Cancer and Mental Health

I would rather have cancer than schizophrenia, bipolar or chronic depression.

Even though I am terminal I get so much more support than if I had mental health issues. People are not afraid to talk to me about my cancer and ask questions, but if I was suffering from mental health much fewer people would approach me or offer support.

1 in 4 Canadians have been diagnosed with mental health issues, but it makes me wonder how many have not been properly diagnosed or are ashamed to get diagnosed.

1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with some sort of cancer in their life time.

Why is mental health not considered TERMINAL? When I was going through my process of not knowing what was wrong with my body everyone told me that I had depression and I needed to get over it. Anyone that I told I had depression and was medicated seemed to avoid me and didn’t know how to support me. Everyone seemed so uncomfortable.

Now, with a diagnosis of Stage 4 Breast Cancer I have an abundance of support, everyone wanting to help and basically knocking down my door to help. Where was all this support when I was seemingly struggling with depression? Would everyone have been so ready to support if I was still dealing with depression as my main diagnosis? What lengths would I have had gone to to get the magnitude of support? Would I have to claim that I was suicidal, even though I was not? Would I have to be put away in a mental health facility to make my disease of mental health heard and taken seriously?

Sometimes I feel that my mental health issues was way more of a struggle than the physical effects of cancer. This is why I think mental health should be considered terminal. Suicidal individuals should be considered terminal because we are both fighting a potential death end result caused by our disease. It is just as great a risk to someone who is suicidal and doesn’t or can’t get help.

If I don’t get the correct cancer medication the result is death. With cancer, I get a nurse that comes in and dotes on my every need. When I feel down and depressed she sits and listens to me, massages me and does everything in her power to pick me up and ensure I am feeling better. With my mental health, I was left in a bed, alone, suffering through my own thoughts. No nurse to rub my feet to listen to me. Family tried to support, but I wasn’t totally open with them at the risk of sounding crazy and misunderstood.

Prior to my cancer diagnosis, my husband and I were looking into mental health facilities to help with my depression. Shockingly there was no help for me if I didn’t need help for addictions.

I was wrongly diagnosed with clinical depression. With being told over and over I was depressed and not being believed that it was something else at the core of my symptoms, I felt so incredibly alone and unheard. I started to lose hope that I would ever be well again. I felt alone and secluded myself. No one listened that the medications were not working and I was worried why I felt like an alien was growing inside of me. I seriously wondered what was wrong with me. If you lose hope you have nothing, and I lost hope. 

Hope came after a severe pain crisis, after the alien finally took over. Rushed to the hospital curled up in a ball on a stretcher, my body filled with electrifying bolts of pain, I was finally heard. My pain wasn’t mental, it was physical pain, not depression. After some tests I was sat down in a room with my husband and family, where a doctor had to deliver some of the worst words ever to pass through their lips to me: “You have Stage 4 Cancer.” The sympathetic look of the doctor quickly turned to confusion as my excitement grew. “I’m not crazy!!!” Is all I could think in a wave of relief. Others would see cancer at stage 4 as a bad thing. Not me! I was so happy there was actually something physically wrong with me. My depression was lifted so quickly.

Even though my depression lifted and my mental illness disappeared, I can reflect back and realize that I was depressed. Not knowing what is wrong with your body and not being able to articulate that feeling to others made me feel alone and unheard. I have such empathy for people who struggle with any sort or mental health issues. Sometimes it felt as if I were yelling and had no voice.

It can take up to 7 years for a person with mental health to get their medications and treatments right. It has taken me less than 7 months with my cancer to figure out medications and treatments.

About The Author

A few months ago, I was told that my boobs are trying to kill me and being misdiagnosed for two years allowed them to recruit throughout the rest of my body by way of my spine. Before this, I knew f*ck all about cancer. Now, between sipping chemo cocktails, I want to talk about the truth of living with Stage 4 Breast Cancer with my support system and people I have met along the way to recovery.

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