In need of support



My mom was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer back in March. She went through approximately 5 months of chemotherapy treatment with infusions and pills every three weeks. She then completed 6 weeks of chemo pills and radiation treatments 5 days per week. Through the duration of her treatment, she has been experiencing severe anxiety and depression. My family got her medicated with Zoloft and then all of a sudden, her health began to decline and she was hospitalized for about 4 days due to severe weakness and more. The staff at the hospital misdiagnosed her with Parkinson's Disease and in the meantime, my family made the decision to get her off of the Zoloft. She spent approximately 15 days in a physical rehab facility getting her strength back. After she left the rehab facility, she had intense motivation to keep eating every couple of hours, exercising, and adhering to a schedule. However, during her radiation treatments, she became extremely anxious. Since she has returned home after her treatment, her anxiery has become debilitating. She is unable to sit still and has lost motivation to find activities to do to keep herself busy. Instead, she chooses to go lay down in bed because she does not know what to do with herself or feels like she is unable to handle what she does try to do during the day. During her treatment, she was on Ativan and was taking that as needed, sometimes up to 3 times per day. Now, we got her on Clonasepam and a sleep aid. She is also beginning to see a pyschologist. I am looking for support because I feel like I am losing patience with her. I am trying my hardest to help change her negative mindset and help her to recognize she is in control of this anxiety and depression and it will get better, but she is not able to recognize positive gains. I am in need of any suggestions of how to approach suggesting things for her to do to keep busy (she is on long-term disability and feels useless because she is not working and needs productive things to do during the day), and how to help her recognize that she can manage this anxiety and depression and live her life and it will get better. I feel like I am at a loss of what to do sometimes and I need help.


Thank you so much.


  • Trubrit
    Trubrit Member Posts: 5,625 Member
    Quite the problem

    At the end of the day you cannot 'help' her if she is not willing to help herself, and it seems to me, that you have reached that point. 

    While you can continue to suggest things until you're blue in the face, she is not going to do them until she feels like it. 

    If you feel like you are fighting a losing battle - or as you say, losing patience, then maybe it is time to step back, just a little. 

    Everyone of us patients here, has experienced some degree of anxiety, nervous anxiety, depression, and handled it in many different ways.  While I can tell you how meditation, guided imagery, healing music and nature helped me, someone else was helped by seeing a professional, and others tried medication, herbal and/or prescription. Some of us had to try several things in order to find the one that worked for us. 

    I think you are caught between a rock and a hard place, and my heart hurts for you, as it is obvious you are hurting for your mum. 

    You say that she feels usless becasue she is on long-term disability. Maybe she can volunteer somewhere, which will give her a sense of wellbeing and achievement. 

    I know others will be along soon, with their ideas. 



  • worriedson714
    worriedson714 Member Posts: 333 Member
    Almost the same as my dad

    My dad is stage 3 rectal cancer 6 months of chemo/radiation surgery that didn't get it all then another surgery that didn't get it all . Now waiting to start more treatment and he has alot of these same problems . From the start major anxiety depression mood swings sleep problems right from the start that only seem to be getting worse . He refuses all medication for any of those things cause he " doesn't like the way they make him feel " . Anytime we try to get him to take medication he just refuses says we are treating him like a child and acting like his boss . 

     He has worked his whole life taken care of our family and me everyday its literally who he is and now he says the same he feels useless can't do nothing . I try to get him to see the good that his cancer has not spread . I try to get him to see that he can beat the anixety depression and treatment can get rid of the cancer.  I try everything to be positive for him even though I am scared inside and like for you none of it works . 

    It seems like the anxiety and depression are winning and the more I help the worse things get for him so as hard as it is for me I am learning to take a step back . I am trying to let him find his own way threw this nightmare I usually ask tons of questions in docs appointments to the point he really doesn't get to . Now he is asking more questions and talking to the docs more and taking part in his own treatment and I think sometimes as caregivers we forget that . The patient needs to feel like there still in control of there life and there treament and they can still do things for themselves . 

    Example my dad just had another surgery when he gets out of bed now he struggles cause of the pain usually I just jump in and help . But now I ask dad do you need help . If he says no I just stand there making sure he doesn't fall or nothing and if he does it on his own . I tell him thats amazing and I am proud of him . He seems to feel so much better about himself less anxiety and depression and happier if he does it himself . If no one is helping him . 

    For a long time I didn't understand that and I still kind of don't but I think the anxiety and depression comes from the lack of control patients have feeling like there not themselves no more . So long story short I try to step back and let him still be himself as much as he can that seems to be all that helps with the anxiety and depression . Cause I spent a year suggesting things and it just got worse now I let him do it his way even if I don't agree and I am scared .

    I don't know if any of that helps but we are living the same nightmare your not alone and I believe your mom and my dad will get threw this good luck . 

    I know I wrote alot but one more thing for my dad something as simple as taking him for a ride or to the grocery store helps . I don't think there is some huge thing anyone needs to do to help a patient feel productive . Sometimes its as simple as asking them if they want to go to the store or for a ride it helps for my dad . 

  • Live_4_Caring
    Live_4_Caring Member Posts: 3
    edited October 2020 #4

    You've already got some great advice. I'll share, but ultimately you know your mom better than we do, or a professional can help better. Also, some of this you may have done already.

    Yes, it can take trying different meds for a while to see what works, and what won't interfere with treatments. Coming as someone who struggles with anxiety and periodic depression, it's not something that someone can usually control. You may want to ask her what may help her to feel better at the time and brainstorm with her. I'm not sure how sharing of her feelings she did in the past, so some of this can be difficult for her, especially if there's stigma around mental health or mood issues that she grew up around. Maybe just to have someone hold her so she feels safe and loved, but she may not be one for physical touch. Just sitting in the quiet and letting her know you're there no matter what. See if you can get her to talk about her fears and thoughts even if they aren't rational. Even when I'm doing well, I meet once a month with a counselor so I can hear myself talk out loud about what's happening without fear of judgement. Sometimes I work it out myself, but most of the time I get validated. This is a scary time, and it brings us face to face with the reality of how short our time is here. I've had to learn to let myself be okay with days where my only accomplishment is getting out of bed, or eating, or getting dressed. It's okay to have hard days, and in my mind I'll now say, "Today's going to be a hard day. What's going to be my victory of accomplishment today?" It can be self care, or checking in with a friend or family member. Right now with Covid it's so easy to feel isolated. Phone calls or face time with someone can be uplifting. 

    If she needs more activity and is able to be active, going for a walk outside while able to, or just sitting outside for fresh air can do a lot to lift spirits. Keep reaching out for help. Someone will have something that will make all the difference. That's why I like going to a counselor. It gives me a different perspective and sometimes validation. Hang in there.

    You're doing a great job!



  • SnapDragon2
    SnapDragon2 Member Posts: 646 Member
    edited October 2020 #5
    Like Tru said, maybe

    Like Tru said, maybe volunteering in the community.  I volunteer at one of our animal shelters.  It feels good to both me and the animals to get outside and play ball or just sit in the sun and love on them.  I have plenty of animals at home already or I would have adopted some :) 

  • Real Tar Heel
    Real Tar Heel Member Posts: 290 Member
    edited October 2020 #6
    Truebrit has great advice as

    Truebrit has great advice as usual. You personally cannot change people who don't want to be changed.

    I have lived with/dealt with people with mental illness for my entire life. I didn't know what was happening until I was older, of course. Getting them to see the light is a fruitless struggle, as I learned from watching others make the attempt. It took worst case scenarios to make a difference in one, the other will probably never see things more clearly. But the effort, the constant effort, will weigh you down.

    You can do things like suggest involvement in activities that give concrete, positive outcomes. For example, set a goal to walk half a mile and complete it with them (I don't know if it is physically possible but it's a suggestion). Make an inventory of things you need for winter, things like that. The key may be to do it with them, to facilitate conversation along the way.

    Now I had some mystery fatigue during chemo which turned out to be out of control blood sugar. I was sleeping all the time and didn't feel like doing anything. You may also want to check for some physiological issues that are contributing.

    Sorry these issues have brought you here, but welcome to the group.

  • beaumontdave
    beaumontdave Member Posts: 1,206 Member
    edited October 2020 #7
    Sorry your dealing with such

    Sorry your dealing with such a painful, frustrating situation, but there are things to try with your mom. Would she read or listen to some survivor stories, there's more than a few here with stage3/stage4 people who are NED for years now, including Tru and myself. Volunteering is an excellent way to take your mind off yourself, I was busy with work, but when it seemed too much, walking until I was too tired to feel anxious worked quite well. A small book on Mindfulness, Meditation or Stoicism could help, if she's willing to read a bit. All encompass the idea of staying in the moment, not looking down an unknown scary road. Making today a good as it can be, and relishing simple pleasures, is a very effective way of calming fears. Get her involved in silly holiday stuff, my late wife could totally lose herself in decorations and food and family. If she focused directly on the brain tumor that was always going to return [glioma] she'd have been like your mom, so trips to he doctor often become road trips to new restaurants and whatever sights we could find. Once I found Elvis's honeymoon house and the one he bought in Palm Springs, to stay in. She loved it because she loved Elvis, she forgot the treatments and doctor stuff and enjoyed the moment. She had Ativan for home and sleep when things did weigh on her, and having tried both, I had it changed to Xanax, which had worked well for me in my moments of doubt and fear. I can imagine how frustrating it can be to try to help someone who's fears are overwhelming them, and shutting them down, but keep plugging and get her to find beauty, fun, or distraction[at least] in life's simple things. In the end, be it from disease or old age's limitations, it's all any of us will have at the end, along with the memories we retain. Good luck to you, and peace of mind to her..............................................Dave