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Our best laid plans sometimes fall through the wayside when life takes an unexpected detour. With this diagnosis, we are constantly reminded how little we have control of our lives. While it is important to plan for the future, the future can take a detour when you least expect it.
In our hearts we know we want to fight; yet in our head, that little voice in the back of our brain wants to tell us to quit. Quitting solves nothing, yet hope does spring eternal; the key is to learn how to balance the two emotions. In this regards, we are still in the learning process. Learning when to push each other, learning when to hold back. While we will fight to win the battle of cancer with all the treatments possible to fight this insidious disease; we must be mindful of cancers evil twin, depression.
Nobody asks for cancer, yet when it arrives there is shock, despair, anger, love, kindness, hope, expectations…the raw emotions are like an open sore. Yet we choose Life…Live it, Love it, Let it be…other wise the evil twin wins out…and we can NEVER let that happen!
There is an old Irish proverb that goes something like this…“may your hills be light and may there always be a gentle wind at your back.” We’ll fight to make sure that those hills are not too steep, yet our gentle breeze will come from the love and support of our family and friends…
Thank you for reading, thank you for giving us both this outlet.
It is normal to grieve over the changes that cancer brings to a person’s life. The future, which may have seemed so sure before, now becomes uncertain. Some dreams and plans may be lost forever. But if you are caring for a person who has been sad for a long time or is having trouble carrying out day-to-day activities, that person may have clinical depression. In fact, up to 1 in 4 people with cancer do have clinical depression. Clinical depression causes great distress, impairs functioning, and may even make the person with cancer less able to follow their cancer treatment plan. The good news is that clinical depression can be treated.
If you are caring for someone who has symptoms of clinical depression, encourage him or her to get help. There are many treatments for clinical depression including medicines, counseling, or a combination of both. Treatments can reduce suffering and improve your loved one’s quality of life.
Symptoms of clinical depression
- Ongoing sad or “empty” mood for most of the day
- Loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the time
- Major weight loss (when not dieting) or weight gain
- Being “slowed down” or restless and agitated almost every day, enough for others to notice
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue) or loss of energy
- Trouble sleeping with early waking, sleeping too much, or not being able to sleep
- Trouble focusing thoughts, remembering, or making decisions
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide (not just fear of death), suicide plans or attempts
Keep in mind that some of these symptoms, such as weight changes, fatigue, or even forgetfulness can be caused by cancer treatment. But if 5 or more of these symptoms happen nearly every day for 2 weeks or more, or are severe enough to interfere with normal activities, encourage the person you are caring for to be checked for clinical depression by a qualified health or mental health professional. If your loved one tries to hurt himself or herself, or has a plan to do so, get help right away.
What to do
- Encourage the depressed person to continue treatment until symptoms improve, or to talk to the doctor about different treatment if there is no improvement after 2 or 3 weeks.
- Promote physical activity, especially mild exercise such as daily walks.
- Help make appointments for mental health treatment, if needed.
- Provide transportation for treatment, if needed.
- Engage your loved one in conversation and other activities they enjoy.
- Realize that negative thinking is one of the symptoms of depression and should get better with treatment.
- Reassure your loved one that with time and treatment, he or she will begin to feel better.
Keep in mind that caregivers and family members can also become depressed. If you suspect you may be depressed, see a doctor. Make time to get the help and support you need. If you notice symptoms in another friend or family member, try to get them help.