Cancer and low mood

by Sue_maggies

It's a drab day today - grey skies and a swirling breeze. It got me thinking about how quickly we humans can feel up or down, and the fleeting nature of ‘mood’ in general. By definition, mood is a ‘temporary state of mind or feeling’.

Living with cancer and its treatments can cause emotional turmoil. Its effect on our own mood, and everyone else around us, can be devastating.  Cancer rarely comes along at a convenient time for anyone. Combined with all the normal life stressors you may be facing, there's no wonder you may be feeling low.

When having cancer treatment, your body can experience physical and emotional reactions. It’s often easier to pinpoint the physical effects to whatever treatment you are having. However, it’s sometimes more difficult to acknowledge just what effect it is having on your mood.

It’s quite common for people with cancer to become depressed, and this may be a totally new experience. If you’ve suffered from low mood before, cancer events may bring back those old feelings, just when you could do without the added stress. (Depression is a kind of extension of the low mood, lasting for days and weeks.)

It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether your low mood is due to medication, such as hormone therapies, steroids, fatigue, body image changes, to name but a few.  Most people with cancer may feel panicky, worried, frustrated and cross at times. Tears may come easily and this may be leaving you feeling vulnerable and exposed.

Talking about your mood and its impact to your GP, hospital team, and specialist nurse, can really help. Feeling low whilst you’re trying to cope with the cancer treatment can be hard to bear.

There are helpful things that may temporarily or permanently lift your mood. I’ve been researching a few ideas that have helped others:

  •  Getting absorbed in some TV programmes, recording programmes you know lift or distract you, to watch when energy levels and mood are low.
  •  For many people, listening to music can be a mood booster, offering escapism, calmness and peace. Perhaps rather than listen to music that reflects your current   mood, listen to music which creates the mood you'd like to feel.
  •  Humour - whether it’s reading, watching or sharing humour, it can be therapeutic and heart lifting - and a great coping strategy.
  •  Friendship and support - try not to be alone all the time. It can be tempting to withdraw into our shells, as it takes effort to be sociable. However talking with others, and feeling a sense of belonging, can help lift how you feel.
  •  Exercise - although it may be limited by how you are feeling, gentle exercise can change how you feel, and tire you out in a natural way.
  • Creative writing, whether it’s an online blog, a journal, poetry, or a well earned rant about how things are, can be very cathartic.
  • If you’re an animal lover, appreciation of the unconditional affection from a loved pet can be very rewarding. However, if it’s your cat you’re hoping to receive warmth and affection from, it could depend on their mood….
  •  A hug - be it virtual, or physical, can work wonders.
  •  Visiting your local Maggie’s Centre for emotional support can help lift your mood, and ease the isolation. The cancer support specialists can talk through coping strategies to help you, and you'll recognise that you're not alone in feeling as you do.

Sometimes low mood tips into depression. You're going through a great deal, and it can be hard to feel positive some , or all of the time. If you notice you're feeling withdrawn, not sleeping well, anxious or the low mood is continuing for longer than a few days, then do have a talk with your GP. They can recognise depression, and offer support.

The first steps to relieving the low feelings you may have, is realising you don't have to do this alone.

Warm wishes


Useful links

Low mood and depression     Breast Cancer Care

Anxiety, fear and depression    American cancer Society

Cancer and your emotions     Cancer Research UK

Mood changes    National Comprehensive Cancer Network