can phlebitis cause depression?

Most of this post was written on Tuesday, November 6 — I just couldn’t decide whether to post it or not.

Yesterday, soon after nurse Cindy diagnosed my tender wrist as IV-induced phlebitis (another old person’s calamity I can now claim), nurse Pam said something to me that surprised me: “You know, you’ve done extremely well during this treatment.” I’m not sure what facial expression I answered with, but she followed by saying, “really, there are people who undergo this treatment that can’t even walk in here from day to day.” And here I thought I was having a rough time of it.

And that brings me to discussions that Dawn and I have been having lately about my state of mind. It’s not easy for me to be here writing this afternoon — not nearly so easy as it should be, or as it was earlier in this cursed process called chemo. Last night Dawn said I needed to write a blog post. I told her I had nothing left to say, except that I’m struggling with some sort of chemo depression. She told me to write about that, and I said something along the lines of “No way.” But here I am.

The thing is I’m a bit weary of divulging every bit of my life on the Internet. Don’t enough people do that already? I know that there are people who have read and will probably continue to read this blog who do not know me from Adam — even though the intended readership has always been those of you out there, scattered about the world, who are my friends and family. Sharing too much also goes against my nature. I’m a private guy, believe it or not, raised in a private family. But again, here I am.

So, that’s what it has come to: one treatment left, yet I’m feeling more broken than ever. My energy levels — even on a “good” day like today — are lower than my mind seems to think they should be. My outlook — even as all the numbers continue to point not to “remission” but to “cure” — has become low too, as I struggle with lonely days and an ever-present desire to be somewhere in the future. Someplace where I can’t remember this disease and its unpleasantries. In short, I have moved from battling a physical disease to grappling with an emotional one. Sort of. That is, I know that the cumulative physical effects of all this chemotherapy are still wreaking havoc on my body — I mean, I can feel it — but, now it is as though the toxins have begun to creep into my very being too.

Shouldn’t I be jumping for joy? Shouldn’t I be pleased that they’re curing my cancer, that soon my life will begin to take on a degree of normalcy once more? Part of me keeps saying to myself, “Don’t be such a baby, Lawler, you’re getting off easy.” But there is still a part of me that doesn’t listen to reason, and I’m curious to know if this depression and unease will simply fade away as the toxic chemo effects disappear over time once the treatments stop. I don’t know.

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5 Responses to “can phlebitis cause depression?”

  1. “Shouldn’t I be jumping for joy? Shouldn’t I be pleased that they’re curing my cancer, that soon my life will begin to take on a degree of normalcy once more?”

    In a word, No. There’s a reason that treatment for cancer is considered barely better than the disease — treatment can end in a vastly improved life filled with health and vigor, cancer doesn’t. Seems like a pretty major difference until you think about the toll that each takes on the body — and that the toll for each weigh about the same.

    “I’m curious to know if this depression and unease will simply fade away as the toxic chemo effects disappear over time once the treatments stop.”

    From what I’ve seen, it’s different for everyone — sometimes the depression (which the overwhelming majority of cancer fighters experience) falls away and leaves wonder or joy or emotionlessness in its place. Sometimes it leaves a sense of survivor guilt. Sometimes it hangs on, requiring treatment of its own. Our minds are odd creatures, sometimes seeming to exist independently of will or body.

    For what it’s worth, this friend-of-your-friend’s-friend thinks you’re brave and stiff-upper-lippish, even without the stoic silence.

  2. I’m glad Dawn encourages/encouraged you to write. Lots of folks ask me about you, and I have been counting down your treatments.

    When I was heading for the end of mine, lots of folks wanted to have a party/celebrate with me. I did end up celebrating, I guess, but quite honestly, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want a party. I just wanted it to be over. Over. Over. Over. I didn’t want to celebrate the end, talk about the end. I wanted to forget about it as quickly as it showed up.

    For me, my ability to deal is better, though I still tense up, at least inwardly, when people ask how I’m doing and it’s obvious to what they are referring. I have anger connected to it that I prefer not to deal with or think about; I just wanted it to be over.

    I do get why you might not want this blog out here. So many people want to weigh in on what you’re doing, what you should do, what you might do, etc. It can feel overwhelming. I hope that when you do emerge from the emotional battle, which I believe you will indeed emerge from once you get a few “normal” days under your belt, well, I hope you’re grateful to this blog and glad it will continue to be read. In the meantime, I’m sure as hell looking forward to a week from Monday–not the last treatment Monday. Screw that. But the first Monday you don’t have to have treatment. Oh, you might be having tests or who knows what, but no chemo. And I’m looking forward to your first day where you have no tests scheduled in the near future. That’ll be a good day. A really good day.

  3. the first thing i thought of when i saw the title to the blog entry was that project i did. i don’t know what grade it was in (maybe 6th), but i have distinct memories of sitting at the dinning room table with the encyclopedias and making my posters of tree cancer. that dining room table was used for a lot of projects. in fact, i don’t think it should even be called a “dining room” table. other than the fact that it was in the dining room, the functions it served included: reading table, project area, a surface upon which to stack various mail, junk, etc., goal line to knee-football, hiding space for easter eggs, place for kedi to hide, and occasional dining for holidays.

    but that’s all beside the point. it’s hard for me to understand what the experience is like and the effects of chemo., but i surely sympathize with you about your dread of cancer, particularly at an early age. i remember being afraid of getting a brain tumor when i was young (at least up until 4th grade). i often looked to see if i had hand tremors, as i understood, or believed, that that was a sure sign of some brain disorder. i also remember (a bit later in life) of dad telling me that mom had began to experience involuntary leg twitching and other effects.

    i know you are coming up to your last treatments, so good riddance: of the cancer and the treatments. and more importantly, once it’s over you can join a bowling league. i just know madison has some good lanes.

  4. Jeff — I wondered how well you might remember that project. It’s funny the things that stick in our minds, and that is certainly one of them for me. As for the dining room table, it was also a place for Phil Callahan to sleep (pass out) under — remember that?

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