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Anger, anxiety, depression for survivors

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2016

I had my last reconstruction surgery in September. I thought I'd feel great at this point but instead I'm irritable, anxious, sad. I feel ashamed to be feeling angry when I should feel lucky to be alive. Most days I'm fine unless something sets me off like the death of a colleague this week. Accupuncture, therapy, and exercise help some. How did other handle this?

Jerry009's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2016

Hey there,

 I am 4x survivor (Hodgkins, 3x sarcoma) 

My second sarcoma I had on my rotater cuff.  I had the tumor resected along with a good healthy margin. The reconstruction of my shoulder was pretty intensive. I was held up in a sling for 3 months prior to starting physical therapy for an addition 3 months. During the time between surgury and physical therapy was the worst emotional rollercoast I had been on at that point.  I was irratable, depressed, angry, shut out the world. eventually it all settled out after I started getting the use of my arm back. Fast foreward almost ten years and I have been diagnosed with PTSD, Severe Depression and anxiety. I am going through extensive Secular and spiritual therapy, as well as marriage therapy. My advise for any new survivor, get a good Therapist now and poor out your soul!!!!!!!! I nearly lost everything due to not taking care of my mental state, it will and does catch up with you!! 

Joan M's picture
Joan M
Posts: 411
Joined: Oct 2016

I have experienced all of the above emotions since my diagnosis.  Most days I am happy to be alive, and do all I can to get done what needs to be done.  Other days, I am tired and depressed and can't seem to do much of anything.   Many nights I toss and turn and cannot sleep.  Sometimes I take some anti-anxiety meds to help me get to sleep.  Other nights, I toss and turn and am really tired the next day.  I don't want to become reliant on sleep medications.  Usually I can get myself out of the dumps and move forward again just happy that I am alive.  I have not seen a counselor yet, but am in a local survivors group at the clinic I go to and has a psychologist attend the meetings.  

I am not a "long term" survivor, but have survived for almost a year since diagnosis.  According to one of my doctors, I probably had cancer for 3 years prior to diagnosis.  I am stage 4 so may never be "cured" but God willing I may have many years of life ahead of me thanks to all the prayers and the wonderful advances in cancer treatment. 

It seems inevitable that those of us dealing with cancer will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other emotional baggage.  Your advice given above to seek a good counselor is probably the best and healthiest way to handle the matter. 


ron50's picture
Posts: 1729
Joined: Nov 2001

  This January I ended year 19 of survival and started year 20 ex stge3c colon cancer. Surviving survival is not easy. I haven't changed much. I was 48 at dx and now 67. I still work 4 days a week. I have multiple auto immune diseaes including auto immune nephrotic syndrome of the kidneys. I take cyclosporine twice a day to stay alive.I find that each year there are less things that I can do due to long term damage from chemo. My wife left me ten years ago and I have lived alone ever since. My secret to survival is to constantly reasses my expectations. If there is something I can no longer do I simply find something else to do. I don't worry too much about depression. I figure if I have it then I have well and truly earned it. So no docs and no pills. What doesn't kill you makes you tougher. Cheers Ron.

goon1500fte's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2017

This July I'll be 5 years out of treatment for stage 3 oral cancer . I had 2 surgeries to remove it and lost half my tongue then 40 days of radiation . I dont know what I was exspecting when it was all over . I know I was in denial most of the way through it but now for lack of a better term it just sucks ! 5 years out and Im still in pain everyday . The radiation killed my saliva glands so Im constantly dealing with oral thrush and mouth sores . The worst part I think is the mental end of it all . Im at the point now were every little ache and pain send a shudder of fear through my body that my cancer had returned and that has been crippling to deal with .

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2017

I am 5 years post treatment for stage 3 brain cancer.  I'm struggling all the time with the anxiety that comes with having been given the undeniable reality check that comes with a cancer diagnosis.  A headache is not just a headache; aches and pains are no longer benign things that come with age or activity.  My awareness is so acute that most think I've become a hypochondriac or that symptoms are psychosomatic (all in my head).  Really, "it's all in your head" is never going to be an effective rationale on a brain cancer survivor!  I feel like, to most who've never been down this road, the feeling is that we are supposed to be all rainbows and roses because we beat cancer.  I'm absolutely grateful that I'm a survivor, but it's never really over and done with.  We won't ever feel like it's safe to celebrate and call it done, which is why after 5 years, we're still afraid.  That's the part that our friends and family, even some doctors in my experience, don't seem to be able to grasp.  I'm 100% aware that not every ache or pain or abnormal feeling is cancer - but I'm 5000% aware that having had cancer once does not make me exempt from ever having it again.  Nor does it exempt me from any other illness.  Why should I feel bad about being vigilant?  But there lies the worry, anxiety, mood swings, etc.  It's out of MY control and I might never get back to a place where I'm unafraid of the what-if's.  I can't tell you how many people have said: "You need to stop worrying, you're gonna make yourself sick."  Yet another rationale that's lost on me.  I can't make them feel what I feel, or let them walk in my shoes, but I do wish I could make them understand that I did not choose this - it chose me.  Making it sound like there's a switch I can hit and go back to the old me is almost offensive.  It's part of the package that comes with having a serious illness.  Please stop seeing this as something I do - it's who I am, and I'm doing the best I can.

KlassyKat's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Mar 2021

I couldnt agree with you MORE. I'm 5 years post thyroidectomy surgery...but had 3 types of cancers pop up at me since (colon polps)(ovarian cancer + medical menopause) and my latest mri revealed a .05mm spot on my left lung. So the dr says "were gonna watch yearly" ...the worry of what if...becasue I smoked for 36 years.. So much worry that over the past year alone...that i've developed an eating/sleeping disorder and  lost 60lbs from worrying too much ( at least that's what I hope and not that the cancer has returned again) and here I go worrying again. Argh. I know it's an internal battle . If you can try to refocus your thoughts  when you start to worry, perhaps it will help. I find laughter helps and music. I also like to paint and distract my mind from  worry.  I wish you can find encouragement from knowing you are not in this boat alone. Life is HARD. Especially for survivors. But....were SURVIORS. SO...let's be strong for each other as well.  Hope you'rehanging in there. -Kat

Posts: 12
Joined: Oct 2020

Somedays I just feel like throwing in the towel because of the uncertainty of what is next.  Long term survial or recurrence.  One small thing that helped my a little was to stop the fear of recurrence or another cancer was to say to myself.  I am vulnerable to cancer which doesn't leave me with the panic attacks I had when I felt the "fear" of a cancer coming back. 

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