentrate on one day at a time. I have hope for 2012 and while it may not be everyone's preferred way to cope, I've also spent alot of time talking to the Lord. One other thing, we started the I'm not feeling sorry for ourselves tour. So far I haven't taken a depression medication but I keep it open as an option.

Posts: 428
Joined: Jul 2011

I am starting to see the husband I married again. You can measure his health by how much he is irritating me and recently he has started. I can't wait for the first fight. Thanks for all your feedback.

tommycat's picture
Posts: 790
Joined: Aug 2011

Nice to read you post :) Thanks for the update.

Posts: 753
Joined: Apr 2011

Glad hubby hasn't forgotten how to be irritating....lol.
Good news. Take care!

Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

I am glad to see he is coming around but I can totally relate to what he is going through. I am recovering from my fourth surgery and I was depressed every time after surgery. This time was a much larger surgery and as a result I was a lot more depressed. I still have to wrestle with depression some 5 weeks after surgery. I just went back to work this week and I guess it was the kick in the butt I needed because my wife looked at me when I cam home and said "I got my husband back"

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