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Starting the journey
jopo
5 Posts

Hello Everyone

This is my first foray into this website and discussion group. I admit to feeling almost guilty because my situation is not nearly as hard as that for many of the folks who write …at least not yet.

My partner was diagnosed with cancer in the lower belly about a month ago. He is 80 and I am 74. We had known each other and our late spouses socially for many years, then were both widowed and got together a bit over 2 years ago. We both had thought that we would have several years together to make new, good memories.

Although the initial diagnosis seemed like it would be a few months of treatment , then surgery and recovery, the latest discussion with the doctors is much more pessimistic. We are getting rather mixed messages, and only one option for treatment. I know there are other options-- my late husband died of lung cancer after a long struggle, but he was given an extra 5 years of decent life due to treatment options. At that time we lived in a smaller city. Now my partner and I are in Toronto. We are in one of the best hospitals in Canada for this kind of cancer, and I've found the various doctors we've seen are good, compassionate, and helpful, but I think the medical system is just overloaded and they don't have the time or energy to do more than the basics. And I suspect they are forced to ration care and an 80 year old with other health issues is not really a priority…

We are fortunate-- we have the financial resources to get additional advice, second opinions, tests and advocation, and have now hired someone to help with that. Most likely we will get a second opinion at a large institution in the US, and can go there for treatment if it is deemed advisable.

And we have a large support net of family and friends, who stay in touch frequently, at least so far…..

So we are about as well set up as anyone can be to start this journey.

But he is deeply depressed and I am looking for suggestions as to how to help him get through this phase and ready to fight for life.

He is on an antidepressant medication and has been for several years. He also saw a therapist in the past after his late wife's death but is not willing to do that right now. He's not much of a talker about his feelings anyway…… I try to do my own crying when and where he cannot see me, as he can't deal with it. I push him each day to get some light exercise, which I do with him. And I try to ensure he eats properly, although that is getting harder as he has a much diminished appetite.

Can I do anything else, or do I just wait for this phase to pass, if it will?

In our younger days we were both action-oriented professionals used to being in charge…but time and life have mellowed us both. Maybe I just need to understand how long this first depressed phase is likely to last? ….. but I worry because I know how easy it is to slide into depression and give up…..and I fear that is what is happening to him.

Thanks for any suggestions anyone can give.

14 Replies
Jackwb
407 Posts

Welcome…your journey is similar to mine and I went through the same emotions when I learned that my cancer is coming back. I've posted this before but I've now moved on from pills and pain meds (I no longer do T3's, Oxy, and Fentanyl) and have devolved to my teen years. I've taken advantage of CBD/THC and it's made a huge difference, not only to my attitude but to managing my pain. I knew 50 years ago that this worked…it's nice to learn that it still does.

Whitelilies
1901 Posts

@jopo Hello and welcome….so glad you posted! And shared, where you are at now, and your partner. It is beautiful, to hear, how you both got together, and shared, and moved forward; together.

You have both been through a lot….and now, a “new” concern is here…..his health…..many people feel depressed, upon hearing “those words”…..perhaps his meds, will take some time to “work”….perhaps reach Family Dr and tell Dr not yet working?….Would your partner talk, a bit, with you…..If you asked a question, about feelings, would he respond? You can offer kindness and compassion and care…..he must be willing, when ready, to accept it…..

“Just be”….just be together….just try your best…..

Also: ASK him….what can I do today for you? Can I make your favourite soup? Can we watch a movie together? (These are ideas, and NO talking about “C”)…..

Try, to take a minutes, each day, just for you….an outdoor walk….read a book……sit on the porch…..

I too am in ONT…..at the hospital that I was at (NYGH), there was a Social worker….you can make an appt…..not necessarily the patient; they will see loved ones too….ask for resources/ideas from the Professional….perhaps there is a local support group…..

We are all here, to support you, and your partner.

Regards

Whitelilies

jopo
5 Posts

Interesting suggestion! My late husband tried it for his cancer, but did not find it worked, it just made him nauseated. But it's worth a try if my partner's pain or depression get worse. Thanks.

jopo
5 Posts

Your comment "just be ' resonated the most with me…..and your suggestions of asking each day– I will do more of that as he responds well to that sort of question. The other night I ended up walking a few blocks in the snow to get him a take out club sandwich…which he had a craving for. And I am very aware of the need to take care of the caregiver (me), having been through this before, so I walk my little dog 3 times a day, no matter the weather. Good for us both.

Thanks so much for your empathy as well as your suggestions.

S2020
976 Posts

Hi @jopo

I am glad you found this supportive community, although sorry for the reason that brings you here.

Many useful suggestions have already been posted, and I wanted to direct you to an additional resource that may be helpful for you and your husband:

Wellspring Cancer Support-Wellness On The Web

https://wellspring.ca/online-programs/programs/all-programs/

It is an extensive list with a variety of programs for patients who have cancer, and their families/caregivers.

Upcoming programs specifically for caregivers include:

Caregivers Connect: Mindfulness For Caregiving

https://wellspring.ca/online-programs/programs/all-programs/caregivers-connect-mindfulness-for-caregiving/

Caregivers Connect: Support & Relaxation

https://wellspring.ca/online-programs/programs/all-programs/caregivers-connect-support-and-relaxation/

Other programs there are open to caregivers, too, unless the program information indicates otherwise.

Thinking about you and your husband. We are here for both of you. I am glad, too, that you have your three dogs as you go through this!

Brighty
8197 Posts

@jopo im so sorry you are going through this. I went through something similar…I took care of my partner ,42, who had stage 4 cancer and was extremely depressed. I couldnt get him to go to a therapist or open up to me. All could do was go to my own therapist . I couldnt force him to go to open up to me. The more I tried, the more angry he became. All I could do was back off, let him know I was was there. He also did not want to mention the 'c' word. Cancer was off the table. I just tried to talk to him about normal things, the hockey game, the weather, work stories etc. And do things that took his mind off cancer like watch a funny show or movie. Im so sorry you are going through this.. Just know you are doing the best you can. Please seek out support for yourself . Even if he wont go,you go!!!

Jackwb
407 Posts

The trick is in managing the dose…I'm using an oil with lots of CBD and only 5% THC (Joints Respite Max) taking about 0.4 ml before bedtime. Not enough to get a buzz but enough to relieve the anxiety and get a good night's sleep. I was prescribed lorazepam at the beginning but am now using the oil which I find works better. My sister uses THC gummies which does get her a bit “high”…I'm a diabetic and have to be careful, if I get the munchies I'll die.

supersu
727 Posts

@jopo

good morning and welcome to this site. so many wise & generous folks here willing to share their stories. each and every post has the potential to help someone else…so look at you - you are well on your way! first posts are hard, so thank you for joining us.

I cannot add any more advice/information….such wonderful pointers already shared by @Jackwb @Brighty @Whitelilies & @S2020 .

but I can offer some housekeeping advice: to alert someone that you are responding to them in particular…..you can use the ‘@’ symbol followed by the first few letters….a drop down should appear and you can choose your recipient. you know you have done it correctly when their name/handle appears in blue.

again, welcome to you and your love. nothing harder than being a caregiver….I know. let us know how you are both moving along.

cheers
su

#newdiagnosis #caregiversareANGELSonearth

Cynthia Mac
3575 Posts
Hi, jopo‍ , I cared for my Dad when he had lung cancer. Dad had depression, on and off for many years, and his doctor was just about to take him off his anti-depressants when his wife of 58 years (my mom) passed away. Two months later, Dad was diagnosed with cancer. In the end, his doctor ended up increasing his anti-depressants.

Dad tried CBD oil (apparently acquired for him by another family member. I’d have known if his doctors had issued it.) He didn’t like what it did to him. My take on it and several other “holistic” cancer treatments is that if it was “all that,” doctors would be issuing it, but they aren’t. That being said, I understand the need for a patient to try whatever they feel work, especially in view of a diagnosis deemed to be terminal.

I’m glad you recognize the need for self-care and are acting on that. It will help you be a stronger caregiver.
jopo
5 Posts

@supersu I think I got this right! Thanks.

Essjay
1731 Posts

Hi @jopo Im sorry you find yourself a caregiver for a cancer patient again. That must be hard for you…

There are definitely phases a cancer patient (and caregivers) go through after being diagnosed - shock, anger, rejection, acceptance….and over and over as you go through diagnosis, tests, hearing treatment plans, starting treatment.

Every journey is different, every cancer is different, treatment plans depend on so many factors. Your husbands lung cancer was very different to your partners abdominal cancer…

On this forum you will find forums under cancer types where patients and caregivers talk about specific issues related to their cancer - you may find it helpful to read some of the threads in The relevant forum.

When I went through breast cancer treatment at 49-50, I found I was the youngest patient at our local cancer centre most days by a long way - most of the patients were over 80, which shouldn’t be a surprise as you see more cancer diagnoses as we age. Treatment is tough at any age - for me it was nine months of treatment and a year to recover and I was fit and healthy with good liver and kidney function, and a healthy heart capable of taking the chemotherapy. I can imagine it would be harder for any patient dealing with other health issues, whatever their age. I remember my Mum (76) asking me if I would go through treatment at her age based on my experience. I told her I wasn’t sure that I would as it would be time out of living and I wasn’t sure I’d want to do that, but that reflection was as a 50 year old, not a 76 year old - my values may be different then. And if it was treatment to keep me alive rather than cure, then the options might be different, and my perspective different.

I hope you can find some support through this forum. Ask questions, share what you fell comfortable with.

best wishes, Essjay

jopo
5 Posts

@S2020 Thanks for pointing me to Wellspring on line programs….have signed up for one. Looks like a great resource.

Kcp1007
3 Posts

I'm hoping that CBD oil will help my husband and hope it has no adverse side effects. I got the highest concentration of CBD. He is on a lot of medication for other health issues apart from his recent cancer diagnosis.

Faith1
913 Posts
jopo

Hi jopo, so sorry to hear what you are going through. Just know you are not alone. I had a double mastectomy a year ago for stage three breast cancer along with 26 cancerous lymph nodes. I can tell you from my experience that taking anti-depressants for years for depression and anxiety did not help me very much. Lorazepam is not something you want to get addicted to as it is worse when you go off of it. I take yellow CBD oil with only trace amounts of thc as the thc makes me feels strange. The oil helps my sugar levels ( I am diabetic) my anxiety, my blood pressure my mood and my sleep. I only take 2ml every 12 hours, but I am very sensitive to pills etc... and so I find this is a good amount for me. With the oil you can start very slow and add a little at a time until you feel it is helping. It does not make you feel high.It does help with my pain a little but not much. I first went through a doctor to discuss my situation and health etc.. I order my oil online and it's delivered right to my door. The company is called Spectrum Therapeutics. Not all companies are ligit and give you pure quality oil so be careful. I believe the website is SpectrumTherapeutics.com I am also taking blood pressure medication and Letrozole which is a hormone blocking medication. It does not make me feel ill etc... This is just my experience. The number is 1-855-558-9333. Made in Canada in Smith Falls Ontario and I don't pay any shipping cost if I buy a certain amount. If I would have know about this years ago, I would not have taken anti-depressants! It has no adverse affects that I can tell. Hope this helps.
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