Having Depression As A Side Effect Of Cancer
“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”
If you know this quote, then you have been one of the many who’ve read or watched the heartbreaking book or movie, The Fault In our Stars. I use this quote today because it is very fitting for the situation I’ve been facing for the past year of my life. It describes in so many ways how I’ve felt about everything that life has thrown at me with dealing with Glioblastoma, stage III. Also known as an Anaplastic Astrocytoma.
I’ve never really been the kind of person who’s ever got personal with my writing. I’ve written novels about people who aren’t real. I’ve written articles on puckermob about things I see in everyday life, but never have I ever been this personal when it comes to writing. Until I got cancer, anyway. I find that I have so much to say these days, but no one to really say it to, and that’s where these articles have come in handy for me.
You know, when you get diagnosed with cancer, everything in your life has to change. You don’t just get told you have cancer, do treatment, and then everything goes back to the way it was before. It’s just not how it works, and anyone who thinks that, well clearly, they’ve never gone through it before. For starters, the things I ate, the hours I worked, how much I slept, everything changed. I remember, and even now just feeling the loss of control over my life. For someone like me, who’s always kind of been on my own, done things for myself, the loss of control over my own life made me feel powerless. I still have moments when I can feel my tumor taking over, and it’s kind of like feeling like a child all over again.
I think what was worse than having to change my entire life to accommodate my terminal illness was the looks that people were now giving me. To so many people, I wasn’t Ada anymore. The people around me started to treat me differently, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I still don’t. They no longer saw me, the girl who was always smiling. They didn’t see the person who had always tried to be there for everyone. They didn’t see the person who always took the worst situations, and tried to make the best of it. They no longer saw the person who had a love for writing. They didn’t see me anymore. I could see the pity in their eyes, and I hated that. My cancer, my brain tumor, it didn’t define who I was, it had just been something I had to face. I was still me.
Later, though, as it started to progress, and everything seemed to become different for me, I remember feeling my body change. Especially after I had given up on treatment and made the decision to live my life. While the cancer didn’t define me, while it didn’t control everything, it had more control over my life then so many people seemed to understand. It affected me in ways that no one seemed to understand. That was a frustration in itself. It was like people only wanted see what they wanted, not what I was really going deep inside.
The thing is, I had never expected anyone to understand what I was going through. I mean, how could they if they hadn’t had this happen to them? I only ever wanted them to try to grasp what I was going through without being judgmental. I try to separate my tumor from myself. It’s a difficult thing to do, but every single day I wake up I remember that just because I have cancer doesn’t mean my life is over. It only means it’s more difficult than say healthy people would be. That’s okay. However, it’s not an easy task to do, because in a lot of ways my tumor and I are one in the same.
I have so many people in my life telling me that I need to be positive. That I need to wake up and have a better mindset. They would be right, but they would also be wrong in the way they say things, and approach it. Living with cancer in itself could make anyone depressed. Truthfully, I never really dealt with the depression side of having cancer until the day my doctor told me that I needed to go live my life because I probably wouldn’t make it to twenty-five, and at the time I was only twenty-three years old. That’s when all the negativity really surfaced into my life. It was unbearable.
It’s frustrating when you’ve always been this positive, upbeat person to feel yourself turn into someone who becomes negative. It’s hard to comprehend all the changes that you feel surround you because of a tumor, especially when people who don’t understand tell you, you do this to yourself. You let this affect you, but the thing is you can’t go through something like this and not be affected by this. The portion of my brain that my tumor is on affects so much. For instance, memory, speech, hearing, vision, behavior, emotions; these are just few of the things my doctor explained would or could be affected by the tumor because of where it was located.
I don’t get angry, or hold a grudge with the people who think this way, but I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t upset me. I get upset because people don’t take the time to try to understand what it is like to walk in my shoes. The thought process I have, is completely different than someone who is healthy. I noticed after I got diagnosed, that things that wouldn’t bother me before, things I wouldn’t have even cared about before, started making me more upset than I actually care to admit. I’ve always been a somewhat sensitive person, but it wasn’t ever like this. Things that I would brush off before I had cancer, I was panicking and going into full blown emotional breakdowns about. I hated that, I still do. It made me feel a huge loss of control over my emotions. I was changing, and I can feel myself change every single day.
I don’t think a lot of people truly understand how different a person can become because of a tumor, and it’s not their choice. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t choose this. It’s cancer, which unfortunately is a part of life. I can’t change the fact that people think this is something I can control. I can’t change that people don’t understand that I can’t just wake up and change my outlook. My tumor doesn’t define me, but affects me in ways that you don’t understand unless you’re the one going through.
Even with all of this though, I can’t ever say for one second that I regret having cancer. I mean I don’t wish for it, and I hope that I get to be one of the lucky ones who go into remission, but there are so many things that cancer brought to me that have turned out to be a positive. And there are people that I never would have met if I hadn’t gotten cancer. So, a lot of times, I do try to take the good with the bad, I do. I’m also a girl with a brain tumor though, and I think I’m entitled to feel however the day is going to make me feel. Negative, positive, whatever decides to come, that’s what I’m going to embrace. Not what anyone thinks I should feel. That’s what I’m going to do because at the end of the day I can’t control a lot of things, but I can try my best to not let cancer bring me down, to not let people bring me down. All I know is my life is affected by a tumor, and not because I am letting be, but because that’s just what happens. I’m okay with that though, I’ve made peace with it, the only thing I can do now, is just live my life and hope for the best.
So, I encourage anyone who faces this same battle to just know that you’re alone, and know that you can get through this, even if no one understands. But to anyone who loves someone going through this, I just want to say, don’t be so harsh, or judgmental, you only make it worse. Try to understand, to respect, and to comfort the person who already feels so alone and lost, because if they are anything like me, that’s all they need.