Advice from Rob: Have cancer? Depressed? Do these 3 things

October 7, 2014 | by rdarakjian


Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian shares tips on how to overcome anxiety and depression while being treated for cancer.


Rob Darakjian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 19 years old. He began chemotherapy and was in and out of the hospital for four months. After his fourth round of treatment, he received a bone marrow transplantation from an anonymous donor. Today, he's cancer free.


In his previous post, he shared his story and explained what NOT to do when you're depressed and have cancer. Here, he explains what TO do.


Being in a hospital for a prolonged period of time is depressing. You may not get depressed or be as prone to depression as I am, but if you find yourself in the hospital with cancer, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have at least a few depressive episodes.

You cannot think your way out of depression, this is a key thing to remember. Naturally, when you're distraught, you want to solve the problem as soon as possible so you turn inward and start thinking. You believe that, by thinking, you’re going to find the “magic switch” that will bring the happy back.

Wrong. When you’re legitimately depressed, you're unable to think rationally. Your brain isn’t working as it normally would. Here are some things to think about and, most important, DO when you’re feeling as if you’re trapped in a dark closet and you’ve suddenly forgotten how to turn the door handle to let yourself out.

What cancer patients should DO when they're depressed:

1. Expect to feel horrible. Positive affirmations ... are going to feel like nails on a chalkboard to you at this point. So set yourself a time limit, say 10 minutes, then turn off the TV or anything else that can distract you, sit there, and concentrate on how awful you truly feel.... After the allotted time is up, get up, play a piece of upbeat music, or just stop trying to consciously feel bad and tell yourself: "Hey I'm still here. I survived that!" This is how you learn that your feelings and thoughts, as bad as they are, cannot really harm you. They don't, by themselves, define who you are. You are not helpless.

Warning: You only want to do this so much. There’s a big difference between actively exploring your negative feelings, and “wallowing” in them. After you’re done with your 10 minutes, you have to be done. You’ll still feel bad, but you’ll learn that it’s OK to feel bad sometimes.

2. Exercise as much you can. Exercise is found to be just as good [as medication]. It's the last thing you want to do, but exercise actually releases feel good chemicals in your brain. So get on that stationary bike and peddle away, my friend.

3. Call up a friend. Notice I didn't say text them, or message them on Facebook. Use your phone's main function and hear the voice of someone who cares about you.... Try and have a bit of normal conversation before you tell them you're feeling bad.... Now, you've not only let your friend know how you feel and gotten some things off your chest, you've talked with someone who isn't depressed. See, you're going to feel better and get back to living again sometime; the person you've talked to is living proof of that.

Next: How to reduce cancer-related anxiety.


If you're a cancer patient at City of Hope and experiencing depression symptoms that make it hard to go on or having suicidal thoughts, call your social worker or the City of Hope triage nurse, or visit your local ER. Don't suffer alone.



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