Categories
Living with Myeloma

Cancer Depression

Depression, like many mental issues, depends entirely on how you characterize the requirements for something to qualify as depression. I’m no psychologist; I don’t even play one on TV. However, my understanding is that true depression requires that it not be result of a life event, so, let’s talk about cancer and depression.

It’s Not Depression, It’s Cancer

It is expected that finding out you have multiple myeloma will trigger some negative emotions, but is that cancer depression?

It doesn’t matter. There is really no benefit, for me at least, to having depression as opposed to having a natural reaction to learning that you have cancer and that it will affect you for the rest of your life.

There are prescriptions available, of course. Frankly, my multiple myeloma oncologist seems fine with writing me a prescription for whatever I need, so I bet if I asked I could get some sort of antidepressant. Of course, they might make me talk to that counselor again… 😣

I guess this is why it matters whether or not it’s a natural reaction to having cancer, or if it is depression.

cancer depression

What Is Depression?

I have ADHD. I’ve spent a lot of time researching ADHD and learning what ADHD is. The most important thing to understand is that ADHD isn’t just getting distracted, or having a hard time focusing. ADHD caused by actual biological differences in the types or amounts of neurochemicals generated by the brain, and its reaction to them.

In other words, ADHD is biological. You can’t fix it with attitude adjustments or by trying harder. You can use various ADHD tricks to manage how your brain works, and subsequently how you go through life, but you can’t flush out the root biological cause with behavior modification.

When it comes to depression, there seems to be a biological component. Ironically, many of the same neurochemicals that cause ADHD also cause depression. The two issues are often comorbid conditions, although more people with ADHD also have depression than people with depression have ADHD.

However, depression can also be something that gets caused or triggered later in life. One could argue that this makes some depression a mental thing, like PTSD, where the brain just responds differently than it once did.

One can also look at the increasing evidence that the brain changes over time, a concept known as neuroplasticity. If the brain has a biological change that now produces, or fails to produce, the proper neurochemicals, depression can be something that is triggered.

What Does Cancer Depression Feel Like?

Where does that leave me?

Well, I’m going to call it cancer depression even if I don’t have any formal diagnosis. I’m doing this for two reasons. One, it appears to be a semi-permanent thing, easily triggered. Two, it doesn’t feel like me. I mean, I didn’t feel like this before, so something has happened.

What does cancer depression feel like?

Like most things, both in life and with this stupid disease, it can be different for everyone. For me it’s not sadness so much as a crushing apathy that comes from knowing that the clock is ticking much faster for you than everyone else. Even if you don’t checkout, there is still a solid chance that you won’t physically be able to continue what you start, whether it’s the fatigue from the chemo, or an unexpected hospital stay.

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Going through life with your brain set to “It Doesn’t Matter” is tricky, and it’s new for me. Unlike my ADHD, I don’t have any tips or tricks to help.

Time for some research.

For now, I don’t think I’ll ask about the antidepressants, but that might change in the future.

Categories
Multiple Myeloma

Brian Has Multiple Myeloma

Cancer.

It’s as scary as a word gets. For millions of Americans it’s one of those things that happens to other people. There is maybe a friend or a family member, maybe a friend of friend with cancer, or maybe just someone you heard about that one time at your company or on Facebook.

Until 2019, I was one of them.

Multiple Myeloma

Not a lot of people have heard of multiple myeloma. That’s not surprising. It is considered a “rare” cancer. In 2018, approximately 125,000 people were living with myeloma in the United States. That might sound like a lot, but consider that there are 327 million people living in the U.S. and that percentage looks pretty small.

Or, if you want to compare multiple myeloma to more common cancers, consider that 268,000 new cases of breast cancers will be diagnosed this year alone. That’s more than the total ongoing cases of myeloma. Multiple myeloma’s closest, more famous, cousin is Leukemia, with 200,00 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year.

Getting Rare Cancer

Not only is multiple myeloma a rare cancer, it is most frequently diagnosed in people aged 65-74 years old. So, imagine how “lucky” you have to get to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma at age 45.

Yeah. I’d have rather gone to Vegas, thanks.

Why Another Website

So, what is the point of this whole thing?

Well, I’m a writer. I always have been. It’s my way of talking and actually getting to say what I mean to say. Also, I build websites. What’s one more?

Most importantly, writing can be therapeutic. I find that such writing is more therapeutic when I put it “out there.” Whether anyone ever finds it and reads it, or not is irrelevant. The fact that I publish what I think, write, and feel, is similar to actually talking to someone for me.

Finally, when I was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma I went searching for resources and had trouble coming up with what I was looking for. While there are many great resources out there with facts and figures for multiple myeloma, those resources are often very clinical. The American Cancer Society has a multiple myeloma section that is full of solid, factual information. The International Multiple Myeloma Foundation is another good resource.

And, if you see one of these in the literature holders at your oncologist’s office, or at the hospital, I highly recommend picking one up. It’s called the Multiple Myeloma guidelines for patients.

Multiple Myeloma Resource Guide
Multiple Myeloma Resource Guide – Guidelines for Patients

It’s nice to be able to thumb through a book when you’re brain is filled with a fog of worry and fear. (The same thing is available online at NCCN.org/patients.) You’ll have to click on that “more cancers” button in order to find the multiple myeloma one though. Might as well start getting used to it, this is an”other” cancer.

However, when you write advice like that for a broad audience you have to careful to not be too specific lest you write something that does not apply to everyone. One of the most frustrating things about multiple myeloma is constantly being told that everyone is different, so no one will really give you any answers.

multiple myeloma resource guide

It is true of course. Everyone is different. Not only that, there are a ton of different kinds of multiple myeloma characterized by which genes are mutated and what kind of light chains you have, and so on. And, that’s all before you account for the fact that it will affect younger people differently than older people. That some people tolerate treatment very well, while others don’t tolerate it at all. Still others respond well to some things while others don’t.

The purpose of this website then will be to provide MY experience and MY discoveries that I make about MY multiple myeloma along the way. Such specific, real world, understand of what it is like to actually have multiple myeloma is incredibly useful, even if not everything applies to your specific case. As such, I hope to provide a myeloma resource that I wish I would have found back when I was first diagnosed, and frankly, ever since.

It will take a while. I’ve been “meaning” to start writing this site for almost six months now, but one of the things that MM does is rob you of time. Between doctor appointments, fatigue, medication side effects, and mental stress getting to things like extra projects can be tough. The good news is that I’ve got ideas, and now I’ve got it started. That means it will come easier and faster now.