BCAM: October 29th

Depression.

Mental Illness.

Anxiety.

Struggle.

I’m not ok.

These are all words and phrases that are incredibly powerful, important, and necessary at times. Yet, there is a stigma. Many people who struggle, do so in silence, do so under the radar, do so without talking about it. I’m sure there are many reasons why someone wouldn’t want their struggle to be public knowledge and this post isn’t about that.

This post is about how those of us with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) universally struggle with coming to terms with how we are terminal. And that’s hard. It’s heavy. It’s overwhelming at times. Is it easier to ask for help because we have cancer? I’m not sure.

Here’s how Adiba talks about it …

Very soon after I was diagnosed, I visited a psychiatrist to get a prescription for medication to help me cope. I know several people who have had to be hospitalized because their struggle got to be more than they could handle. I know others who ignore the issue.

Everyone is different.

My dad, a licensed mental health counselor, once told me that the difference between healthy and unhealthy people is how many coping skills they have. Unhealthy people have one or few; healthy people have many.

The coping skills I’d developed over the first cancer-free 38 years of my life were no match for MBC. Everything that I’d learned to do when things got rough weren’t up to snuff when it came to a terminal diagnosis. So, over the past three (3) years I’ve had to learn new and different coping mechanisms. Many are the same or similar to ones I had before cancer entered my life, but there are new ones too.

One of my coping mechanisms is seeing a psychiatrist and taking psychotropic medication. Another is medical cannibis. There are others, but my point is that there is no shame in needing help, for dealing with cancer anything else.

Each of us is different and had a different capacity to handle trauma and anxiety and difficulty. Each of us will respond differently and need different periods of time to deal with various issues, such as the diagnosis or progression or someone’s death or changes.

There is no wrong answer here, except to ignore the issue. To ignore the struggle, to stuff the emotions, to not deal with the fact that MBC is heavy and hard, that’s what breaks people eventually. So, ask for help, talk about your feelings, scream if you need to; just get it out. Find some trust confidants and learn to lean on your community. That community may be entirely online, that community could be on Twitter, that community could be people you’ll never meet in real life.

And that’s ok.

We all need support and sometimes we find it in the most unlikely of places.

And now you know more about Depression and dealing with MBC!

22 thoughts on “BCAM: October 29th

  1. Amen. I counted myself as a Very Resilient Person. I counseled college kids and helped them find coping skills. But when I found out I had MBC, that my cancer had returned, I fell into the darkest pit. After crying and carrying on, I sought out a psychologist and still talk to her. It isn’t easy and I still struggle. Cancer sucks.

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    1. Good for you. As a person used to helping others through their crisis, asking for help seemed like I was admitting failure. As I’ve spent some time in counseling and talked to so many others, I’ve realized that we do others that love us a disservice by not asking for help, but not allowing them to help us. As someone remarked to me, we have to let others earn their grace. It’s still not easy, but I try to remind myself of this when I prevaricate about asking for help. 🙂

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  2. I’M SURE IT sounds a little silly or insignificant, but in the 1990’s, with so many family members dying of cancer—including my Mom and her sister from MBC, A new model train set I was building was to be named “The Mumford River Rail Transfer” rather than the “Mumford River Terminal”. .

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  3. Thank you! For talking about depression And anxiety. Mental health it’s a big issue for metastatic cancer but they don’t give enough attention to this big problem.

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  4. This is a big gap in my care team. Our cancer center dissolved the Palliative care group so I’ve been floundering since. I so agree that coping skills from “before” are inadequate. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear that your cancer center dissolved the palliative care group. That’s so short sighted!! Getting the care we need, as a whole person is so key in this cancer experience. Are you able to go elsewhere to get more comprehensive care? Even just adding a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed mental health counselor to your team can make a huge difference. If you have a social worker at your cancer center, they may be able to point you in the right direction. Love and hugs to you.

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  5. Abigail, I can only imagine how MBC would bring depression, cancer care teams fail horribly to address the mental health aspect of cancer and of patients. I understand the fear of stigma that keeps us silent. Thank you so much for posting and bringing attention to the aspect of terminal cancer that is rarely discussed. And know that we are in your cheering section, sweetie. Please give yourself permission to feel and to express what you’re feeling. Sending you lots of love. ❤

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