Coping with Depression during Breast Reconstruction

By: Courtney Floyd

Blogs
August 14, 2014

With all the news and media attention currently focused around the heartbreaking tragedy of Robin Williams’ suicide, I believe it is important to address the very real struggle of depression that can arise during the journey of breast reconstruction.

Depression is more than feeling gloomy or sad for a few days. Symptoms of depression do not go away and can gain control of your life. The most commonly identified signs of depression are:

  • sadness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • change in weight
  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time
  • energy loss
  • feeling worthless, helpless, or hopeless
  • thoughts of death or suicide

It is important to remember that sadness is a natural part of your breast reconstruction experience. After a diagnosis of breast cancer you can easily become overwhelmed with all of the treatments, doctor’s appointments, and the challenging realization you are being pushed unwillingly into a fight for your life. The stress and grief you feel is something you need to express and move through. If you do not allow yourself to grieve, the unresolved grief gets in the way of feeling and getting better.

During breast reconstruction surgery, it is important to feel and work through every frustration. From the unwelcome reality of the changes your body will endure, to accepting the time it takes to heal after surgery and the limitations you will encounter while recovering, feeling and expressing your frustrations and sadness is important. Some pain medications, especially opiates, can cause depression as well, so it is important to take your medication as prescribed after surgery.

If you, or a close loved one, feel you may be suffering from depression, it is important to seek help from a professional.

You are not alone is this expedition through breast reconstruction. Stay positive, seek help if you need it, and know your breast cancer sisters are behind you all the way.

In closing, and in remembering the late Robin Williams, I leave you with this quote:

“You'll have bad times, but it'll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to.” --Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting

8 Comments

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  • Barbara

    It’s an ongoing process with the depression - I have lost 25-27 lbs so that is great, but my back issues are no better! The DIEP FLAP is my procedure with nipple reconstruction by Dr. Ledoux - unfortunately only one side accepted the “belly” boob and the other is an implant - not a huge difference in feel as there is no feeling - besides the scars that is the big scar! Sexuality loss. Very tough with my back and that was somewhat of a compensation - now no sexual relations in 4 years - I think we “know they won’t work” but it is not really grasped. I am going to make a trip to Baltimore to have the “Michaelangelo” of nipple tattoo art do my tattoos. I’m glad to be alive, but trying to claim my life back. Please understand the care I received was wonderful, but I truly believe more counseling about choices need to be reiterated so that “we” get it. There is no benefit to a tummy tuck to a short waisted woman - any fat gained now is above the belly button and suffocating! Very hard to burn off and it is fat carried around the rib cage - my nipple repair the one is all but blended into my chest and the other droops like a nigh nose - not appealing - and I did research lots of it! It would be nice if after awhile someone called to see how we are doing! Sorry for the rant - had a lot to get off my chest - so to speak!

    Reply
  • p

    Thank you so much for your honesty Barbara! It is so important to be aware of your feelings and I am so sorry you had this experience. When complications occur it only makes it that much more difficult of a journey to endure and I applaud you for your bravery. Thanks so much for sharing and I wish you the best of luck with your nipple tattoos! They are going to look amazing!

    Reply
  • Connie

    My surgery for bilateral reconstruction is scheduled for this Thursday, March 17th. I was diagnosed with DCIS High Grade Flat Necrosis with clear margins. It was 1.024 inches. In the past I have had diagnosis of LCIS and Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia. So, this is my choice after much research and several professional opinions. However, my biggest concern is depression. My breast now are 44 DDD and in good shape. I am widowed and more worried about my dating world and how men will react to me. How do I deal with this? Concerned..Connie

    Reply
  • PRMA Plastic Surgery

    Hey Connie! This a very real and honest confession, and one that many women feel before breast reconstruction. Everyone reacts and copes with trauma in different ways. It is always a good idea to find a counselor who you trust to help you work through any anxieties you may face after surgery. Speaking with other women who have gone through breast reconstruction may be helpful too! If you would ever like me to put you in contact with a few of our previous patients, please let me know!

    Reply
  • Glenda

    breast cancer tnbc stage 3c mastectomy or cancer side then radiation then mastectomy on right side with latissimus dorsi flap with expanders placed 720 cc on fills waiting for implants was a d cup before bc wanting to be after implants but I’m a plus size gal what can I expect right now I’m so over all of this cancer journey I’m tired of it all I can cry at the drop of a hat I also have a high thyroid 40.9 finaly dropped to 12.5 on synthroid 250mcg cant seem to lose any weight I feel alone at this point ready to be ocver all ofthis

    Reply
  • PRMA Plastic Surgery

    Please know you are not alone sweet Glenda! Breast cancer is not an easy journey—it’s hard—and it’s something you did not ask for! There are so many other women who are experiencing the same feelings as you! Please seek out support groups either online or in your area for support. If you would like, we can connect you with some that we know of! You can get through this Glenda! I know it!

    Reply
  • Katina

    I’m so sick of people using positive words and phrases to describe what you go through when you are diagnosed with bc. It’s not am adding journey it’s a night mare that robs you of everything good . It’s not a “new” body , but a scarred painful remnant of what used to be . Women deserve to live not merely survive . My life is now about finding what is ” tolerable ” and accepting that I will never be pain free and while again . I got no choices . Do the treatments I was told it be dead in 6 months . I would rather be dead than just exist like this . Yes I am getting therapy and meds as well as pain management pt and ot but none of it has made a difference . My doctors say they can do more after surgery but I will have to live with a certain level of pain the rest of my life . I’m 41 and have 2 kids to raise . Thanks for nothing .

    Reply
  • PRMA Plastic Surgery

    Thank you so much for you openness and honesty Katina! Breast cancer is not an easy road and I am sure there are many others out there who feel the same as you do. It is encouraging to hear you are seeking the medical care you need and I hope you can continue to have faith in your providers to help you. You are young and have two beautiful children to live for who I am sure love you very much! Stay strong Katina! Do not let this defeat you!

    Reply
PRMA Plastic Surgery