Cancer Sucks: Post-Surgery Depression

It’s been three weeks since my surgery; I’m feeling physically much better, even working at my computer. I still have restrictions on what I do: no lifting over 10 pounds or strenuous exertion, and I don’t have as much stamina as I’m used to, but I can do almost anything I want.

I’m struggling with emotional recovery, though; I feel a sense of sadness that doesn’t seem to fit with my situation. I don’t want to do anything, and I just feel blah. It’s an effort to motivate myself to do the simplest things, like take a shower or start a project for work.

Many years ago, my ex-husband and I were undergoing fertility treatments, and he was injecting me with hormones to get me to produce a bunch of eggs. After a week or so of that, I was so mad at him I wanted a gun. He could do NOTHING right! And even though in some tiny corner of my brain I understood that it was the hormones, it didn’t matter; I could not control my thinking or my emotions.

This sadness has the same feeling, so I believe it’s chemistry. I have two theories:

  1. Is there an actual physiochemical phenomenon in reaction to the trauma of surgery and the anesthesia? I believe there is, having seen it in others. All bets are off for some period of time after any major surgery. I don’t know how long.
  2. I am no longer taking my bio-identical hormones, which could affect me either directly, or as a withdrawal process.

I could also be experiencing the “back to work” syndrome. It’s like when a loved one dies; everyone flies in for the funeral, there’s lots of activity, people bring food, and then they all leave. You’re not done grieving, but everyone else is. I haven’t fully recovered from my cancer diagnosis/surgery, but I look and act like I have, so as my sister says, I don’t get to play the cancer card anymore.

I can imagine this being even worse for women who have a hysterectomy before menopause. They are dealing with the grief of losing their ability to have children in addition to post-surgical reactions and hormonal changes.

Bottom line:  this is a difficult time, and it lasts longer than we might expect. The most important thing I can do is be kind to myself. The most important thing you can do is bring me more brownies. I like the ones with edges.

2 replies on “Cancer Sucks: Post-Surgery Depression”

What you’re feeling is common. Type “post-surgical” in google; the first phrase to pop up is “post-surgical depression.” It sounds like you already know that, but it always helps me to normalize how I’m feeling. You, and your body, have been through (are going through) a big trauma; it’s going to take more time (and brownies) to get back to your equilibrium. And don’t hesitate to bring it up with your doctor at your next follow-up appt.

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