a hand with a giant hammer hovers over a tiny man on a street

Depression and Cancer

It is my belief that depression is a subject that doesn't get talked about much in Cancerland. Survivors get tossed about in a medical system that they sometimes don't understand, and the loss of any kind of control over the process can leave a patient with feelings ranging from an irritating disquiet to full-blown panic and anxiety. Not to mention the PTSD inducing moment when you are first told, "You have cancer."

The ongoing weight of scanxiety

I have a friend who was a scout in the US Army. I'm not going to get into what a scout does, but suffice it to say it's a pretty intense job. He did two tours of duty overseas, one in Bosnia and one in Afghanistan, so he's seen some pretty brutal stuff. He's also a kidney cancer survivor. After surgery, he is now "cancer-free", but he was told that his particular brand of cancer has a high rate of recurring.

In conversations with him, he's made it pretty clear that he suffers more mentally about his cancer than from his military service. He goes in every 6 months to check his numbers, and the weeks before his appointment are pretty brutal for him.

He has to deal with cancer anxiety while he goes about trying to live his life as normally as possible, trying not to think of the hammer that's suspended over his head, until the all-clear is given by his docs. And then, in 6 months, the entire process repeats itself.

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All too familiar with anxiety and depression

My own struggles with depression and anxiety started before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, so I have some experience with the treatments and the meds that come with the struggle to treat the disease. A lot of times depression is a moving target when it comes to treatments. Meds that work for a while can become less effective over time. Some meds that are tried are completely ineffective. Still, others can actually make things worse. I've had experience with all three of those scenarios. It ain't fun.

And now, add in the anxiety that comes with a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatments that can affect things like a person's general well-being and zest for life. So, yeah, the last few years have been a struggle for me to keep and maintain any kind of positive attitude, let alone being able to draw on some sort of inner strength that is required to persevere through various treatments for advanced prostate cancer.

Regaining control through written words

I started writing a blog about my cancer journey a couple of years ago just to try to sort things out in my own mind. It helps me understand the things I struggle with, like the feeling of little to no control over my own life. One of the things I wrote about was when I made the decision to suspend my treatment for 6 months. I titled it "No Mas" after the Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight where Duran simply gave up. It was my most popular blog, getting thousands of views all over the world. I felt empowered by my decision, that I finally had taken control of my health, and the blog resonated with many people.

You are not alone

Two years after my decision to suspend treatments has left me with a little 20/20 hindsight. Looking back now, I realize that my decision was a mistake, and it was prompted by depression brought on by my androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) drug used to treat my advanced prostate cancer. The next few articles I'm going to write will be about this episode in my life. For some of you that have dealt with depression and the heartbreak of suicide, these might not be easy to read. My intent is that reading my story will help someone else dealing with the same issues I deal with every day.

You are not alone.

Thanks for reading.


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