I have cancer and I am depressed. Or maybe I should say, Depressed. I was doing okay with my diagnosis and recovery. Returning to work wasn’t ideal, but I was coping with the stress. And then I was told that not only was I anemic, but that my iron levels are low (half of the low end of the normal range). The thoughts that passed through my mind included, “FFS, not something else,” and “what if there is something wrong with my bone marrow—what if the cancer has spread there?”
I don’t know that anything is wrong with my bone marrow, but until March 1, I didn’t have cancer. I didn’t even consider it a possibility because my doctors didn’t mention it. Now it’s everywhere, even if it isn’t. And it’s depressing.
Granted, I didn’t start down this path suddenly after getting my test results. It began while I was home recovering: “What is the point of going through treatment? I’m going to make it through this, then in another year or two, it’ll be something else (this “something else” has been a consistent pattern since I moved to Sonoma County in 2000, but that’s a blog post for another time). Maybe I shouldn’t do the radiation and take my chances with the cancer. With any luck, maybe it will kill me and I can be done with life.” This thought started becoming more frequent, along with waking up every morning with a desire to stay in bed and cry all day. I didn’t, and I sought help, but that’s not the point.
What I’ve come to realize is that the world I live in, generally speaking, is concerned with the physical. When people ask me how I’m doing, what they are saying is, “how is your body after surgery,” and “how is the radiation treatment making your body feel.” My doctors never mentioned that cancer patients slip into depression and that I might want to pay attention to my emotions as I go through this process. Them and their staff don’t check in to see how I’m actually dealing with the experience of having cancer and being treated for it. Neither does anyone else.
This isn’t a criticism or chastisement. People aren’t conditioned to ask about mental and emotional issues. It’s taboo and uncomfortable. No one wants to hear about the impact of depression for a wide variety of reasons. The only time there is open discussion about this subject is when a celebrity commits suicide. Beyond that, it’s quiet. Even as I type, I wonder if I should post this to my blog and share it, and I question my point and the relevancy of my words. However, I think that helping to create an awareness, and maybe a dialogue, is needed. I don’t know what the right phrasing is for someone to ask the question, but it still needs to be asked, sincerely and without judgement. Depression isn’t a weakness—it’s a symptom.
Addendum: This isn’t a cry for help, but more of an observation that depression does not get talked about in the context of cancer, or anything else.
8 thoughts on “The Conundrum of Cancer: or, the D word no one talks about”
Michelle, I appreciate you and the courage you express by remaining authentic. I’m here to listen and share with you. Our culture isn’t practiced in taking care of people’s emotional/mental health. The observation is timely and having more communication around it is something I’ve been thinking about for weeks, months, well, years, really. As you know, I don’t consider the mind and body as separate. You can always count on my question to you as being mindbodyspirit oriented, as I don’t see these as being mutually exclusive. As an Empath and bearer of chronic pain, I know depression, and I don’t wish it on anyone. Movement, is a gift I have found useful despite current mental/physical state. Unfortunately, I find that talking about my current state while depressed/pained (physical is mental, mental is physical) is rarely therapeutic. I love you, Michelle and as an innate “helper” I want to see you feel better. Please know that I want to BE WITH YOU ❤ and not talk at you, ever. Seems nearly 35+ years now, I've required finding ways to rise above depression, since that state seems to be heavy, draining, and all-consuming, that I can share if you want. The catch is that even the act of just being present with it, not trying to change it by staying in existence, is yet another technique. They all work sometimes for some time. Well, not sure what else to share because I feel myself generating a list of platitudes which are generally useless when in the swirling sinkhole of eye-ball deep molasses. It hurts not to be closer to you so I could at the least buy you a meal or help clean. Please remember you are in my thoughts and I'm sending Reiki on the regular. Miss you, love you! ❤ Stephanie
Thank you for sharing, Stephanie! Oddly enough, I’ve been staying present in the depression. Yes, I’m taking antidepressants to keep it managed so I can function, but I’m not looking to change it. And it’s different this time. Everything at this point is a curiosity to explore, including cancer and depression. At least, on the days when life isn’t too much. (Side note: the antidepressants are definitely helping me maintain this curiosity) Miss and love you! ❤ Michelle
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure it will be helpful for many people. It’s good when you are doing things you love too.
Hey sweetheart, I hear you and am holding space for you always.
I may not have cancer now, but I do understand the “what’s the point,” I understand how we seem to disappear. I get it. *actually YOU helped pull me from some dark moments, did you know that? Remember when I would start copying your Grateful in advance posts? Those moments I searched for something to be GIA, kept me going because I had to see if they would happen. Then while waiting I would forget my “I can’t do this anymore” thoughts.*
Anyway, when I ask how you are doing, or say I hope you are doing okay, mine isn’t the physical inquiry! I know the toll health issues can take and I worry about how YOU are doing. Emotionally. Please know I am here anytime day or night. If you want to cry, I’ll be here! Scream, that too. Talk about something unrelated, I can find stuff. The alone feeling, even though lots of people are “there for you” is suffocating in itself.
I hear you friend!
Ps, I do send healing to the physical health too, I do worry there too.
Thank you, Jodi. I appreciate it.
Thinking of you, sis. I don’t really do FB unless I have to (which I do, somewhat, because of work) but I have your blog bookmarked. I’m so sorry. I’ve been in that dark place, and it’s scary and hard and so, so empty. Based purely on personal experience, I don’t know that I *can* help you out…but my hand is always there, if you need a lifeline. I love you.
I had no idea you read my blog. 🙂 Thank you. This isn’t a cry for help, but more of an observation that depression does not get talked about in the context of cancer, or anything else. Maybe I should add that to my blog.