Why do I feel this bad when I should be feeling better?
by Anne Katz PhD, RN
It is well established that depression is a common experience for those with cancer. Depression rates among survivors are two to five times greater than the general population; it has been suggested that as many as 38% of cancer survivors experience depression [Boyajian 2010]. Survivors experiencing depression may experience poorer quality of life than non-depressed survivors as well as higher rates of cancer progression and even death [Pirl, 2009]. Anxiety is also acknowledged as a significant problem and is often associated specifically with fear of recurrence that can persist for years after diagnosis (Glaser et al., 2013).
This Monthly Survivorship Series, written by CKN Survivorship Editor, Anne Katz, is provided by CKN with permission from ONS. We hope this series will become a useful resource that will help to facilitate dialogue between cancer patients, their loved ones and their physicians with a view towards improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.
I had an interesting conversation with a 20+ year cancer survivor the other day. She had called me on some other business (a job reference for a colleague of mine) and she mentioned that she knew of my work in sexuality. She then told me that she had been treated for breast cancer 20 years ago. “Ahh, ” I said, waiting to hear where the conversation would go. I thought that perhaps she would tell me her story, or ask advice about a sexual issue (yes, perfect strangers will ask about that in all sorts of places), but instead she said in a firm voice:
“Why do people with cancer hang on to their cancer experience for so long?”
I really didn’t have an answer and the question was really rhetorical. She explained that while her cancer had changed her forever, she refused to be defined by it. It was in the past, not forgotten, but not something that was central to her everyday life.
Not everyone has that attitude, and there really is no right or wrong in this. I have noticed the same men present when I speak at a local prostate cancer support group. Every year, there they are. Some were treated more than 15 years ago and still they attend the support group. Is it because they come to hear me? Or do they attend to provide support to newly diagnosed men? Or is it a social outing for them?
When does the cancer experience no longer define a person’s life? What do you think?
Read Anne’s last post here.
by Jennifer Luce, CKN Living with Cancer Editor & Cancer Survivor
When I was thirteen I had overwhelming periods of sadness that I chalked up to teenage angst. When it followed me around like a dark cloud through my early twenties and other things in life became too much, the feeling that my life wasn’t worth it interfered with my ability to enjoy what the world had to offer.
People were always there to offer words of support but the feelings of loneliness wouldn’t pass. I reached out to search for ways to handle it all, but it was never good enough. Only when I was introduced to a counsellor and psychologist, did my ability to talk it out and fill up my virtual toolbox, begin to wane the ebb and flow of pain.
by Sara Cohen, Lawyer
Cancer can take away so many dreams and plans you had for the future. It doesn’t have to take away your ability to build your family.
With the pain and fear that accompanies a cancer diagnosis; your future fertility may not be at the forefront of your mind. However, with modern medical technologies, depending on your circumstances, there may be steps that you can take to preserve and protect your fertility prior to or during your cancer treatment. Your oncologist can assist in determining whether this is an option for you.
Comments by Jill Shainhouse, ND Fabno, CKN Editor
Read the Current Oncology article here
A breast cancer patient may experience significant amounts of stress at any given stage of the process after initial diagnosis. Stress, anxiety and depression can also worsen during their treatment as well as in the survivorship phase. It is essential for patients to get the appropriate care in managing and improving their mental and emotional well-being. In practice, there are usually two types of patients: 1) The patient that wants a pharmaceutical intervention to help reduce negative or anxious feelings and 2) The patient that wants a more “holistic” approach in healing the mind via a variety of techniques. These may include yoga, meditation, and improving the mind-body connection.