THE BLOG
06/21/2011 11:11 am ET | Updated Aug 20, 2011

Diagnosed With Breast Cancer and Feeling Depressed? Don't Isolate Yourself

Being treated for breast cancer can be tough to endure, both physically and emotionally

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm sorry, I hope this whole post makes sense, I'm not able to think properly right now but I needed to get this off my chest. These past six months have been extremely difficult. I'm being treated for breast cancer with a medication called Anastrozole (Arimidex) daily (to reduce my estrogen levels) and I'm receiving Herceptin (Trastuzumab) infusions every three weeks. I've been crying every day and have a lot of pain, sometimes all day long.

My current depression phase has been going on since I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Before that, I had been depressed but it always came and went. Sometimes, there are weeks when I don't feel badly at all but since June 2010, I have been feeling really low again.

Crying makes me feel terribly worthless and I think "Hell, why are you crying? You should be happy." I nearly break out in tears everyday and feel so pathetic. Society always tells you that showing feelings is weak and that's exactly how I feel about myself. I'm weak, I feel as if someone could just pulled the rug out from under my feet. Due to depression and anxiety, I have no self-confidence. I used to be so strong before this illness, and it frustrates me even more when I compare how I used to be to the loser I am now.

After nearly one year, I still have no courage to talk to anyone about this. My husband says that I have no reason to cry and that I should be happy that my treatments will be over soon. It sometimes seems he doesn't really understand. Honestly, life seems really worthless right now. A couple of days ago I wished I would die because I just can't take the pain anymore. I want to forget everything. But I guess at least my husband cares about me so it feels really bad when I think about these kinds of things :/

I really just wanted to rant a little bit. I never talk about this so all I ever do is get filled up with all these negative emotions and thoughts, which I guess is not such good solution.

Signed,
Filomena



ANSWER

Dear Filomena,

Thanks so much for writing and feeling comfortable enough to share your feelings here. It's frightening to be diagnosed with a serious illness, and breast cancer treatments can be difficult and fatiguing to endure -- both physically and emotionally.

You have a history of depression and realize you have been very depressed for some time. It isn't likely that your depression will go away by itself. You need to seek out a mental health professional to help you cope with your fears and, perhaps, prescribe medication to lessen your debilitating anxiety and depression.

Also, I would strongly encourage you to find out about a breast cancer support group so you can talk openly among other breast cancer survivors who understand your experience. A good first step to finding these resources would be to speak to someone at the medical facility where you are being treated. You need to let them know about the pain you are experiencing as well as your mental anguish.

Can you reach out to any close friends or other relatives to help you get through your treatments? Although you are fortunate to have a loving spouse, he probably feels like he's your only support and is stuggling to do his best. He will be relieved, too, if you reach out to others.

You are not a loser: When someone's depressed, everything seems bleak but depression is a treatable illness. Please reach out for help as soon as possible.

My best wishes are with you,
Irene



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