Monday, December 19, 2011


Around a month after my active treatment ended, I really struggled with something I had never encountered before: depression.  When I first started chemo, my oncologist tried having me take this certain anti-depressant because it was shown to help hot flashes associated with chemotherapy.  I was on it for 10 days and it was absolute hell.  My brain felt like mush, and I felt more depressed than I had before.  I couldn't function at work while on this Hell Drug.  Thanks to information my friend Jo provided me, I stopped taking the drug and felt good about my decision, like I was being proactive about my health.

Cue post-treatment life, and everything feels so different.  For weeks, I was just a wreck, barely hanging on.  I cried over pretty much everything.  While I don't think cancer changes someone, I truly believe it completely obliterates someone's life.   When I was done with radiation, it was awesome.  I got my life back, and it didn't revolve around constant hospital visits and getting blood drawn every three weeks.  (Every time I get my blood drawn - even up until last week - I have to fight really hard not to cry.)  Once that elation wore off, then it felt like nothing was right.

The world became scary to me.  The scariest part of this world: my post-cancer body.  Every new pain that I felt - IT'S CANCER.  A sharp pain in my sinuses - ZOMG, the cancer metastasized into my brain.  No, it's just a sinus headache.  It would take me a long time to get to that logical and reasonable explanation for whatever pain I was feeling.  The panic and anxiety associated with those irrational leaps to conclusion take a lot out of me.  I have to tell myself, "Stop it.  You're not dying."  The dreaded Tamoxifen that I take causes leg cramping and bone pain at times (because it screws with my estrogen).  When I feel those pains in my leg, of course my harried brain goes: "Is it the cancer?"  I feel like I'm being chased, like any day now my life is going to be taken away from me like it happened in September 2010.  I don't want to go through what I did ever again, but I know the stats aren't in my favor.

Of course one of the contributing factors to my depression is my strained relationship with my parents.  I won't get into that here because frankly, I've raked them over the coals enough.  They know I'm pissed.  They know why I'm pissed.  There's not really much more to add about why I feel like they done me wrong.  The state of how things are does make me sad.  I don't want to be mad and have these feelings, but that's just how I feel.  I'm not going to put these feelings in a box, put it away, and pretend that everything is hunky dory with my folks.  La la la.  I just can't do that anymore.  I want to make my dad happy, but I'm not going to put his happiness before my self worth and happiness.

Lastly, in this depressing tale of woe, sometimes I get really bummed out after I hang out with friends.  Whenever I hear of an engagement or a pregnancy or a promotion, I feel like my life is just stuck.  I'm Cancer Girl stuck in Limbo Land.   I want to be like those girls whose lives are changing!  I want to have babies and start a family with my beloved boyfriend, but I can't for at least two years.  I'm supposed to be on Tamoxifen for five years, but I'm not going to wait until I'm 36 to try and have a baby.  Hell no.  Also, for the last year and a half, my life has just been about the boob cancer.  I struggle to think of other things to talk about.  Cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer.  Every time I drop the C word in conversation, I know I just made everyone feel uncomfortable.  I don't mean to do it and wish I could stop.  I think I just have to really focus on small talk until I can train myself to stop talking about cancer so blase.

I never really understood depression before.  However, I knew enough to know the difference between feeling depressed and going through a depression (I always hated when people thought they were the same thing).  I feel like I'm starting to just understand it.  I struggle with how I cope with this current period of my life, but I want to get better.  I want to move forward with my life, which means learning to cope with stress a lot better than I have been.  I need to get back into shape and have a better diet, because that's really the only way I can control my body.  If I want to, then I can make myself into a lean, mean ass-kicking pirate (I know it's supposed to be "machine" but I like pirates).

I also have to accept the fact that I'm not immortal, and I can't control the universe.  (Lots of sci-fi watching lately - my apologies.)  I can't live my life scared that breast cancer is going to come back and kill me like it did my mom.  I can accept the fact that it is a possibility, but if there are factors that I can control to prevent that, then that's what I'm going to do.

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