Why do I feel so low and depressed now I’m cancer free

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I had estrogen positive breast cancer last year, two operations, radiotherapy and now five years of hormone treatment. It’s a biggie but not as big as some have it. I’m clear. I’m back to work. The pot is off my leg so I should be all fixed and be normal again. But I’m not and I don’t understand why. Yes I am so relieved that I’ve had a narrow escape and my life is returning to normal in every way but why do I feel so absolutely full of hopelessness and depression. A few weeks ago I thought suddenly everything in my head had turned a corner and finally I saw the way forward and now equally now I find myself in some horrible pit of desolation. It makes no sense. I say I’m ok as it lets everyone off the hook of dealing with a post cancer person and avoids any conversations I don’t want to have. And them. I long to be on my own so I can cry in peace. This is not me. These past few days have been torture and I feel like I don’t understand anything anymore. I expected to be me again after cancer then I realised I’m not and that ok but what’s going on now. I’m floundering in an unfamiliar world and nothing is what I thought it would be. How do I come to the surface to breathe air again rather than just wanting to drown..?

  • Hi Super63 welcome to the forum and I am so sorry to hear how you are feeling. I just want to re-assure you that you are not alone in how you are feeling and it does happen at the end of treatment when we are supposed to slip back into "normal",  whatever "normal" is!!!!!

    There is a paper, which if you can look it up will explain better than I ever could about exactly whats happening for you right now and some of the why as well. Its called "After the treatment finishes" "what next" and is written by Dr Peter Harvey. Have  a look and see what you think?. If after having read this it doesnt help at all to lift your mood then please do not put off going to see the GP as it is not uncommon for a short spell on anti depressants or counselling to help us get past this hurdle and get past it you will. 

    Meanwhile Im sending some huge big hugs your way and we will always be here so keep chatting and  look after yourself.  xxx


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  • Hi  and a second welcome to this little corner of the community. The post treatment journey can often be challenging. I often call this part of the journey the forgotten 1/3 with the first 2/3rds being diagnosis and treatment but the post treatment journey can for some be very hard.

    At times, living the post cancer journey is like living in a parallel universe - you can see your old life but regardless what you do you can not get back on that same exact same path.

    Following my many years of treatment (16 years) and now being 6+ years into my post treatment life, a situation I was unwillingly put into. It did actually make me review life and everything that we once thought important.

    So some things from our old life are still in ‘our’ lives but various aspects of ‘our’ old life that were once seen as important were put in the bin and we don’t miss them.

    I say ‘our’ as my wife and family have been through this journey as much as I have so we have always openly discuss each and every hurdle especially the recovery.

    This is a link to the paper my friend Gail has highlighted. You may find it helpful to make a cuppa and have a look through After Treatment Finishes - Then What? by Dr Peter Harvey as it highlights the post treatment milestones. I do know many who have given a copy of the paper to friends and family as it simple and clearly unpacks where you are at.

    Talking to people face to face can be very helpful at this stage so do check to see if you have any Local Macmillan Support in your area, do also check for a local Maggie's Centre as these folks are amazing and both provide very good post treatment courses that help you unpack the cancer journey and equip you to move life forward.

    This group is here at any time to help you navigate this period of time ((hugs))

    Mike (Thehighlander)

    It always seems impossible until its done - Nelson Mandela

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  • ,, you come to the surface by using this space to vent or whatever, as we all 'get it'. And please read the Dr Harvey paper, it will help, not only you but possibly your family or work. Take care

  • , how are you doing now? All the best.

  • Hi Gemmary. Thank you for concern. I’m doing so much better now thanks. I read the paper and printed it so I could read whenever I felt myself slipping. It does explain so much. I accept I will never be “me” again and am learning to accept the new person I have become. It sounds dramatic but it is the easiest way to explain it. There are many times I do feel alone in all this but I just need to work through it. No amount of talking or counselling sorts this. Eventually it all boils down to the person. So I’ll be damned if I’ll ever give in. It’s the kind people on this site who have had the most impact. They know. X


    When I post the great paper, folks will actually come back and often say that they think that the paper had been written just about them.

    But I would always challenge folks to become proactive after reading through it and using it as a vehicle for change and life improvement.

    So get a note book or some sheets of paper and put pen to paper - it is a good way forward.

    So a page per subject heading. Start detailing the things you have done already to move life on in each area and then start to set some achievable goals to work towards. 

    When you achieve the first goal on each lists, tick it off and then put a new goal at the bottom of the list. By doing this you can actually see your progress and celebrate achievements. When I say celebrate I do mean giving yourself treats and gifts........ you have life - celebrate it.

    The headings would be:

    What steps am I taking to regain trusts in my body?

    What steps am I taking to regain trust in myself?

    What steps am I taking to overcome living with uncertainty?

    What steps am I taking to deal with the world?

    What steps am I taking to regain mastery and control of my life?

    Try it, the future is sitting in front of you - think about driving a car. The big windscreen shows the future, the past is in the little mirrors and is getting smaller and more fuzzy as we move forward.....if you concentrate on the past you crash.

    Mike (Thehighlander)

    It always seems impossible until its done - Nelson Mandela

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  • No advice. But I was very similar. I recovered from stage 4 non-hodgkins, which I had a total of 4 times in 2 years between 2018 and 2020. Every remission I had, prompted so many people to say ‘Oh you must be delighted’ But I wasn’t. I think for me, because it came back 3 times I always had the worry of it coming back, and still do, but also, during that time with all the treatments including CAR-T, I suffered with kidney failure twice, once which needed temporary bilateral nephrostomies and dialysis, brain damage, heart damage, sepsis, 2 weeks of coma needing 10 days life support, and the illness plus treatment has left me disabled with severe nerve damage and a wheelchair user. So people don’t seem to understand that I’m actually traumatised!

  • Hi, I finished 8 months of various treatments a month ago and I'm clear,its gone, but like others left wondering why I dont feel relieved? Why am I so emotional?  Why am I not Me? I am trying to help myself but it's hard. I'm hoping when I return to work in a couple of months that will be the main catalyst and enable me to not think about it all so much, become more positive and move on. But at the moment it seems a long way off.

  • Hey Lellynelly….I changed my email and missed this…

    I’m so sorry for your ordeal…you’ve been dealt a bad hand and I can’t imagine how you have dealt with it. I think anyone who has had to deal with such adversity can only glean any comfort and understanding from someone who has experienced similar. Your description of being traumatised is accurate and I’m sure many will really not understand what effect these events have on our lives….especially when such as yourself have such a lasting legacy of the horrendous experience. I hope you are able to find pockets of peace and strength to adapt to what is essentially a new way of living. 

  • It’s such a misconception that cancer survivors are ecstatic they’re clear…I find it very annoying but it’s not their fault. You can only ever understand if you’re in the same situation as us. I’ve been through so many emotions and sometimes felt I sounded like one of these neurotic attention seeking sorts. I have what I call Dread Days…not so often now. The feeling that cancer is somewhere in my body growing and mutating. That I’m going to die of secondary cancer in a few years time. I accept these days now and they are becoming less intense. It’s taken a long time to accept that I am not the same person I used to be. I understand that now. You will too. The key is to find the new you rather than searching for the person you used to be. I wish you well.