February 5, 2012February 5th, 2012 at 10:43 pm by Deanna Dewberry under Deanna's Journey
I’ve not written in months, and I have to tell you why. I finished chemotherapy in July and shortly thereafter a cloud descended shrouding my reality with a darkness I simply couldn’t clear away. Depression has been my constant companion, the unwelcome visitor who brought not only luggage, but also his own furniture, moving into my place and space with a recalcitrant arrogance I’ve not experienced before.
Depression isn’t uncommon among those battling the big C. According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of depression among cancer survivors is 25 percent compared to 7 percent in the general population. You can imagine all the reasons why, the biggest of which is dealing with the stark unrelenting reminder of your mortality. I’ve now had cancer three times – Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, acute myelogenous leukemia, and triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative – the name so painfully, profoundly appropriate – especially in my case. After three unrelated cancers, I have to come to the conclusion that I’m a biological misfit marked by an unseen, unidentified, vulnerability to cellular mutation. And that’s scary. Every cancer survivor lives with the fear that the cancer will return. In my case, the fear is three fold.
Fear and anger turned inward is depression. It’s that simple and not that simple. I was haunted by an ever- gray existence. And then there was guilt. I’ve met so many in my journey not doing as well as I. “How dare I be depressed,” I told myself. After all, I’d been given life – another chance. I’d beat myself up for not being able to just get on with it. And that made things worse. I couldn’t write about it; I was overwhelmed by the thought of writing about this gray force I couldn’t define. But writing about anything else seemed disingenuous. So I wrote about nothing – leaving viewers asking, “Are you okay?” I always responded in the affirmative. Physically, I was better than expected. But emotionally, every day was a slog. Because depression is not uncommon among survivors I’ve provided a link to the National Cancer Institute with information on cancer and depression. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment/page6
I also strongly suggest survivors seek the support of other survivors. I serve on the board of the Cancer Support Community and have provided a link there as well. http://www.twc-indy.org/faq.html
I finally began to feel the fog lift at Christmas when my mother got out of the hospital. I’ll save that story for another post. But suffice it to say, Mom’s illness and recovery brought about my epiphany. And I vowed to start the new year with a new focus on emotional and mental clarity.
I exercise daily – hard cardio that forces me to focus on nothing else. And only when the fog finally began to clear, was I able to write about it. I’m facing each day with a brighter outlook, and that’s why it’s sadly ironic that my first post in months is about the death of my collie.
Those following my blog for the last year know how beautifully instrumental Tipper was in my recovery. She was my rock, possessing a doggy intuition that helped keep me sane, grounded, and grateful. Three
weeks ago she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The vet prescribed steroids which had an amazing effect. She was energetic and happy. I had my dog back. I was able to fool myself into thinking she was improving.
But in truth, the medicine provided only a temporary reprieve – a few wonderful weeks with the beautiful girl that has been an integral furry member of our family since we adopted her from the humane society in 2006. We rescued her, but in truth, she rescued us. She was a dog who taught us the essence of our humanity. I learned from Tipper that every time someone you love comes to the door of your heart, it’s cause for celebration. I learned that no perceived slight is beyond forgiveness. And I learned that showing love without fear of rejection is its own reward.
Yesterday morning Tipper woke me at 3:00 a.m. She wasn’t feeling well. I sat on the floor and held her for hours. By yesterday afternoon, she was gone. And while I miss her terribly, I’m filled with gratitude. She was so beautiful – inside and out – and she let me love her and returned that love with a purity of heart only a dog can possess. That’s a gift. She was our gift from a good and gracious God.
I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating. God made dogs. And yes, God is good.