What's worse cancer or depression?

I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer (liver, bone & lung mets) 18months ago age 34 and having had no primary diagnosis or any real symptoms. I was told if I responded well to chemo I could expect to be well for many months - beyond that there was little that could be done. As you can imagine this was a massive shock & absolutely devastated our family.
I responded well to a course of chemo, it was harrowing at the time but it gave me 9 months where I was ‘well’. We spent the time doing fun things & going on holidays but I was also treated for depression with medication & counselling.
In January a routine CT scan showed new growth in my abdominal lymph nodes, I began a drug trial and after just 3 cycles the overall cancer in my body has reduced by 69%!!! Obviously this is fantastic news, my oncologist has told me to go away & enjoy my life - he is confident that if I continue with the medication I will be well for at least a year.
I know this is great news, I know I should be pleased that I have more time with my children but I just can’t feel it. I wonder how I’m supposed to live a ‘normal’ life when I have to go to hospital at least once a week, I have the chemo effects that last about a week. I just wonder how people who live with cancer do just that. I feel such a failure when I read about people who go into work after having chemo and how cancer has made them more positive & determined - I just don’t get that feeling.
My GP has agreed to increase my anti-depressants but I want it to come from me. Does that make any sense?

Nikki I don’t really know what to say to you, other than I am so very sorry you have found yourself in this ghastly position. I also have a secondary diagnosis and am struggling to know how to live with it. I do think in your situation I would happily grab the anti-depressants, as I fail to see how anybody could not be depressed.

The reduction in your mets of 69% is fantastic. What chemo are you on - is it one that can be taken long term?

finty xx

Hi and yes Nikki your post makes perfect sense. However well we feel we still have ‘IT’…I’ve had an easier ride (after a rotten start) than most. My treatments have worked well…I still have secondaries albeit inactive ones at the moment but I still have the hospital appointments every couple of weeks. However well we may be feeling it’s difficult, I think impossible, to live as we used to. There can be a new normal but a secondaries diagnosis means (for me) I can never fully enjoy the moment and although I do plan ahead I can’t allow myself to feel too at ease 'cos there might just be something else to contend with in my next tumour markers. It’s so horribly unfair you were diagnosed with liver, lung and bone mets at 34. Like you I was diagnosed stage 4 from the beginning but had at least got to my 40’s. It’s so hard when you have young children…never feel a failure Nikki, a secondaries diagnosis is rotten. I could never ever feel ‘positive’ about it. 18 months is still a short time from your diagnosis. I’ve had 7 years and I still don’t ‘get it’ at times. It’s great news you are doing so well…be kind to yourself…this is a supportive place. No-one will judge you here. We understand and are all just living and coping as best we can. Lots of Love…x.x.x

Nikki,

Although I am in a different situation to you in that I am 45, have no kids and only bone mets, I totally understand about you wanting the anti-depressant thing to come from you. I felt that the depression was far worse than the cancer - possibly controversial but that’s how I felt.

I am on zoladex and arimidex plus zometa for my bones and the side effects from the hot flushes were really dragging me down very badly last year to the extent that I wanted to stop treatment for a while so I could go back to some sort of ‘normal’. My onc advised against a break as I have a very strong hormone cancer and said I really should give the anti-depressants a go for a while. I’d tried all sorts of natural remedies and none had helped so I finally held my hands up and as I saw it admitted defeat! I was prescribed low dose prozac and have been soooo much better - sleeping at night, less irritable and anxious and feel more like my old self. The hot flushes are coming back more often now with the warmer weather so I’m going to ask this week at my checkup if I can up the dose a bit - I’d rather do this than risk the cancer spreading quicker and coming back elsewhere sooner.

I’m just about 3 yrs on now from diagnosis and was diagnosed with the bone mets at the same time.

I wish you lots of luck for feeling better and fab news about the reduction with the new drugs - that’s just brilliant !

Liz x

Nikki, I so sympathise with you, this cancer makes me so angry that it is destroying lives like this. I feel just like you, as I am on crutches due to 2 ops for bone mets which has been very painful, and I am largely stuck in the house all day, so it’s very depressing, wondering what the future holds as I also have lung and skin mets. Your confidence has taken such a hammer blow with this diagnosis but I hope that maybe as time goes by that this positive news that you have had may be something that you can start to feel good about. As a trial drug, who knows how long it will good for you, it could be years and in that period of time, new drugs will be developed to take over from this drug if it does stop working. I too have young children and know this makes it all the harder, but I also gain strength from them to try to carry on as normal.

All the best
Linda

Both Nikki as they seem to travel together. As everyone has said, we understand exactly what you mean. I have just finished six months of chemo for secondaries in bones, lungs and liver and have had a good response but…everyone else is euphoric and I am still left thinking well great but…I am still not ever going to be able to get back to ‘normal’. As others have said on the forums we have to create a new normal and it is not easy.

Everything in my life is brilliant except for the cancer. I don’t think I truly realsied how lucky I was until all this started and the thought of not being around to enjoy it for my ‘normal’ (there’s that word again!) life span is almost unbearable. I try not to think about it, but can’t help it sometimes.

No matter what age we get this diagnosis it is awful. I was 47 when diagnosed with my primary cancer and 49 with secondaries. My children are now 15 and nearly 17 so I have had a good life already, but we will always want more. I am hopeful that new drugs/treatments will keep many of us going for longer than we or they expect - more good days than bad days is what I am aiming for.

Hugs Sue xx

Morning

I hope you don’t mind my popping in here, but I wanted to let you know that Live Chat for women with Secondary Breast Cancer is due to start at 11.30.

Please follow this link

breastcancercare.chatjet.com/bcc/

which will take you directly to the live chat page.

Hope you can join us.

Best wishes

Poppy

Thanks so much for your comments - it is such a huge comfort to know I’m not alone. My GP recommended yesterday to increase my anti-depressants slightly & gradually. We’ll see how that goes. I wish I could participate in the online chat but I attend a Macmillan day centre on a Wednesday so unfortunately the time is not good for me. I have popped on to the evening chats a couple of times but find them so busy I can’t keep up!

Hello

I hope i make some sense when i write this post. My mam was diagnosed for the 2nd time 8 years ago with inoperable breast cancer, she has had armidex which worked for approx 6 years, she tried capacetabine and couldnt tolerate it, she is now on navelbine. She is feeling that she isnt getting anywhere with the navelbine (she has recently had to have a break of 7 weeks due to an infection in her leg and has only recently restarted the treatment.
Sorry, if im rambling, but im finding it so hard to support her and know the right thing to say, it seems like she is so down she cant pick herself up anymore. It hasnt helped that my dad has been in hospital for 14 weeks now, with a partial foot amputation. Ive been off work, but have had to return and im feeling very guilty about that, i also have a 2 year old and have a lot of guilt that his mammy isnt happy much of the time.
I wonder if you feel the antidepressants have helped, she already takes amitripline, mainly for nerve pain.

It is so sad to read all your posts. I can well understand your emotional pain and reactive depression to your circumstances.
I have lived with depression most of my life with some very severe crises at varying points in my life. Consequently when I was dx with BC last August getting depressed was my biggest fear. I managed first two ops very bravely but while preparing for mx I really went downhill and soon went into crisis. The medical/psychiatric support here in my area is minimal but through my life time experiences I would advocate anti-depressants (if the side effects can be tolerated)talking therapies and CBT. I think cognitive behavioural therapy is quite appropriate for women in your position and despite waiting times I think you should qualify for urgent support. It can help you work through the negative fog of despair to focus on achieving small steps towards your relevant futures. It is quite a simplistic model but with a good practitioner progress can be made, dare I say quite quickly. Time is always of the essence when you’re suffering so I wondered if I could suggest you speak to your GP about receiving this style of support.

I do hope I’m not speaking out of turn but your stories really touched me. I know all too well the pain of depression and how that can affect your physical health and fight with cancer as well as separating you from your friends and loved ones. You need every ounce of support and the belief to move forward, however with the emotional weight of depression and its associated exhaustion it is often too difficult.

I wish I could support you in person. I trust you will be able to access the relevant support you need asap.
With my very best wishes to you all and super warm hugs from Welsh girl xxx

I am another one struggling to take in the news of my lung, lung pleura, extensive bone and liver mets diagnosis, ( dx Feb 10 ) I am 36 with a 6 yr old son & married. I feel it has taken over my whole life. I have never suffered with depression although it does run in my family with several members suffering really badly from it. I wouldnt like to suffer from it either but wonder if its going to be inevitable. I know i am probably still in early days since my secondaries dx but I had a bit of a melt down on Friday and couldnt stop crying and wondering how on earth am I going to spend the rest of my probably short life coping with this affliction. How do we cope ? ? ? ? Just get on with it I suppose dust ourselves down and carry on, but other people just do not have a clue what we are living with. It is torture and so cruel.

On a plus note to Nikki after reading your post it gave me hope to hear you have been 18 months since your dx and on treatment now that your oncologist is happy with and is saying could take you another year has reassured me, I keep thinking I only have probably weeks left, cant see myself getting to the end of this year !!! but I do understand how you are feeling and I would be the same, we want more than these short windows of time with a young family you just want to be there to see them through every stage of growing up and lets face it beyond, no time is a good time to go.

Ahh thats my groans off my chest today, just feel i cant get this out my head at all times, perhaps its time to seek professionalhelp and talk to someone, as i havent done that yet.

Love to everyone Max x x x x

Hi Nikki and all

Nikki I so understand where you are coming from, that you don’t just want to up the anti-d dose but to be able to overcome the depression yourself. I felt the same but have just gone back on my anti-depressants. For me the battle isn’t worth it - I need to be able to be happy and more relaxed for my sake and for my family’s.

I would take all help you can get and seek some additional support as Welshgirl suggests. I also found hypnotherapy a great help - my local hospice offers it and I listen to a number of hypnotherapy CDs.

I do hope you feel less depressed. Its a horrible horrible situation that we are in and to be able to enjoy the time that we have is so important.

Love L x

Hi Nikki and all

Nikki I so understand where you are coming from, that you don’t just want to up the anti-d dose but to be able to overcome the depression yourself. I felt the same but have just gone back on my anti-depressants. For me the battle isn’t worth it - I need to be able to be happy and more relaxed for my sake and for my family’s.

I would take all help you can get and seek some additional support as Welshgirl suggests. I also found hypnotherapy a great help - my local hospice offers it and I listen to a number of hypnotherapy CDs.

I do hope you feel less depressed. Its a horrible horrible situation that we are in and to be able to enjoy the time that we have is so important.

Love L x