When you have an illness like ours, there are some things we talk about easily to each other on a forum like this – our fear, our treatment path, physical effects. Others we are more coy about, such as the effect on our relationships and sex lives. One thing that is a recognised after effect of cancer treatment, referenced in all the literature, but which we don’t talk about much is feeling low or depressed after treatment.
This seems to hit just at the point when your medical team back away and all your friends and family are telling you how happy you must be that your initial treatment is over. That’s when the enormity of everything that you’ve been through can hit you.
Physically I think I’m doing ok, 4 months post op, a few niggling things but back to work 4 days a week and trying to find my ‘new normal’. Now I don’t know if I’m depressed per se, but I do know I’m finding the emotional aftermath of all this much more difficult to deal with than I would like. I’m not sure how much of this is:
1. Hormone related (no HRT for me at the mo),
2. A bit of post traumatic stress (totally to be expected I reckon)
3. Stuff I’ve been managing for years which has floated to the surface because ofall this.
Whatever it all is, I decided I needed to get some help to navigate through all this in the hope that my ‘new normal’ might be better than my ‘old normal’. Besides, there’s nothing like the cancer experience to make you want to ditch things that might be holding you back and to make the most of all aspects of your life, is there?
I am very lucky that I live 10 miles from my regional cancer hospital and work a 15 minute drive away and that there’s a Maggie’s Centre* there – I probably wouldn’t have found out about it if it wasn’t where my Jo’s Trust Support Group meets. (*I know there are other charities and organisations that offer similar help.)
I saw that they offered various programmes so had a chat to the Maggie’s coordinator. She referred me for an assessment meeting with their staff psychologist. After an hour with her explaining what I wanted help with, she suggested three ways they could help:
1. The ‘Where Now’ course – a 7 week programme of 3 hour group workshops which look at different aspects of getting back on track after treatment.
2. A weekly one hour relaxation drop-in session
3. One to one counselling
I am doing it all. It’s early days but although I feel a bit apprehensive about raking up difficult stuff, I already feel better, just knowing that I am being proactive and trying to get things sorted. So, the point of this post is not to expose my fragility to you all, but just to say that if you’re finding things tough, don’t suffer alone. There is help out there and it’s worth seeking it out.
I am hoping that I’ll look back on my experience of this disease as something that was a turning point in my life which left me as a better, happier person. Wouldn’t that be great?
xxx (Sorry for the extraordinary length of this post )