Supporting a loved one with post-cancer depression

Hi there, I'm looking for some guidance as to supporting a loved one who has developed symptoms of depression after surviving breast cancer. She has actually experienced breast cancer twice, as well as losing a close friend to metastatic breast cancer, all before the age of 50.

Since completing chemotherapy the last time, she has really struggled. She's lost all self-confidence, lives in fear of it returning, and feels isolated and angry. When she's feeling really low, she asks "why me?" and feels as though she's being punished for something. I just wish she could be happy, but don't know what to do. I can't say anything that helps because I haven't lived in her shoes.

Anytime we mention support groups, therapy or medication to help with her struggles, she becomes very defensive and feels even more isolated. I just don't know what to do. Perhaps if there was anyone who has shared a similar experience would have some insight? If so, I'd really appreciate it.


  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,388
    Dear @lottie123

    The incidence of depression with cancer (any cancer) is significant, for excellent reasons - it strikes at the heart of one’s sense of mortality, recovering is no guarantee of not getting it again and treatment is at best unpleasant with the possibility of long term side effects. Your loved one has had cancer return, is scared of dying but can’t trust living and probably feels that no one really understands.  I didn’t get depressed but for a short time got a bit confused about who I was likely to be by the end of treatment. I didn’t have any reservations about seeing a counsellor which worked really well for me and a good counsellor would possibly help her immensely, but there’s obviously resistance. Is there anyone she trusts who could advise (such as a long term GP) not only about treatment but about who to see? Or you may consult a professional yourself as to the best way to handle this dilemma? I felt positive about seeing a counsellor because the oncology nurse who recommended her had a pretty astute understanding of me and it was an excellent ‘match’. The counselling had very little to do with cancer and a lot to do with why my ‘normal’ was as frenetic as it was! Cancer can stir up old, possibly unresolved, issues which can compound confusion or even depression. Best wishes. 
  • ddon
    ddon Member Posts: 349
    Nadine, what you just wrote is wonderful and it has helped me in my own mind and situation. Thank you for putting that all into words. 
  • cranky_granny
    cranky_granny Member Posts: 760
    @lottie123 @Nadi has hit the nail ion the head. I will vent and moan on hear and its very cathartic. My emotions are the sea-saw variety when I’m  down beside on here i have a friend that i vent to. I dint let my kids know how bad i can get but having that one whoever it is, that can just let you let it all out with is great
    it wont happen all at once. But over time it does if you have the right one to do it with
  • Julez1958
    Julez1958 Member Posts: 1,152
    Yes depression ( and it’s close cousin anxiety)  is a very real potential event following cancer.
    I prided myself on my resilience and when I asked my breast care nurse if I could get a referral to a psychologist after my mastectomy when she gave me the referral from my ( otherwise fabulous) breast cancer surgeon she said he had said to her “ I am surprised that patient needs this” which just goes to show sometimes you can put up a good show while going to pieces inside .
    I only needed 2 sessions but they really helped me as did having a male friend who had gone through bladder 
    10 years before ( that was before I knew him) the fact that he totally “ got it” as a cancer survivor was the thing.
    He said to call anytime and in the first few months I certainly did that and unloaded big time.
    I hope you can get your loved one to get done professional help .