Depression & Bladder Cancer
Last updated: March 2021
I have probably always needed therapy and medication for depression. However, it wasn't until I was deep in the midst of my bladder cancer diagnosis that I was given the means to obtain it.
I can remember back to my teen years, being very "down" at times, especially during the winter months. Then they referred to it as S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Now they describe it as with a much longer, more complex description. According to my chart and my therapist, I have a "major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, mild with a seasonal pattern." Basically, a whole lot of words to say that sometimes I get blue. Sometimes I struggle emotionally.
Emotional struggles in the middle of a cancer diagnosis are normal
Honestly, I would be more concerned about someone who did not have emotional struggles amidst a cancer diagnosis than someone who experiences depression during cancer. It is completely normal and mostly expected.
However, I really struggled. REALLY. STRUGGLED.
It was December. I had already gone through my procedure along with a host of complications. I had been in the hospital or rehab for a total of 2 months. When I had my RC, I also had a radical hysterectomy. I knew I would be forced into a medically induced menopause. I hit the menopausal symptoms right as I was starting chemo.
Bursting into tears during my first round of chemo
When I went for my first round of chemo, I completely wigged out on the nurse who came over to access my port and start the treatments. She came at me with the port needle pointing directly at my face, and I burst into tears the size of the entire Amazon basin. They had a volunteer working that day, and she graciously came over and held my hand while I got accessed, brought me a warm blanket and cold beverages.
A nurse noticed I was struggling
A round or 2 later, I was sitting in my chair in the chemo suite, journaling. I dropped my pen and couldn't get it up off the floor. Again, I burst into tears. One of the nurses approached me.
"Honey," she said, "if it's okay with you, I'm going to talk to Dr. Waterhouse and see if we can get something prescribed for you."
Hyperventilating, with the tears still streaming down my face, I attempted to say, "Okay. Thank you."
I was grateful for her support
That nurse took a few moments with me that day and said it was normal to have some emotional struggles while going through cancer, but I was excessively emotional and weepy even for my current condition. I was grateful.
Being so limited while I was in the hospital and rehab was hard for me. I was an active person. I worked full time (and then some) plus volunteered for several organizations before cancer. I was not used to just sitting around.
Self-isolating with the side effects of chemo
To top it off, I was going through chemo in the dead of winter. A time of year when germs run rampant anyway. Germs that I could not afford to get exposed to, so I self-isolated for my safety. On top of that, the side effects of the MVAC I was on were so severe that I could not go anywhere anyway because I would spontaneously have vomiting spells. I was always nauseated. I was still having bowel issues and had not quite gotten a good handle living with a urostomy yet. It was just easier to stay at home. Still, that was hard.
Another time, my friend dropped off some groceries for me one day. Things to help keep me hydrated and nourished. She couldn't stay to visit. I knew she couldn't before she came. Her husband and daughter were waiting in the car for her to come back out as they had someplace to be. She asked me how I was, and the tears came, and I didn't even know why.
Getting help with medication and therapy
Due to my treatment regimen, I started Lexapro first. It helped a lot. I started to feel more normal. Once I completed treatment and was able to get out more, I started seeing my therapist. Both things helped immensely. It helped me deal with my current and my past. I have had some medication changes over the years to get something that worked better with my life and my health goals, but I continue to take medication.
You're not alone and it's okay to ask for help
I am so glad I accepted the help that day. That nurse, the medication, and my therapist helped me emerge from the dark spots that winter. If you are experiencing depression in the midst of your bladder cancer diagnosis, know that you are not alone. Know that it is okay to reach out for help.
Has cancer impacted your mood during the holidays?