Fatigue & Depression

I have been going through quite a bit of fatigue and depression lately. I am still experiencing fatigue almost every day, so when I do have a burst of energy, I make sure to take advantage of it. On days when my entire body is hurting, I try to remind myself that I had my 4th surgery not that long ago, so I don’t need to be so hard on myself when I just want to rest. Resting has become another problem in the form of not being able to sleep properly. It is not out of the realm of possibility for me to be awake until 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes even later, at least a few nights a week. I realize that fatigue is linked directly with depression, so I am beginning to understand how everything I have been dealing with within the last few months is all part of the same problem.

Not all of my depression is linked to breast cancer, but most of it is. I was talking to a breast cancer patient the other day, and she was asking me how long it has been since I had finished each portion of my treatment. I hadn’t thought about the timing of everything in a while, so as I was answering her questions, I was surprised that time has passed much quicker than I thought. It has been 11 months since my last chemo treatment, 7 months since my last radiation treatment, and 4 months since my previous reconstruction surgery; at times, it feels like a lifetime ago, but when I am having a bad day, it all seems like it happened yesterday. Even with all of that time passing so quickly, my body and mind are still healing. I have been experiencing what I thought were some of the side effects that I had at the end of chemo again, but chemo ended almost a year ago, so I am beginning to realize that some of them are symptoms of depression, as described below. Luckily, we are going on vacation soon, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I need a break; I need time away from everything that has been hurting my heart and soul lately, and I need to get my mind and body back on track, and I will!

Depression may be a side effect of breast cancer and fatigue is often a symptom of depression. Some people may have a tendency to depression, which treatment can make worse. At the same time, fatigue itself can lead to depression. Not knowing why you feel drained week after week, and not knowing that this abnormal feeling is normal for many people going through treatment, can make you depressed.

Treatment for breast cancer may leave you feeling sad, tired, or depressed. These feelings are complex conditions, resulting from and affected by many factors: your cancer diagnosis and treatment, aging, hormonal changes, your life experiences, and your genetics.

If you’re abruptly going through menopause 10 years earlier than you naturally would, with a quick lowering of hormone levels, you may experience feelings similar to postpartum depression.

Sadness is a natural part of your breast cancer experience, something you need to express and move through. If you don’t allow yourself to feel sad and grieve, the unresolved grief gets in the way of feeling better and getting better. You may be having hot flashes and trouble sleeping. You may be feeling overwhelmed or even debilitated. All of these factors can lead to fatigue and depression.

How can you tell the difference between fatigue, sadness, and clinical depression? The symptoms of clinical depression include:

  • an inability to cope
  • an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness
  • inertia
  • an inability to concentrate
  • memory problems
  • panic attacks
  • loss of pleasure in what used to make you happy
  • lack of interest in sex or food
  • sleep problems

If you think you’re depressed, talk to your doctor. If your doctor doesn’t have experience treating depression, ask for the name of an accredited psychotherapist. Together you can sort out if what you’re feeling is depression or extreme fatigue. Therapy can help you feel supported and allow you to talk about what’s bothering you. Antidepressant medicines can help ease feelings of sadness and anxiety and help you feel better. An accredited psychotherapist with experience treating depression can help.

Anastrozole

Here is some information on the hormone therapy drug that I will be taking for the next 10 years. I know that some of the possible side effects sound scary but I have found that most drugs that are used to fight cancer have side effects. It is important to remember that every cancer patient is different so not everyone will react in the same way or deal with the same side effects.

Anastrozole is used to treat breast cancer in women after menopause. Some breast cancers are made to grow faster by a natural hormone called estrogen. Anastrozole decreases the amount of estrogen the body makes and helps to slow or reverse the growth of these breast cancers.

Side Effects:

Hot flashes, headache, trouble sleeping, dizziness, stomach upset, nausea/vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight gain, tiredness/weakness, increased coughing, or sore throat may occur. If any of these effects last or get worse, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: bone pain, easily broken bones, joint stiffness/pain, muscle pain/stiffness, mental/mood changes (such as depression), numb/tingling skin, swelling hands/ankle/feet, shortness of breath, unusual vaginal discharge/bleeding/burning/itching/odor, pain/redness/swelling of arms or legs, vision changes, signs of liver disease (such as nausea/vomiting that doesn’t stop, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes/skin, dark urine).

Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: chest/jaw/left arm pain, confusion, trouble speaking, weakness on one side of the body.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

Precautions:

Before taking anastrozole, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.

Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: heart disease (such as history of heart attack), bone loss (osteoporosis), liver disease, high blood pressure, blood clots.

This drug may make you dizzy. Alcohol or marijuana (cannabis) can make you more dizzy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do anything that needs alertness until you can do it safely. Limit alcoholic beverages. Talk to your doctor if you are using marijuana (cannabis).

Before having surgery, tell your doctor or dentist about all the products you use (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products).

Since this drug can be absorbed through the skin and lungs and may harm an unborn baby, women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not handle this medication or breathe the dust from the tablets.

Anastrozole is used mainly in women after menopause. If you have not gone through menopause, this medication must not be used during pregnancy. It may harm an unborn baby. Discuss the use of reliable forms of birth control (such as latex condoms) while taking this medication and for at least 3 weeks after stopping treatment with your doctor. Products containing estrogen (such as birth control pills) should not be used. If you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor right away.

It is unknown if this drug passes into breast milk. Because of the possible risk to the infant, breast-feeding while using this drug and for at least 2 weeks after stopping treatment is not recommended. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.

6 Radiation Treatments To Go!

Mood: Happy 😁

A week from Monday, January 27th, I will have my final radiation treatment and I will be ringing the bell! Unfortunately, I had one day this last week where I didn’t go in for treatment because the machine was down, so my final treatment day has been delayed by one day.

My husband will be there recording the big moment as he did when I finished my chemotherapy treatments. I will post the video with my final thoughts on this part of my journey at some point next week.

Waiting to go in to my treatment, continuing to show a brave face even when I am tired and feeling overwhelmed!