I keep seeing this quote going around Facebook:

Depression is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of having tried to stay strong for too long…

Perhaps this is why many of us experience depression after all the treatment is over. You would think that there would be a high risk of depression right after being diagnosed with cancer. Yes, you’re devastated, upset and angry, but generally during this time so many things are happening, and they’re all happening so fast that you don’t really have time to sit and take stock of the situation. You can be put under the knife, then hammered with chemotherapy, radiation treatment or hormone treatment (or all of the above!). You’re just taking it day by day trying to make it through this initial hell.

Then you’re spat out the other side of the hospital system. You see your oncologist less, no daily chats with the radiation girls (and guys), no friendly chemo nurses to allay your worries. This is often the first time that it really hits you – the severity of what you’ve been through, the seriousness of your diagnosis. And contemplating what the future holds – well that’s enough to send a usually bright young thing into a very dark place.

Many of our Shocking Pink girls, myself included, report that this is the time when the depression hit. You’ve been strong throughout all your treatment, you’ve tackled it head on, with a smile, and everyone praises you for being brave. Right now though, you don’t feel brave. You feel like curling up into a ball, and staying like that indefinitely. We’ve all heard of post-natal depression. I would like to coin a new term: post-treatment depression. It’s very real and very scary at times. Friends and family – be mindful of this when your loved one’s hair starts growing back, and they start looking a lot more well. They might look great on the outside, but could really be suffering on the inside. Ask how they are. I mean REALLY ask how they are. It might take a bit to get them to talk about how they’re feeling, but in the end it will really help the situation.

Here are some other tips for getting through post-treatment depression:

  • See a professional – sometimes it is really difficult to talk with friends and family about what you’ve been through. Talking with a trained counsellor or psychologist can make a world of difference. If you have private health insurance, psychologist visits will often be covered so talk with your cancer team. The Cancer Society may also fund counselling/psychologist visits – find contact details for your local branch here. Additinoally, you should also be able to get counselling referrals from your GP.If you’re struggling to find someone, or having trouble meeting the costs, please get in touch with us and we will help where we can.
  • Join a support group – no one knows what you’re going through better than others in the same situation. Find a list of support groups here.
  • Take time out – have a weekend away, or even just a massage or a bit of pampering. Register for the Shocking Pink Sanctuary for some great relaxation services. Dove House in Auckland also offers similar services to people going through cancer.
  • Many people find that meditation makes a big difference. It’s not all hippy chanting carry on – you can learn techniques to quiet your mind and learn to live in the now.
  • Throw a party. This might be just something that I do, but I found that having something to focus on and then having a good night with great friends and family always put me in a good mood. Nothing like a good booty shake to some blasting music put a smile on your face. That said, why not just have a party for one in your living room and crank up the stereo and go nuts. Just make sure the neighbours aren’t watching 😉