Depression makes its sneaky return?

So for the past four nights I’ve found it very difficult to sleep. I have always suffered from insomnia, but usually Trazodone helps take the edge off, and the fatigue from all the treatment has really kept me sleeping. The last few nights I have averaged 5 – 6 hours, and that’s not solid – that’s on and off. That may sound fine to some but as someone who really needs 8, I’ve been struggling.

Additionally, my appetite has suddenly tapered off to nothing, which is VERY unusual. I didn’t even eat a cupcake at Conor’s birthday! Finally, I have been feeling very lackluster – no motivation, no desire, lots of guilt. Couldn’t get a sitter to go a friend’s event last night and felt terribly about it; have a sitter tonight for plans I’ve really been looking forward to, and now have no desire. So now I’m wondering: is my depression returning?

Of course, it could be all the chemicals still in my system, or my hormones readjusting. (More on that later, actually; hard conversation with Dr. K on Wednesday [re hormone treatment] that could be contributing to the blahs). It could also be that I have been battling a cold and am now having GI issues. Or, finally, the insomnia could of course be causing me to feel depressed – it wouldn’t be the first time.

Regardless, I am nervous, and in that curious depression quandary of feeling desperately lonely but not wanting to talk, of wanting company but not wanting to interact. And I’m just trying all the while to act normal in front of the boys because I don’t want them to be children who grow up remembering “When Mom had one of her spells!” I’ll just try to stay aware and if things degrade I’ll talk to a psychiatrist about my meds.

As far as hormone treatment, we met with Dr. K Wednesday and of course he strongly recommended I do the once monthly Lupron shots. I told him no, and he was – I guess probably just concerned, but of course I felt it was disapproving. He asked if I could tell him why, just so he knew, and I started crying as I described the hot flashes, night sweats, wrinkles, roughening of the skin around my jaw, weight gain – all of which happened while I was on Lupron during chemo. I told him I had no problem with growing old, no problem with turning 45, but that I’d like to do it in seven years, when I turn 45. He understood and was supportive, and we agreed to talk about it again down the line. Complicating things for me is the fact that a friend’s mother had breast cancer roughly ten years ago, and she did the full course – chemo, radiation, and hormone therapy – and it has now metastasized. So it’s all a roll of the dice anyhow.

After we left I realized it’s not just the symptoms I don’t want – it’s the daily reminder of those symptoms. That I had cancer, that I can have it again, that it could kill me. I mean it’s always going to be at the back of brain anyhow, but I don’t need to be reminded three times a day when I take the Gabapentin to combat the hot flashes (which by the way I am now off of, yay), as well as every fucking time those hot flashes occur.

The other day I went in to get sugared and it was an aesthetician I hadn’t met before, as mine is out sick. She asked me about my cancer and treatment and when she found out I was through, she remarked, “So you beat cancer.” Which, I am sure she was trying to be nice, but no. No I haven’t and honestly I can’t help but think that I won’t really have “beat cancer” until I die of something else. On the plus side, I told Julian this and it’s led to all sorts of great jokes, like me on my death bed and my last words being, “Suck it, cancer! Heart disease wins again!” (Julian’s: “Yes! Hit by a car! Take that, cancer!”)

Starting Monday, Julian and I are going to try to do a 10-day green smoothie cleanse. I am doing it to get rid of all the poison left in my system and to try to be healthier – I’m hoping it might also help with my joints (which are terrible, and contributing to my depression). He is doing it because he is supportive and amazing. Dr. K gave it the thumbs up so I’m hoping for the best.

This turned out to be a long, rambling post, but I guess I had a lot inside me. Happy Saturday – get out there and live.

Post-Chemo Joint Pain

This is another one of those blogs I am writing more for the benefit of others who might go through the same thing than for my friends and family to read. That said, feel free to read on!

On chemos four and five, I found I experienced joint and muscle pain a few days after treatment that would last several┬ádays and then subside. I experienced the pain again after my sixth and final chemo… but it has not gone away.

I waited some time to contact my oncologist, expecting the pain would go on its own, that perhaps it was lasting a bit longer simply because the chemo meds had built up in my system. When I did finally contact him, he was stumped and asked me to make an appointment, and said that he’d do some research in the meantime. I did some research of my own (through Google, of course – does that actually count as research?) and discovered a number of people complaining about the same thing but no actual articles by anyone about the cause or how to treat it.

When I saw Dr. K, he told me he’d discovered that post-chemo joint pain is “a very uncommon but very well-documented” side effect, and that I could expect the pain to subside within two months. I wish I had asked more questions – such as what causes it – but I was so relieved that it had an expiration date that I didn’t even think of it.I did ask him how to treat it and he told me to take OTC anti-inflammatories, like Advil.

It’s been a couple weeks since then and I am unfortunately still in crippling (literally) pain. I am fine when I am up and moving, but if I sit for more than a moment, my hips and knees scream in pain when I finally rise. Sitting on the floor – which, with two toddlers, is a HUGE part of my day – is not only terribly painful to get up from, but also embarrassing if I have to do it in front of others. I look like an overweight, weak baby giraffe, trying to get my legs under me. My hips and knees are not the only joints that hurt, however – my feet, hands, and shoulders also ache, and in the morning when I wake up, I have to clench and unclench my hands multiple times just to get them to work properly.

I am really depressed and stressed out by this pain. It is a part of my daily existence and has made pretty much every part of my life either more difficult or more embarrassing – oftentimes both. I asked Dr. K if I could go see an acupuncturist and he said by all means. I booked with an acupuncturist at Swedish, but they can’t see me till the 24th, so I have begun seeing a doctor who is SUPER conveniently located about 4 blocks away. I had my first session yesterday and I have to say quite honestly that so far I have not noticed any difference (he said I should notice an immediate difference) but I have two more sessions scheduled for this week.

I am also going to email the American Cancer Society to see if they have any advice or information about this, which I will add here if I get it.

If you’re going through this too, you’re not alone! And if you’ve been through this and recovered, I’d love to here advice, suggestions, or even just words of encouragement. ­čÖé