Cancer wreaked havoc on my mental state and emotions. It really wasn’t cancer itself that did it, rather it was the surgical menopause and the hormonal effects of chemotherapy, steroids, radiation, fear of recurrence and fatigue that weighed on my mind and my feelings. Couldn't someone have warned me?
I already felt bad for getting cancer, as though I had somehow stepped into something yucky that everyone else had managed to see and to walk around. What did I do wrong? Why did I get cancer? These are the questions many cancer patients ask. What did I do? We want to know so we don’t do it again. Many of those answers aren’t available yet, but the doctors try to be supportive and commence with the life-saving treatments.
I mean, seriously, the doctors did tell me that they were basically taking my body captive for the many months of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Why didn’t they tell me about the impact of these harsh treatments on my thoughts and feelings? I thought I was going crazy and I thought somehow it was my fault. I blamed myself for my tears, angst and sleepless, anxious nights as though I was somehow lacking. Cancer is tough enough without feeling you are wrong in how you handle the whole thing.
Thinking I was somehow lacking because I was upset, anxious, sleepless and exhausted was awful. I felt guilty. I felt like I wasn’t good enough somehow. For goodness sake, tell cancer patients that the treatments are often as emotionally difficult as they are physically exacting. Treatment messes with your hormones. Sheesh. I would have cut myself more slack sooner if I had known. I wouldn’t have fought taking the sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications so much.
If I knew my feelings were also going to be hijacked during the cancer treatment process, I think I would have been able to laugh through the tears more, or at least give myself permission to take a nap or cry uncle or maybe just plain cry when I needed a break. I was on an emotional roller coaster ride and I think it was a worse ride than it had to be.
Why the silent treatment on this topic? Of course some patients will put on a brave and optimistic face when they go for their doctor appointments. How are you doing today? Many of us smile and say fine. Nothing is fine about this! Be warned if you are starting this process.
I want to shout the truth from the rooftops. I don’t want fellow cancer patients to suffer in silence and medically imposed ignorance. In fact, I do think the medical profession is getting better at recognizing this and helping patients through the emotional roller coaster ride induced by the medical treatments, but we aren’t there yet.
How many patients are alerted to the possibility of PTSD from their cancer? The chemo brain, fatigue and emotional damage can sometimes “feel” worse than the physical damage.
Did cancer hijack your feelings and thoughts too? How did you cope? There is help out there when you understand what really is happening. There are medications, therapy, support groups, healthy eating and exercise, meditation, yoga and more. There is a long and growing list of strategies to help cope with this part of having cancer, so let's caution patients that this may be part of their cancer experience.
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N/A 558 Posts
July 16, 2016
I so agree! I thought I was getting Alzheimer's (my mom had it) I was so forgetful ! Finally told my onco dr who told me about chemo brain. And NO dr told me about about chemo indused menopause and the shrinking viginia.... So not cool. The side effects should all be addressed!
I had surgery 4 months ago for colon cancer. I was lucky that it hadn't spread, I don't need a "bag" and 2 oncologists decided I didn't eyed chemo. Even so, I am an emotional mess. I am sure I have PTSD as I have almost every symptom. None of the doctors I see regularly seem to care about my emotional state.
I am doing everything I can think of to heal and also attempt to keep cancer away. I eat super healthy, do cardio 7 days a week, have lost weight, am constantly reading inspirational and self-help books, pray all the time, get Reiki, and have signed up for a meditation class. I've also called to make an appointment with a therapist.
I so want to get even just a little happiness back into my life and stop having so much anxiety, fear, nightmares and panic attacks.
I truly feel that as soon as someone is diagnosed, part of their mandatory treatment should be seeing a therapist. My heart goes out to everyone suffering through both the physical torture of cancer treatment and the mental torture that the diagnoses brings.
Initially upon diagnosis (stage 0 breast cancer) and treatment I found other women in my geography with Breast Cancer. We bonded and became our support group for each other, openly discussing everything from treatment side effects to nipple choices for reconstruction. We helped newly diagnosed women find their path and took notes for them at their doctor appointments. We became known by the oncologists and teaching hospitals in the area (S. Jersey + Philly) and ended up after about 10 years having more than 300 women come through our group. The core of us who initiated it slowly retired and moved from the geography until I was the last one left, and I passed all of our resources to the local hospital where I suppose the group died. You can't substitute a bunch of like minded women with an employee. But in 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer with it spread to my underarm, liver and bones. The Docs don't seem to know what to do with the few of us in that core who are now metastasized because historically not many of us survived over 20 years. Our core still emails and three of us are metastasized. (But I just joined the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project to test my genes.) So now in a smaller geography I'm always waiting for that other shoe to drop. There have been incidences, but so far my cancer is being held at bay and not spreading. But as the article made its point, the knowledge that it's coming, colors all of your other thoughts. How long in advance should I plan vacations? Of course plan trip insurance! Oops now I have an inverted nipple on the remaining breast...oops now my implant pocket is filled with fluid and hurts like mad...oops it takes a long time for everyone to try to diagnose this, and in the meantime there's that fear...what is really happening?? Outwardly I look super healthy and my friends wonder why I said I had Stage 4 cancer 4 years ago. And since I carry on and boldly live life to the fullest no one is really aware of what goes on inside my thoughts or those nights when I cannot sleep, etc. So to the feelings we all must be having, my solution is to quit some of my volunteer jobs, especially the ones that cause me stress (like raising money for charities and local causes) and try to simplify my life for more leisure time to relax and enjoy the wonderful lifestyle my husband and I have found in our retirement. I don't know if any of this babble is helpful to anyone else, we all have our own individual journey. I've been lucky with mild treatments both times, but there's always that other shoe to drop. How have you been coping?
N/A 0 Replies
July 25, 2016
I received my "clear of cancer" results from Stage 3C colon cancer over a month ago. I thought I'd be back to my normal sunny self. Has not happened: anxiety, tears, can't sleep, hurt all over, weak, and neuropathy still keeping me from enjoying my crafts. Run scared all the time that it will come back. Don't want to go anywhere or do anything. My daughter finally pointed out those were signs of depression. I had that diagnosis while on chemo but figured it was a reaction to what I was going through at the time and pretty much ignored it...just get through this and I'll be fine! And I should be filled with joy. I think it has progressed to a chemical depression. My Dr. (General Physician) cannot be reached for 3 months and I'm not sure what to do. It is not at a dangerous level - just a "no joy in anything" so guess I'll wait for Dr.
But your article was a wonderful relief since I, too, had feelings of guilt and failure. I was actually more up-beat while going through treatments.
My coping? Counting my blessings and waiting it out. I also dropped all volunteer jobs that caused stress but have begun to reach out to others who need help in their time of trouble...as the cleche goes - there are always those with worse problems.
My wife has had CLL-17p for the the last five years. With her compromised immune system she nearly died of a Nocardia infection in 2013. She has had shingles, kidney stones and several bouts of tachacardia that have landed her in the ER. We live on the west coast. In 2011 the only clinical trial that she could get into was at NIH in Bethesda,Md. She did well on Ibrutinib up until last fall when she began to relapse. She is now in a clinical trial at Stanford taking Venetoclax. She has expressed the feelings that she has "ruined the last five years" by being sick. There have been canceled vacations due to her illness and most of our travel has revolved going to and from her clinical trials. We have tried to make the medical appointments mini vacations by going to museums, movies, concerts and dining out. But she still harbors guilt about the massive amount of time and $ we have spent combating her CLL. No matter how many times I tell her how much I love her and how happy I am that she is still here for me to share my life with her she still has these deep seeded feelings. No doctor has ever addressed this issue. She is resistant to seeking counseling. I believe this article will help her realize she is not alone with these anxieties.
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