I've had a total of one year of chemotherapy, a few months of intense chemo along with total body irradiation, a stem cell transplant (bone marrow transplant), another few months of chemo, some more radiation, and a second stem cell transplant. That many rounds of cancer treatment has not be kind to me.
I have so many long term side effects including cardiomyopathy, scarred kidneys, damaged knees and chronic fatigue.
Not any one of them can beat the worst side effect: depression.
I don’t know when I first became depressed.
Was it the first time I got sick? Or was it the second? The third? It might’ve started earlier but it was my third time around dealing with this that I finally said something, something that’s hard for me to say: I need help.
I didn’t know who could help me and in what way but I needed it. The feelings of sadness, loneliness
, and hopelessness overpowered any positive thoughts
I had. To be honest, I was probably depressed since my first relapse. It was agonizing to know that all the hard work I did the first time around was for nothing. I swore to myself that if I relapse again, I would give up and just let things naturally take its course.
Well, I’m still here
so that didn’t happen. It was tough though. My cancer docs wanted me, a 20 year old, to decide if we should proceed with 2 years of chemo or try another stem cell (bone marrow) transplant. Option 3 (not doing anything) lingered in my mind, but I couldn’t tell my parents that I wanted to give up, especially after all work they had done too. I did the math and decided that last time, the recovery time after the transplant was less than 2 years so that’s what I went with.
I was dead wrong.
I didn’t realize that all of my previous treatments took that big of a toll on my body. So there I was, lying in my hospital bed, asking over and over “Why me? What am I doing this for? Is it even worth it?” and answering myself “No, it’s not worth it. Just stop all the suffering”. That was only some days; other days I would be hopeful
and start planning out my return to school, what I would major in, where I would go. Having a goal in sight helped me persevere through the (sometimes) painful treatments and side effects. There were also things I still needed to do. There were still concerts I wanted to go to and places I wanted to visit!
Nowadays, it’s more or less the same. Maybe a bit better but I still struggle with loneliness and hopelessness
from time to time. To this day and probably for the rest of my life, I will struggle with the thoughts and emotions my medical history created, but it’s getting easier for me to ask for help and to ease the pain if only for a bit. So ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak; it takes strength to recognize the need for help and even more strength to ask for it.
Were you able to track when your feelings of depression since cancer began? Share your story in the comments below.
Photo courtesy of Jim Jackson.