Depression is a Downer

I am going to tackle a subject that should not be hidden or dismissed. Depression. One of the many mental illnesses that affect more people than we know. It has affected me.

I have been struggling with depression for more than 35 years. Probably since my mid twenties. At the time, I didn’t realize what it was.

My ex-husband is a narcissist. His parents had him on a pedestal which he loved. He expected the same treatment from me. I was an introvert and had no self confidence. He used that. He tried to control and manipulate everything I did. Everything I touched, he would take and “make it better”. It got to the point where I didn’t try anymore. When it was for myself, I would hide it and not show him. There were times I cried myself to sleep.

As heĀ  climbed the ladder of success, things at home got worse. I was never given any credit for anything I did. Nothing I did was ever good enough. He always changed whatever I touched. It was especially horrible with our children which I always tried to hide from them. He was a good father when the children were young but once they started gaining independence, he changed.

I was threatened so many times to behave or he would take me to court and “clean my clock” or leave me with nothing. I was so intimidated and felt so worthless. So many nights, I would feel myself being sucked into a deep, black hole. There were nights I wished I could die. But, not once, did I think of ending my life. That was not up to me. That was for God and I would not go there.

It was during my children’s teenage years where I went to my family doctor to ask for help. I was told I had depression. My family doctor prescribed an antidepressant. There was one psychiatrist for our city (population size 600,000) in Canada. I would not be able to get an appointment with the psychiatrist for at least one year. Did I want to wait or just start on the antidepressant the doctor could prescribed. I went with what my family doctor recommended.

I finally found the courage when we moved to the States to leave my ex. I truly struggled with the decision. Every time the ex went on a business trip, I could breathe. The day before his expected return, I would start to have the shakes and I would cry. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an order that I was given before our son’s wedding. I couldn’t live like this anymore. I was seeing a therapist who gave me coping skills. But it wasn’t enough.

With the diagnosis of cancer, I was able to see a psychiatrist who has prescribed the proper antidepressant for me. The antidepressant has helped. However, when my oncologist started me on the estrogen suppressing medications, I am not certain if it was both the Anastrazole and the Letrozole or just one of them that put me into such a deep depression that I could not stop crying. Every night I would be sobbing. Such a deep, black hole that I was being sucked into. I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t stop it. I felt helpless. This wasn’t me.

There was never a day I couldn’t get out of bed. I could still perform everything I needed to do for the day. Seeing my horse was the best thing I could do for myself. However, the relationship with my husband was unraveling for me. I felt stupid, ugly, fat and undeserving of such a handsome man. I was falling apart. I was praying every day to God for relief. I wondered why this was happening. Was I seeing things that just weren’t there? I prayed and prayed.

One day, I started an argument with my sweet, wonderful husband. It just erupted out of me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know why I was doing it. I went upstairs to sob. I hurt and that black hole was sucking me in. I sobbed so hard and prayed. Slowly, I composed myself.

I sat up. It was like a switch had been flicked off. The black hole disappeared. I could breathe. Quite literally, the sun came out. If you have never gone through something like this, it is difficult to explain. It is a feeling of calm that comes over you. The tears are gone and I could breathe.

I know when I walked back downstairs and gave my husband a loving kiss, his eyes were pretty wide. He must have wondered, what the heck? I sat down beside him, took up my knitting and watched the television with him.

The next day was normal and I thought, I want to feel like this every day. How can I have this happen every day? I want to feel normal. God did hear my prayers. For over one month, I was being dragged by depression into the black hole. God pulled me out so I could see the sunlight.

Depression is a horrible illness. Trying to cope with it without medication or seeing a therapist is impossible. I believe in God but I know I need the medication as well. Just like a diabetic, they put their faith in God, but they need their medication to live. Hiding your depression is not healthy. Getting help for it and understanding that you need coping skills is vital.

Depression would not ever lead me to suicide. It has for others. I can understand it. But I would never do it. I have too much to live for. My husband. My children and grandchildren. My dear, sweet friends. My pets. And God. People with depression need understanding and compassion. That is all anyone could ask.

Survivorship Care Package

I had my survivorship appointment with the oncologist PA last week. We went through everything I need to know as a survivor. I like the word warrior better but I suppose that applies to someone who is fighting the disease, not after. The PA examined all the areas she needed to. I was glad because I am not good at checking for lumps in the breasts.

We talked about getting me on the next estrogen suppressing medication. Number 3 with only one more to try. This one is called Exemestane. The PA told me to wait another week or two before starting this one. She said most patients have hot flashes or joint pain with the medications. I seem to be stretching their side effect limits.

We went through all the doctors I saw through the lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. A print out was given with all the information of the size, type and classification of my tumor. We went through all the residual side effects. Fatigue, difficulty sleeping is at the top of the list. I do get tired easily but it is getting better. I still have neuropathy in the toes. This may be a condition I might have for the rest of my life.

Osteoporosis is also listed as a side effect. Funny that. I had osteoporosis since 2010. I had been taking Fosamax then switched to the twice yearly injections. I was sent for a bone scan prior to starting on the estrogen suppressing medications. My bones are now healthy and strong. Every doctor is totally surprised that has happened. They cannot explain how it happened. I was taking a good calcium/magnesium supplement. I was riding my horse five days per week. I consider it a blessing from God.

Anxiety and stress are another residual effect. Great. I am going through a lot of stresses right now. Just pile it on higher and deeper. I wonder if I can get a lobotomy. I am having arguments with Canada Revenue (Canadian IRS) who have been holding onto a sizable refund check to me for more than one year. I am being sued by my ex husband for the illegal activities he did during our marriage. Thankfully I have an excellent lawyer and I have so much documentation that I am certain we thinned out a few forests. I am also going through a huge personal stress. Please Jesus, help me with this one.

Another side effect is weight gain from the chemotherapy. Apparently every breast cancer patient gains weight. Even though the furthest thing from your mind while you are undergoing chemo is food. I had no appetite. Unfortunately, the things I did eat and could keep down were carbs. I ate some vegetables and fruit but so many things were just too hard on my stomach. I can no longer eat anything spicy. You do not want to be too close to me should I eat something spicy, or at least sit down wind.

I did gain weight. More than 25 pounds. After the radiation treatments and when I started to feel a little normal again, I was tired of running past mirrors. Or just looking into them and saying, “Oh, yech!” I finally got tired of this and was just angry enough with myself to look for a weight loss program.

I am the type of person that needs results now. Losing 2 pounds per week after starving myself to death was not an option. So with my determination in hand, I went to Carolina Health Center. I think they call themselves Align now. This diet is very similar to the HCG diet. I lost over 20 pounds in one month. That’s the way to do it. I want to lose another 7 pounds and then I will be at my goal weight. I have slowed down the weight loss now for the last 10 pounds and that is okay by me. I started having chocolate cravings and I knew if I waited until the end, I would probably gorge myself with chocolate. So I bought a couple cartons of delicious Ben & Jerry’s chocolate flavored ice creams. I was very careful in how much I ate. Still losing weight but at least enjoying chocolate in moderation. I also started adding nuts into the diet. Just a handful at a time but it is enough to curb the munchies.

The recipes with this diet are superb. I have tried almost all of the recipes and have been so happy with the flavors. All fats, carbs and dairy are excluded from my diet. Only hormone free beef, chicken, turkey and certain fish, certain vegetables and certain fruits. I have switched all my food to natural. Not organic but natural. All cosmetics are natural without oil. I am gradually changing all my cleaning products to natural.

I was told by the PA oncologist to keep my BMI to 25 or 26. This is something I can do. If this is going to keep me cancer free, I will do it. Gizmo, my horse, is so much happier that I am 20 plus pounds lighter. Some time soon, I won’t get winded when I am playing with my grandchildren. I am the one who cuts the lawn at our house. I will enjoy being able to push that lawnmower and not have to take breaks. Our yard is not that big.

Now I am a survivor. At some point, I want to get a pink ribbon tattoo with a pink butterfly and the word survivor. My husband is worried that I am going to get all tatted up. I won’t. I have the butterfly breaking free of the ball and chain on my back close to my shoulder. No one can see it really. The pink ribbon tattoo, I do want more visible and I think the calf will be a good place. Then that will be it for the tattoos. Maybe. Perhaps. I don’t know. Probably.

 

 

Surgery – Now What?

I had surgery this past week to have my remaining ovary removed. However, when the doctor went in, my left ovary was atrophied and it had attached itself to my intestine. The good doctor made the decision to not remove the ovary as it could potentially cause more harm than good. It was a decision we had both discussed prior to the surgery and we had agreed with the decision.

Now I have three nice holes in my belly (I wish I could have told him to suck out some of the belly fat while he had me there but I don’t think a gynecologist can do that). One hole in my belly button and then two on either side. It was done with a laprascope. I wish my gall bladder could have waited until gall bladders were removed with a laprascope. But, no, I have this nice long scar on the right side of my belly.

I told you in a previous blog how the Letrozole made me into a crazy woman. I cried pretty much every night and I was in this deep, deep black hole. I stopped taking the medicine on Monday. Three days after my surgery and I am still feeling the effects of all the drugs I was given. My oncologist told me to stop taking the Letrozole and see how I am feeling in two weeks. Does she really think I want to go back on it? My poor husband can’t take the Letrozole. I can’t either.

I am such a lightweight with drugs. My body rebels against drugs. It very quickly lets me know that it does not want this foreign crap in my body. I just have to agree with my body.

My next visit with my oncologist will be interesting. She wanted my ovary removed because she does not want anything in my body that could produce estrogen. Well, I think atrophied means that ovary is dead. The second estrogen suppressing medication punched me down and out. There are only two more medications to try. Anastrazole = bad flu like symptoms. Letrozole = totally crazy lady. I will let you know what happens with the next one.

Letrozole

My oncologist started me on Letrozole. I have been on it for one month and thought things were going fairly well. Although there were two days where I had a severe headache and I had blurry vision. Then I started feeling nauseous in the mornings.

But, emotionally, the past two weeks have been horrible. I suffer from depression and I have medication which helps me. However, someone threw a heavy, black blanket on me and it was sucking me down. I have not felt this terrible in a long time. It was like I had the wind knocked out of me. I couldn’t breathe. I cried at the slightest thing and any comment my husband made had me in this black hole of despair where I could not stop crying. I was in anguish. I was in such pain that I just wanted to die. Unless one has gone through this emotional pain, you just can’t imagine how much it hurts.

Before the weekend, I messaged my oncologist and told her what was happening. I was told that the Letrozole shouldn’t be affecting the Venlafaxine I am on. It was suggested I go off the Letrozole and see how I am in two weeks. Like a trooper, I said I would keep taking the Letrozole and see how it was going.

Saturday started out kind of fine. But the day quickly deteriorated. By Sunday, I was a massive mess and I was playing hell on my poor husband. I told him he would end up hating me and that he should leave me. I just kept thinking, I need to talk to someone. So I picked up my phone and called my best friend. I was crying when I told her I needed to talk to her. Thank goodness for Elizabeth.

As I was sobbing, I told her what was happening and she said it certainly sounded like the Letrozole was really messing me up. She managed to calm me down and we even laughed at my craziness. I have stopped taking the Letrozole. Even though I know it will take a while for the drug to get out of my system, I feel better.

I did google Letrozole and found that there are many common side effects. One of the less common side effects are depression. Bingo! Exactly. Do I want to risk it and try taking the Letrozole in two weeks, just when I am starting to feel better? Would you blame me if I said, I am afraid to? The Anastrazole made me sick. I was stuck in my bed, sick. I don’t go to bed sick unless it is bad. The Letrozole made me despicably depressed. There are only four estrogen suppressing medications. Two more to go?

I Have Cancer – Now What?

I go every year for my annual physical. When I turned 50, I scheduled first a mammogram, then a colonoscopy. Mammograms are a piece of cake compared to the vile, gooey stuff you have to drink in preparation for the colonoscopy. But these things need to be done in order to be certain of your health. Especially when all your relatives live overseas, your mother has dementia and no one knows anything about health histories.

For the last four years, every year irregularities have been found in my right breast so I have had to go back for a better look. They check things out, pat me on the head and say everything is fine.

Until this year. Except this time it was the left breast. I should have known. How is it that a person knows before the technician or doctor says anything? I should have known when the technician took more xrays and then took me right away for an ultrasound. And when the technician said that the radiologist would be coming in to take a look at the ultrasound and would give me my options, I wasn’t surprised.

The needle biopsy wasn’t bad at all. I was told I couldn’t take aspirin but I could take Valium. I told the technicians I wouldn’t be taking Valium because I would probably fall asleep and not get to the office for the procedure. The doctor who did the biopsy was very pleasant and the two women technicians were wonderful. It was done on a Friday and I was told that I would get a phone call with the results by Wednesday.

When my doctor called and left a message on Tuesday, I already knew it was cancer. My doctor told me it was treatable. Since I had asked during the biopsy, I had been told that my lymph nodes had been checked and they were fine. I feel very confident that this will be treated successfully. Now I am just waiting for an appointment with the oncologist.

I am very much in disbelief about this. I feel very healthy. I have been losing weight and watching my diet very carefully. This seems so silly. How can I have cancer when I feel good? I feel tired but getting up at 5:30 or 6am every morning and having the busy schedule I have would do that to a person.

I started looking up breast cancer on the internet and that was a really stupid thing to do. I stopped quickly. No sense in adding all the fear factors into this. And when my son suggested pot or cbd extract, I just rolled my eyes. My son has graduated from law school. I asked him if he wanted me thrown in jail so that I could be his first client? Ever the helpful mom, right? Sorry, I don’t think I want to be that helpful.

My doctor told me that I should hear something from the oncologist within a couple of days. It has been two days and I called to check in. I did not appreciate the whining in the voice of the receptionist when she told me they had three business days to get back to me. I felt like asking her how she would enjoy waiting three business days if she had been diagnosed with cancer. But that isn’t me because I am still in disbelief. I mean, really? How could I have cancer?

I have my faith in God. I have a plaque that states ” Lord help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I together can’t handle.” I could use your prayers.