As many as a quarter of all cancer patients end up suffering from depression during their fight to save their lives There are no words that are both sincere enough and strong enough to evoke the intensity of emotion that comes with being diagnosed with an illness that could take your life. While tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us, knowing that science has confirmed any day could be your last is particularly disheartening.
It doesn’t take most people very many trips to the oncology ward before they’re feeling the effects of their grim reality. They might make friends with other patients during chemotherapy treatments that temporarily lift their spirits because they have someone to talk to who gets it. But what happens when one of those friends loses the fight?
Much like cancer, depression doesn’t develop overnight. It takes its time and creeps up on us slowly and then attacks when we are at our weakest. It wears us down until we feel we have no more mental or emotional fortitude to put forth. The mind is a powerful thing. It can strengthen resolve toward a battle like fighting back against cancer. It can also weaken the strength to go on. Depression takes away more than just happy feelings. It removes our willpower to keep going. It robs us of our energy stores. It leaves us wanting to lay in bed all day ruminating over the diagnosis. It can grow so deep that we forget what it feels like not to be depressed.
This illness targets no one in particular. It can happen to any of us, and when it happens to you, the way out doesn’t seem so clear. It can be difficult to think about anything but the word cancer and what it might mean to you and your family. It can be painstakingly hard to find joy in the smallest of things. After all, what is there to celebrate if you might be dying? Good news like the announcement of a new baby on the way in the family would be cause for elation on any other day, but when cancer is in the picture, it is cause to question whether the patient will ever get to meet that new baby. That’s what cancer does. It brings a black cloud that resides overtop everything.
While cancer treatments vary wildly from one doctor to the next and one patient to the next, depression can be a bit simpler. Dietary changes can help. Processed food and food high in sugar or caffeine may contribute to depression by exacerbating the highs and lows that a depressed person experiences. Prescription antidepressants are another option that may people turn to, and they are safe for use even alongside cancer treatment medications. Talk therapy and practices like mindfulness meditation and yoga have also been shown to significantly improve depressive symptoms for sufferers. The way out of depression is always by working through it.