It was the beginning of what I call "The Lost Summer" and the scariest part of dealing with the cancer diagnosis that I had. I never felt so awful in my entire life. Fortunately, the worst part would pass about a week after receiving chemo. Then, I would have a couple of weeks of recovery and feeling pretty normal before starting the whole process over again.
By the time treatment was over, sometime in September 08, I was physically and emotionally tired and anemic.
I didn't know, until about halfway through treatment, that chemo not only makes you physically tired and sick, but that it interacts with your brain chemistry. Taxanes, in particular, have been tied to poorer emotional response during treatment, and prolonged susceptibility to clinical depression for up to two years after treatment:
The researchers also observed that patients who received taxane agents had significantly worse emotional distress and mental quality of life throughout the treatment period. Their psychologic recovery was significantly slower, requiring an average of 2 years, compared with the 6 to 12 months required by patients who did not receive taxane.I can testify that it truly did affect me. I remember one treatment period in which I completely broke down, crying and fearful and completely unraveled emotionally. A few days later, I felt perfectly normal and looked back on that episode, wondering at its oddness. It seemed out of proportion for what I was dealing with.
The rates of probable clinical depression were also higher among patients receiving taxanes. In particular, there were statistically significant group differences in depressive symptoms at 12 and 18 months, and a trend toward such at 24 months. The rates of probable depression among patients who didn't receive taxanes declined to less than 10% by the 12-month follow-up, whereas the rates in the taxane group remained high (at approximately 20%).
Once I knew that some of what I was feeling was simply a side effect of one of the treatment drugs, I felt more in control.
Not quite a year out from treatment, I can't say that I have felt clinically depressed, though I have had moments of feeling overwhelmed or moody....but considering all that has happened in the last year, it doesn't seem out of the ordinary.
Yesterday, I went in for a breast MRI. I had been having some soreness in a certain area, and though it was very unlikely for it to be cancer, we scanned just to be sure.
Everything came back completely clean.
Standing back from things, one year out, with a completely clean MRI and no reason to expect having anything to worry about for quite some time, I could feel a sense of relief overtake me.
A year can make all the difference in the world.