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Diagnosis: Depression

When cancer strikes body & soul

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Diagnosis: Depression

Some cancer patients succumb to grief and depression. Ten tips can help you or someone you love deal with a diagnosis of cancer.

In my opinion, all cancer patients are heroes. Fate has given them a difficult road to travel. Cancer rivets them–and us, if they are our loved ones–to an emotional merry-go-round. Some cancer patients succumb to grief and suffer from depression. However, there are things they can do to face and manage the challenges on the journey ahead.

I have not had cancer. I have accompanied friends and family on their difficult journey of sadness, anger, hope, and in a few cases, debilitating depression. (By depression, I mean a lengthy period of not being able to cope.)

Here are some practical tips on how to begin to deal with depression associated with a cancer diagnosis. Following these 10 tips may sound easy, but it is difficult to change the course of our lives in the middle of a crisis. That’s all the more reason to change our lives today, so that we are ready in case cancer, or any other life-threatening crisis, confronts us.

Ten Tips for Dealing with Depression When You Have Cancer

  1. Express your emotion. Then, use the energy of your grief or anger to propel you forward in the direction you choose.
  2. Insist on the best treatment available. You deserve it.
  3. Inform yourself. Start with the basics, such as short articles on alive.com. You can also obtain detailed scientific information from the research links at the Canadian Cancer Society website, cancer.ca.
  4. If you need help ask for it! Demand answers from your health care practitioners. Expect family, friends, and medical professionals to listen to you and provide you with what you require.
  5. Keep friends and family up to date on your progress, whether in person, on the telephone, or on the Internet. CarePages.com offers a free, private forum to connect family and friends of cancer patients and share news, support, and encouragement.
  6. Eat right. A diet with fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and nuts provides your brain with the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to regulate function.
  7. Ensure you have adequate nutrients in your diet. Nutrients are used by the body for growth, energy, and repair. The nutritional needs of those with cancer are different from person to person. For information about specific depression-related nutrients, speak to your health care practitioners. They will tell you about the beneficial impact of St. John’s wort; fish oil; camomile; fresh basil leaves; vitamins B12, C, and D; and iron. As well, they might explain the role of supplements such as rubidium, phenylalanine, tyrosine, tryptophan, and S-adenosyl methionine (SAM-e).
  8. Beware of antidepressants. These drugs can have unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, gastro-intestinal problems, and sexual dysfunction. alive magazine author Kyle Looby explains her success in using alternatives to antidepressant drugs in “Fighting depression on my own” at alive.com.
  9. Exercise your body. Keeping fit–especially hiking outdoors in the sun–produces brain chemicals called dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which help maintain mental equilibrium. Low levels of serotonin, for example, can lead to depression, anxiety, and sleep disruption. The consumption of the amino acid tryptophan increases the amount of serotonin made by the brain. Tryptophan is available as a supplement and is also found in turkey, milk, yogourt, cheddar cheese, salmon, and a number of other health-promoting foods.
  10. Above all, focus on the quality of your life. Do you want to relax, travel, paint, read, laugh, chat, sing, hug your grandkids, write poetry, get a pet, worship, join a cancer walk, dance, vent, or do anything else that brings you joy? Define what a realistic, high quality of life is for you, then invite input from friends and family, and engage
    their support.

Envision the life you are craving.

Create it, and celebrate your success. Start today.

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