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Charles "Snuffy" Myers who specialises in advanced prostate cancer once said on
an Internet posting that he felt that undiagnosed depression was one of the most
common side effects of prostate cancer.
In that post he didn't distinguish
between clinical depression and what might be termed induced depression. The former
is a genetic issue and the latter a consequence of events in our lives. Both are
equally debilitating but the induced depressions are somewhat easier to deal with
because the cause can be identified and attacked.
Most people will suffer
some depression amongst the wild mixture of emotions created by the initial diagnosis
and will also run into that kind of problem in the aftermath - most commonly related
to side effects from treatment choice.
Although it was more than fifteen
years from my diagnosis, I felt I was headed towards the dark pit of depression
in December 2011 and I thought it might be helpful if I shared my experience.
There is very little posted about emotional issues on prostate cancer sites on
the Internet. I believe this is mainly due to our cultural issues. Depression
is a particularly loaded word in our culture. Many associate it, however wrongly,
with a sign of weakness and excessive emotion. I don't, at least when I am not
Because I have a history of clinical depression I have made
myself very aware of the precursors - the signposts along the way. Seeing them
I can take action to turn back to a more positive place in my life.
first of the warning signs is usually what I think of as the Chicken Licken Syndrome.
I feel as if something really bad is going to happen - like the sky falling on
my head. This is followed in short succession by some or all of the classic symptoms
of depression -
Loss of energy- feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained.- even small
tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete;
Feeling agitated, restless - everyone gets on your nerves;
Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in hobbies or pastimes - YANA
work becomes a negative for me instead of a positive
Concentration problems - trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt - harsh self criticism for perceived
faults and mistakes.
Increased emotions - difficult to hold back tears.
Many of these issues
feed on themselves, hastening me on my way if I am not careful. For example snapping
at my darling wife Anthea makes me feel guilty about treating her badly. Not responding
to Yana issues has the same effect - how useless a person am I when I can't even
help others? Not taking my daily walks with my dogs makes me feel no better and
again guilt comes in that they are missing out on their pleasure. Watching sad
films or news items can bring me to tears - and men don't do that do they? I must
As I say, because of my experience in this matters, I now know
what to do to stop the onward journey downhill to the pit of depression, a place
that is so very difficult to get out of and so easy to slip into.
thing I do is to analyse what might be making me feel like this. Is this an induced
depression? Is there anything I can do, if I can get enough energy together? At
this time these were some of the issues which I felt might be inducing this depressive
Gregg Morrison, long time collaborator on this site had passed on. Not from the
prostate cancer that he survived for twenty years, but from the multiplicity of
illness and disease that attack us as we age
Our darling dog - a miniature schnauzer and my special friend - had died too
early. He was only nine, his kidneys collapsed and he was gone in a week and only
two months after his older 'brother' had passed on at age 14 after a stroke.
Anthea had some health problems and was waiting for scans and tests to be completed.
It seemed unlikely that she would have any problems - but then I didn't either
when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer
My PSA had continued to rise despite my ADT (Androgen Deprivation Therapy) of
Zoladex and was 15 ng/ml at last reading. I had started Casodex in addition to
the Zoladex. Would that help? Probably not I thought.
Was what I was feeling anything to do with the Casodex? Many men had reported
very bad side effects with this medication and although I had no severe problems
with Zoladex, would Casodex be different?
It was getting very hot with temperatures heading towards the 40°C/100°F, as it
does in summer in Australia. My heart medication - mainly the beta blockers -reduce
the efficiency of what my cardiologist refers to as my internal thermostat and
I suffer the consequences, both physical and mental
Although it is a gift to spend time with our son, his wonderful wife and two much
loved granddaughters, they are vegetarians and I was missing the tremendous Christmas
dinners with all trimmings we used to have with my brothers and their families
back in South Africa
Having done this investigation and identified a wide
range of issues, it seemed to me that I could and should deal with some of these
issues while waiting for others to deal with themselves.
Paying careful attention to all the potential side effects from Casodex I was
able to say that the drug had not created any further problems that had not already
arisen from Zoldex - so, no change there
I had a PSA test - my PSA was down from 15 to 6. Not as low as I would like, but….any
time a PSA number goes down, the anxiety is relieved - for the moment
Anthea's tests were all clear - wonderful news that
With her health cleared, we felt it was time to get a companion for our remaining
schnauzer and puppy Barnaby came into our lives. Three months old and full of
it he is a wonderful boost for us all
So that was three major issues dealt
with. Nothing I could do about the weather, so I decided to try and see if I could
adapt better than I had in the past when I stayed in air-conditioned coolness
on hot days. I started deliberately going out in warmer weather - not the 40°C
days, but in the high 20s and even low 30s (80°F-90°F). I wasn't comfortable at
times, but….. I was fighting back instead of letting this get me down. I walked
the dogs regularly come rain sun or hail - which we had on Christmas Day to the
Of course I couldn't get my family to Australia for Christmas,
but we could get across to celebrate my big 70 in February and attend two family
weddings. That was a cheerful thought.
But what really got my recovery
going was the start of a project that I have put on the backburner for far too
long. Getting down to transcribing all my travel diaries and doing some polishing
of short pieces I have written over the years. Publishing those on a blog which
is read by some of my FaceBook Friends gave me a feeling of sharing. You can read
them at Travels With My Wife and
The Making of a Paradigm.
not completely out of the woods - it is rare for me not to be a bit apprehensive
on waking each morning, but I have identified the causes of what was mostly induced
depression in this recent episode and dealt with that, so I'm pretty well fully
functional again - and at least able to get on with my Yana work as well as my