Panic Attack!!

Hi everyone,am feeling rather embarrassed at having to ask this question.Hear goes, has anyone experienced Panic Attacks? And if so how have you managed them?

Since my diagnosis last April, I have managed to stay verypositive and upbeat, even on my down days during chemo.

However, last week which was my week three on chemo cycle, I suddenly felt very ill, with dizziness, unsteady in my feet and very weak.On the Friday I had my pre-chemo

Assessment/blood tests. Apparently my bloods were ok and the nurse could not find any reason as tio why I was feeling so bad.

Throughout the weekend I continued to feel bad, and was unable to sleep at night. Also my thoughts became very morbid.

At 5am today I suffered an extreme panic attack during which time I totally lost control. My husband was at a loss, what to do with me. I felt sick, continually shaking, feeling faint , it was very frightening for me, just didn't know what to do. Fortunately after about half an hour, it passed.

As I am not normally a stressful person, I wonder whether this attack was brought on by my feeling so ill, yet not knowing what the cause was??

I have asked for guidance, but really don't want to get on the anti-depressant /sedative bandwagon.

Any advice would be appreciated xx

13 Replies

  • Hi Jackie....sometimes we think we r handling something when r body tells us otherwise. When i had a recurrence 6 yrs ago i asked to b put on an anti depressant. I take a low dose of Zoloft....,talk to your does really take the edge off....cause we r dealing with scary stuff.....good luck! Xo

  • First of all, I'm not a professional. But it sounds like two different things might be going on. As for the dizziness and unsteadiness, it might be worthwhile to get your blood pressure checked. I don't know what chemo you are on, but extreme nausea can have this effect and almost all chemotherapies cause nausea to a greater or lesser degree. It could be a cumulative effect of the chemo. I had a similar feeling, which I eventually realised was severe nausea.

    As for the episode of acute distress, shock manifests in different ways. Cancer is a major shock. Forcing yourself to stay positive and upbeat can be very stressful. Sometimes most of us simply have to react, scream, swear, shout, tear our hair out (if we have any left) and so on. It might be worthwhile to discuss your feelings with either a trusted friend or a specialist cancer counsellor. It might also be worthwhile to talk to your GP, who would be unlikely, I'd guess, to prescribe anything at the moment, beyond perhaps something to help you sleep, because without a decent night's sleep everything seems and feels worse. Even if you rarely feel stress, cancer is different. Cancer makes you lose trust in your body.

    I'd simply suggest that along with considering talking to someone, you are very kind to yourself at the moment. You've come thru' a huge upheaval. Don't set yourself any more challenges, congratulate yourself for getting thru' it all so well. Best, Vx

  • Hi Jackie, I totally relate to your feelings of mega panic, sometimes just when we think we are keeping it all together, we find that the more we try the worse the panic hits! I coped well throughout all my chemo, but when it was finished then the panic started! I asked my GP for Melatonin to help with the sleep, and booked myself some sessions with a hypnotherapist friend who is trained in this kind of emotional panic situation. I have to say that after the first session with her I started to improve and we put in place coping mechanisms for when I started to feel the 'wobble' I have continued once a month to see her and as I finished chemo last October and finished Avastin this September I have been doing ok! Hope this helps. Barbara x

  • Hi Jackie

    I agree with the ladies above. I'm in Ireland and the hospital has a counselling service. Perhaps you should look into something like that? Its a huge life changing thing to be diagnosed with Cancer get all the help you can.

    Wishing you all the best.



  • Hi Jackie, as already mentioned above sometimes you think you're coping but your body tells you you're not. My theory is that you've been very positive and upbeat for so long that your body has had a wobble. I say this, because when I was going through all the hospital appointments, scans and blood tests, just before I was diagnosed, I put on a brave face for the sake of my boys. I thought I was doing really well, until I started getting horrible nightmares when I would wake up screaming. So unlike me, but it was obviously my body telling me I wasn't coping as well as I thought.

    Also, My son has just started a new school and for the first week he would be very sick every morning before he left the house. He said he wasn't anxious, but I'm convinced that although he didn't feel anxious, all the changes did prey on his mind more than he thought as this was making him sick.

    Hope this helps Kerry x

  • Hi Jackie, in certain situations I know I can get a panic attack which is triggered by feeling trapped/claustrophobia. My GP has prescribed Metazapine an anti depressant med although I have never suffered from depression and I am naturally a very positive confident person. This particular drug is prescribed for people with anxiety disorders. The nurse at my GP practice said a lot of her cancer patients take anti depressants. The way I look at it is if the medication helps then why not just take a tablet every night. They do help me get a good nights sleep (8 or 9 hours is my norm and I do not lie awake with scary thoughts as I think I might without them). I take my tablet at night around 9pm but I can honestly say they do not make me feel drowsy and often stay up gone Midnight watching TV or on my laptop if I feel like it. However when I do decide to turn the light off I seem to drift off without much trouble and I wake up refreshed. All in all I think they help me. I did have a counselling session before my Debulking op but she said I seemed to be coping really well ie did not think I needed it but she did say I could try CBT (Cognitive Behavoural therapy) to help deal with my irrational phobias around the claustrophobia fear.

  • Hi Jackie

    How awful and frightening . I have had a couple panic attacks on and off. Feel a weird sensation rising up inside as if I can't breathe . I tend to try anything to distract my mind from it. I have been taking a low dose anti depressant for a few months and it has been helping and I sleep better. Just because we take an anti depressant doesn't mean we are not coping . I would definitely let your nurse or specialist know as could be there is a problem,. The main thing is finding support that works for you . CBT is very popular and I have heard gets great results

    Sending lots love

    Ally xx

  • Hi Jackie Panic attacks, sleepless nights and anxiety are horrid. A couple of years ago, before I got this illness, I started experiencing what you describe. Eventually I was prescibed Citalopram, an anti anxiety med, which suits me well, and even put pay to PMT. I also took Zopiclone, sleeping tablets for a few nights to drop off to sleep. In retrospect I had too many things going on in my life at the same time and it was my body's way of telling me. Before this I would never have considered taking medication for depression, but it brought such a positive change in me that I endorse it now. As everyone else has said, this is a really big deal and it is not surprising that we would go through periods of extreme anxiety and panic, or sleepless nights full of worry.

  • It may not be the reason in your case but restlessness and anxiety could be a side effect from some medicine, e.g. anti-nausea pills. If you have the chance do check with the docs/nurses to see if that's the case for the drugs you are on. Good luck and hope it doesn't happen again!

  • My experience of panic attacks is from about 30 years ago. At that time I remember deep breathing into a brown paper bag helped relieve the symptoms. However in February of this year I suppose itvwaaca panic attack of sorts, uncontrollable crying, fear it was back etc and my GP put me on a low dose antidepressant. It took a wee while for me to notice the difference but I take one every day and my thoughts are no longer dark. Good luck. Ann xo

  • Hi Jakie, if you do not want to take antidepressants I will say that drinking calming teas will help with the anxiety and with the sleep. I drink Motherworth(sleep) with Scullcup(nerves) and Gotu Kola(mental endurance) (infusion 1tsp each in a cup of water) half an hour before bed and helps a lot with falling asleep and being calmer over the day.

    Another thought would be to check your Liver Detoxification Function, I did and was not right. The doctor gave me some amino acids that are involved into detoxification to correct that. With so much chemo if the liver can't detox it will accumulate it as someone else mention above and mess your brains to such an extend that you do not know is this you or not.

  • I suffered a panic attack during first line chemo. it took me completely by surprise. I thought I was doing so well. Now I wonder if i had been in denial and the sudden realisation that I had a life threatening illness brought it on. I could only breathe in gasps and the fear was terrible. My daughter just got in bed beside me and held me gently and said "Try to breathe with me." Your husband might be able to do the same. It was an enormous comfort. After that I went into an anxiety state and was very agitated. I was prescribed citalopram but it takes a while to be effective. After about a month it all went away and I have felt fine ever since, about two years now. If drugs work do it is my advice. I had booked an appointment with my hospital psychotherapist but by the time the appointment came around I felt so much better that i cancelled it. Good luck and wishing you well. Liz

  • Jackie O I am sorry that you are going through this. Recently I felt I wanted to be anywhere except hospital waiting room, oncology units and doctors waiting rooms. So I am lucky enough to have a Cancer Support Group here in Cork and off I went to get help. I was losing my appetite and zest for life and just down. I have been given pointers so as not to let this whole thing control my life. Idea is to plan treats, focus on other things in my life which I like. I am getting around to this, I did go away for a few days that was planned but I had no great inclination to go but I did go and now I am glad I went, I understand how you feel, my first chemo, my wig got thrown in all directions. I just lost it but differently to you. Like you I didnt want antidepressents . I am in a better place at the moment and hope to stay there for a while. It hits us all at different times in different ways. Hope you are doing ok at the moment

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