Talking about it!

One of the interesting things to come out of recent studies about the experience of cancer patients some time after their treatment was the number of people who felt sufficiently perplexed or depressed about their situation that they needed proper help to recover from their negative or depressed feelings. It is about 25% who need to talk in a serious way or have counselling in order to give vent and expression to all their anxieties and feelings. And 10% need proper counselling and some pills for a while as well.

This applies to men and women; patients and loved ones, regardless of your outlook and position in life. I am sure it applies to non cancer illnesses as well. The hectic round of hospital visiting and appointments is over. People feel that they are meant to feel elated and grateful that their cancer has been successfully treated, but also feel guilty that they do not feel happier. There is a sort of grief for the loss of good health. And people do need time and space to come to terms with their feelings before feeling able to move on properly. It is why organisations like Maggie's Centres and the Dimbleby Centre exist, and there are many other equivalents.

So if you are feeling depressed and down after the treatment, it might be reassuring to know that it is normal, and for a good number of people it is a natural stage in the overall recovery process that we have to go through somehow, often with help from special counsellors.

There are a couple of articles by Peter Harvey under the section 'Coming to Terms with Things' that may be helpful

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  • That's helpful Alan .

    I know for me ( and feel sure I'm not alone ) that initially all of my emotional energy was directed at the huge surgical procedure that faced me .

    The surgery felt like such an unknown and it wasn't possible for me to meet or speak to anyone who had had the op within the last few years .I did speak to a chap at the OPA ,but he'd had his op 15 ( maybe more ) years ago and was one of the inspiring people who had regained incredibly high standards of fitness . I didn't feel I could relate to his standards -)

    It's only now ,5 months after the op , that I find myself thinking about the cancer side of it all . But I'm not seeing the oncologist anymore and feel that I've missed my chance to ask questions .

  • Yes I have suffered the "Black Dog" of depression as Winston Churchill used to call it. The funny thing was I was fine for about the first 9 month's, after my operation feeling really up and happy after having that foul poison removed from me but what i didn't notice was depression slowly creeping up on me. I went through absolute hell for about 3 years trying to find an anti depressant that was suited to me, some of them have awful side effects but I was lucky in the end to settle on one.

    My GP sent me to see the local mental health team but I have to say i didn't find them very helpful, no sympathy or empathy, they must have seen so many cases like mine. Anyway I ended up going to a private counsellor and she was fantastic and a great help. While this was happening I developed a bad case of anxiety that I still have to this day, the depression is now more or less under control with medication and coping mechanism's I have been taught. I still have a feeling of anxiety most days and it's strange I can be feeling like that even though I feel perfectly happy as i do at this moment, I'm almost certain that this is due to a chemical imbalance and I wonder if having the vagus nerve cut plays a part in this, I asked my GP but he was a bit non-committal. Sorry to have gone on so long but I feel this is a very important subject and one i'm sure some people on this site have gone through, so maybe it may be of some help/comfort to somebody.

    Kind Regards

    Steve

  • Hi Steve. Yes, I have had similar feelings since my op in July 2012. It's something that most of us don't want to admit or talk about. When going through chemo, the op and the early recovery period we are so focused on survival that negative thoughts are put aside. It is when we start to reflect on things and worry about the long term, change of expectations etc that depression can easily take over. I suffered from depression when my marriage failed about 7 years ago and medication helped me get through it. My GP said I just needed something to make me feel happy! I managed to come off the tablets after about 18 months which wasn't easy. About 3 years ago the depression seemed to be returning following work pressures but my new GP suggested a site called Mind Gym (I think?) which actually worked. Currently I do feel low sometimes but not as bad as my earlier episodes so I am not seeking treatment. I find that I am much more subject to mood swings and wonder if this is some sort of post op trauma. It is good to share our experiences.

    Best wishes to all on the site

    Martin

  • Hi Martin

    Thanks to you and Phil I'm sorry to hear that both of you have suffered with this but it's also reassuring to know that you are not the only one feeling this way. You are quite right in saying that it is difficult to talk about or admit if you like to people that you have depression/ anxiety and i kept it to my self for quite a few years but now I tell people if it comes up in conversation or they have similar problems, I'm not going to feel ashamed as i did about something that is so widespread these day's and needs bringing out into the open to get rid of this stigma. I am almost 7 years post op and can now handle quite well the pyschological side of things but as I mentioned in my previous post I think there is something going on chemically as well, it doesn't make sense to be feeling jittery if you are feeling in a happy frame of mind . Good luck to you both, keep an eye open for the Black Dog---lol.

    Kind Regards

    Steve

  • I am over 7 years post op and apart from the usual problems we all share am fit and well.But I can relate to what Steve is saying of the feeling of anxiety. It is with me most of the time and Its mostly health concerns with me but not always. It was never like this for me before my operation so Steve could have apoint that the operation can effect some of us in this way.

    Phil

  • I think medication for depression is a very subtle thing and difficult to get balanced for people with normal digestion systems; if you have had an oesophagectomy or gastrectomy the medication from pills that you swallow will probably not get absorbed at their usual rate.

    I do not know, but wonder whether production of some of the enzymes / hormones that affect the general balance of things and stress might be affected?

    It might be wroth trying to get your mineral / vitamin levels checked as a very basic start towards exploring this, and I will ask around to see if there is some useful insights that others might have.

  • Funnily enough ,although I'm well post menopause ,I've started having hot flushes again and have wondered about some hormonal impact of the op . Strange .

  • Thanks for your post Alan and apologise for delay in responding. At this moment I can empathise with others comments but feel I am 'holding it' though conscious of how time lapse is different for individuals and wonder how long it will take before it might hit me! I am off to a German clinic ( skiing --spending Kids inheritance ) for B17 therapy in an effort to Supplement my oncologist's single strategy of zapping me with 24 weeks of back to back chemotherapy. Does anyone on the site have any experience or knowledge of B17 therapy?

  • It is always best to treat something like B17 therapy as something that needs discussion with an oncologist first. Make sure it won't affect your main therapy treatment, and that it won't do you any harm even if it turns out not to do you any good either (in which case you know that at least you have tried). Sometimes these things make you feel better for no reason confirmed by research, but the medical advice tends to be governed by research and organised trials.

    Cancer treatments are a crowded world, and there are many different types of cancer. There may be research papers that evaluate B17 therapy. Your oncologist will probably tell you.

  • Hi, I can relate to what you have all said to some extent.

    I do think fear of return and loss of the carefree life we once had are major factors.

    I'm mindful of the need still to talk about it all whilst not boring all my friends, family and colleagues!!!

    I do try and use Mindfullness (self taught from books) to overcome psychological issues and find this works most of the time.

    I think the huge uncertainty of prognosis for this particular cancer is one of the hardest things to manage.

    Someone mentioned spending the kids inheritance, and silly as it seems that the sort if issues that arise -shall I fit a new boiler -or will I not live long enough to benefit from it!!! It feels pathetic but it's very real.

    I travel and attend conferences quite a bit for work and recently have experienced several occasions where I have developed an irrational fear of attending, in fact I backed out if one.

    Appearance changes don't help either, I've gone from a sleek blond straight shoulder length hair to a mass of grey/black curls, tight as a poodle, and whilst I'm very grateful that my hair has returned, it's not "my" hair, and due to chemo I can't die it for another couple of months, again so trivial, but important to me and how I feel about myself and how others perceive me!

    Still, end of the day, we're all still here writing about it, we're the lucky ones.

    Good luck and cwtchs to you all. Hilary

  • Hi Hilary I can relate to what you have said especially your hair, but i now keep my hair short after lots of people told me how the colour grey and having it short really suited me.... i now walk around flaunting my new look lol after reading the posts on depression i now wonder if i too am dealing with the same thing, I have been worried about the cancer returning since my op nearly 2 years ago and recently i have been getting slight pains in my jaw area and in my left ear, only last few seconds each time, i now also get a slight pain between my shoulder blades and have had for a long time, i put it down to having surgery, i am also anxious at work so is all this just psychological? sorry if i appear to be going on

    Margie

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