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Scourge – A Post for Mental Health Awareness Month

Did you know May is Mental Health Month? Not that many people do.

I’m sharing the following journal entry that I wrote a while back. It was written on a day when my mood was, shall we say, dark.

I’m sharing it because it is dark.

I’m sharing it because I thought of myself as a victim that day. I’m sharing it because many cancer patients suffer from depression. I’m sharing it because I don’t believe enough attention is given to a cancer patient’s mental well-being and too many are still afraid to talk about it. I’m sharing it because I believe every cancer patient should meet at least once with a mental health professional.

I’m sharing it because cancer or no cancer, talking about mental health matters, and not just in May but every day.

Scourge

Cancer is a scourge. I read that in a magazine today and just reading it made me feel badly. I don’t like being part of a scourge. Who would?

Even the word sounds thorny and evil.

But cancer is evil.

Cancer is like a serpent lurking patiently, waiting to strike and swallow you whole. Or maybe it’s more like a science fiction type virus that methodically takes over one’s body, slowly at first in unsuspecting tiny increments until it mutates and grows into an unstoppable force attempting to consume its victim’s body and soul bit by bit.

In the beginning, you don’t even know you’re host to such a thing. Cancer is patient and willing to grow slowly and silently.

The cancer is never satisfied, but rather is always relentlessly hungry for more of you. It seems cunning and overpowering, taking pieces of you away and tricking you into believing you have conquered it when in reality, you are just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You think you are recovering from your latest assignment of cancer duties; the diagnosis, the biopsy, the surgery, the chemo; but really you are only in a waiting game.

It’s like some kind of chess match between you and cancer.

You’re never quite sure you have made the right moves or if you ever will.

The stakes of this match are high; not just win or lose, but live or die.

Cancer is evil.

Maybe cancer is a scourge.

If you’ve been a cancer patient, has your mental well-being ever been discussed?

Have you experienced clinical depression?

Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month?

10 thoughts on “Scourge – A Post for Mental Health Awareness Month

  1. Ahhh a very timely post Nancy…I’m 18 months on from a secondary breast cancer diagnosis and today I felt brave enough to ask for counselling…it was never offered to me 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer, but it seems to be part of the service now.

    1. Amanda, I’m so glad to hear you asked for counseling and will be getting some. That’s great. I wish every cancer patient would be offered such a service. I’m not sure it is part of the service yet, but your comment makes me hopeful. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Good luck with things.

  2. My mental well-being was really never discussed in my oncology appointments. (Apart from ticking a paper with a scale of 1-10 for my anxiety) I think that’s why we need to keep speaking out about the emotional impact of cancer, so that follow up support is given. It’s happening with online communities and support centres – and it’d be great to see people getting hooked up without even having to ask.

    1. Catherine, My mental well-being was never really addressed either, other than the usual question, how are you doing? I always felt like no one really wanted to know. I agree about the need for that follow up support. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I would wake up in a cold sweat after I was told of all the mistakes that had been made after surgery when my Breast was left out to decompose for 3 days because someone did not follow procedures. I would lay in my bed visualize my breast rotting and I would be crying do something but no one was there. I will never know the number of lymph nodes the two they found as the report says.**lymph nodes show macrometastatis composed of high grade carcinoma, A Nottingham Score based on metastatic focus is 8/9
    (grade III/III)**The rest as the path report said there was malignancy how much could not be determined..
    I really thought I would lose it but I often spoke with the Oncology Social Worker I had no one in my family to talk with My son was 16 he was already going through a crisis having lost 2 of his best friends in a drowning accident plus his mom sick. I had to wear this other face of being strong tireless. I felt as though I was literally breaking piece by piece.

    . I still have my days…I had one the other day I was blogging about it not finished quite yet.Melt down in the bathroom I do not take any meds for sleeping or mood. I rather run into it head on deal with it.
    It’s there with me daily for the past 4 years. and probably always will be. I try not to focus on it as much Unfortunately because of the circumstances it is likely there never will be a resolution I am just having to live with it the best I can….
    Love Alli…

    1. Alli, I think we all still have those days… I’m sorry for all you went through and so much of it you went through by yourself. Thanks for sharing, Alli. You’re always so open. I know that’s not always easy.

  4. Thanks for bringing this up, Nancy. A little over a year before my Stage IV diagnosis, my husband fell into a serious depression, his second such episode. My mental health has been pretty good, but I suffered a burnout several years ago. I have taken advantage of counselling offered by our local cancer and survivorship centres. My husband gets regular counselling but unfortunately is immune to anti-depressants.

    Living with cancer and depression in the house is hard. It certainly interferes in our communication with each other. It makes it even harder to have the “tough” talks. It means were both unable to work. How much is it affecting our young daughter’s development? Only time will tell.

    I would encourage everyone diagnosed with cancer to take advantage of the psychosocial resources available to them. The folks I’ve talked to have helped me in so many ways, such as figuring out how to tell our daughter I have cancer, understanding how my mom was handling my diagnosis, and eventually realizing I couldn’t return to work.

    Cancer is a scourge. So is depression. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to treat.

    1. Kate, “Living with cancer and depression in the house is hard,” wow, that’s an understatement. I’m sorry about your husband’s depression and I’m so relieved to hear you have both been getting counseling. Most importantly, I’m so glad that you’ve found it helpful. It’s vitally important to stop the silence and to stop the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. Thank you so much for your open and honest comment. You are doing your part to end the silence and stigma. Thank you.

  5. This is a valuable post Nancy. I believe any illness, whether physical or mental in nature, impacts us in all areas of wellness–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. But too often, not all those areas are addressed in treatment regimens. As with cancer, we need the right kind of awareness about mental illness. Thanks for contributing to that right kind of awareness.

    1. Lisa, I completely agree and it’s sad that not all these areas can always be addressed in treatment regimens. We think there isn’t time and money to cover all the bases, but yet perhaps it would be money wisely spent in the long run. Thank you for adding to this discussion, Lisa.

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