My own cancer isn’t what causes me the most depression

Before I start, I want to say that I am not suffering from depression. But I do have a lot of depressing moments. These moments of depression, however, are not directly caused by my cancer. Instead, these moments of depression are caused by the cancer present in others, specifically in children. In this brief post, I will blog about knowing so many children that have cancer.

I know too many children with cancer

Over the last few years, I have followed the progress of two different friends with children that have cancer. Both of these cases have had a lot of ups and downs. And currently, both kids are fighting hard against what appears to be a huge uphill battle. These poor kids have endured many rounds and types of chemo, radiation, stem-cell transplants, Car-T Cell therapy, experimental drugs, and who knows what else. For both of these young men, there have been multiple times where things appear are looking better. And then wham…. Suddenly things are worse than they were before.

Additionally, due to this blog and other means, I have gotten to hear the stories of dozens of children fighting cancer. I have spent countless hours speaking to parents about their children. Most of this time I spend just listening. Some of these parents feel like they have nobody to talk to truly. I have no problem being an ear for such people. If anyone reading this needs someone to speak with, I will make my cell phone number available.

At the end of the day, I follow the progress of probably almost three dozen children fighting cancer. Three dozen might not sound like a lot to some people. But to me, that three dozen children seems like an unbelievably high number. I mean, these are children with cancer. I have a long life of making poor decisions and can look back at many possible ways I got my cancer. But these children might not even have a long life thanks to cancer. It can get overwhelming when I think about it.

What keeps me upbeat

Even though it can get overwhelming, I’ve learned not to let it overwhelm me. Last summer, when I was going through depression, I was able to speak with someone who helped me and continues to do so. I am generally back to being a pretty positive person. When I start to get overwhelmed by the pain and suffering of children with cancer, I begin to focus on what I can do to help them. Specifically, I focus on this blog and the upcoming podcast. I have found sharing my story has helped some of these parents get through their struggles. By reading what I go through, these parents sometimes feel they understand what their child is going through.

That’s me dressed as a Ghostbuster! Get ready to see a lot more of that plus other costumes in 2020!

The other thing I do to get through the onset of depression is to focus on what I now call my “geek charity initiative.” Last year I joined the South Dakota Ghostbusters (SDGB). The SDGB is a group that dresses as Ghostbusters and raises money for charity. There are other related groups I am hoping to join in the future. Specifically, there is a superhero and a Star Wars group I hope to join. I need to focus on getting costumers together. These groups do beautiful things for the community. Not only do they raise money for charities, usually relating children, they also visit sick kids in hospitals. Bringing some joy to a kid that is very sick is one way I feel that I can be of help. I hope to do as much of that in the future as I can.

My plans for this year

As I wrap up this post, I am feeling very optimistic. I have plans to keep this blog going. Additionally, I will be doing a podcast to accompany this post. Actually, a friend of mine is trying to talk me into doing a blog and podcast about my “geek charity initiative.” I might do that. There are at least a few charity events this year, which I hope to attend in full costume. I fully plan to find ways to help as many kids with cancer as I can this year.

Song of the day: When the Children Cry

This song from White Lion is more about what we adults are doing to mess up the world for future generations. But yet I can’t help but think something we adults have been doing is to blame for so many children (and adults) having cancer. For that reason this cheesy 80’s hairband ballad is today’s song:

Bonus Song: Ghostbusters

Yes, I am going to include the theme song from Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. The movie Ghostbusters had a significant impact on me as a kid, and now as an adult, I pretend to be one. I ain’t afraid of no ghost!

Losing a friend to cancer

Last week I mentioned that I had lost the ability to write for a few months. There were many factors that likely led to this condition. Looking back I believe one of the biggest impacts on my state of mind had to do with losing a friend to cancer. In this post I will share that experience.

I’ve mentioned many times on this site that I plan to do a podcast. As fate would have it I found another person via a Facebook cancer support group who shared my same vision for doing a podcast. For the purpose of this post I am going to call her Jane. This is not her real name, but I explain later on why I can’t use her real name.

We recently met to work on a podcast

Jane and I both wanted to do a podcast dealing with the family side of a cancer diagnosis. In the podcast we planned to have guests that included cancer patients and cancer family members. I have found sharing my experience on this blog has helped a lot of cancer family members out. Together Jane and I thought we could do even more to help cancer family members understand they are not alone. Plus, Jane had some experience in radio years ago and had what I would consider a perfect voice for a podcast.

Jane and I spent much of January, February, and March going through various ideas about what to do with the podcast. Due to my tech background I spent a lot of time figuring out the “hows” of doing a podcast; while Jane worked on creating podcast outlines. The whole process was great and I enjoyed working with her on this project. Even though we only knew each other a few months, I considered her a very close friend by the end of March.

As early April approached we decided it was time to take our idea to the next step. Jane and I decided the next step would be to contact a podcast guru I know of in Sioux Falls, SD, who is the media genius behind The Sioux Empire Podcast Network. Our plan was to speak with the guru and present him with our ideas. Perhaps he could give us any pointers and we hoped our podcast might be a good fit to include with his current lineup of podcasts. Accordingly I had finished the draft of a proposal and waited for Jane to give her input. That input never came.

Worrying about a friend

After a couple of days of no reply from Jane I began to get worried. I knew she had recently fallen out of remission and was going to be going through chemotherapy again. Even though we had become friends, I actually know very little about the current condition or history of her cancer. Jane really didn’t like to talk about her health issues and I respected that. Now that I was getting no reply back from her I kept wondering just how bad her fall from remission was and worrying about whether she would be OK.

Days turned into a couple of weeks and I still had not heard from her. I messaged her on Facebook and left a couple of voicemails on her cell phone and land line. No reply ever came from Jane. Her Facebook presence had simply stopped the day I sent her the proposal. As each day progressed I got more and more worried about her. Looking back I really should have shared my worries with my wonderful wife. But it was the busy season at our tax office and I did not want to bother her. I think my lack of sharing this with my wife caused my emotional state to become even worse.

Finally I get a reply of sorts

Just over two weeks after I last heard from Jane I finally got a phone call. The call came from Jane’s granddaughter. It was not a good call. During the call I found out Jane had died gong through surgery. I was devastated after hearing this. Even though I had my own cancer experience, I was not really prepared for the possibility I could lose a friend to cancer. I didn’t know what to say.

Jane’s granddaughter then began yelling on the phone. Due to my being stunned from the news of Jane’s death and my bad hearing I actually didn’t catch all of what she was saying. But I did get the important parts. I found out that Jane had previously decided against having any more procedures done. But after associating with me and working on this podcast project, Jane decided she wanted to go through with a risky procedure in order to better battle cancer.

It was then Jane’s granddaughter let me know the family blamed the podcast project for her death. They believed if Jane had not done such a risky procedure that she would still be around. Further she said I was very evil for giving her grandmother false hope and that I was personally to blame for her death. That struck me hard. She went on further to state that I was not allowed to use Jane as part of my blog and that her family would be watching to be sure I don’t. I have respected that wish by changing Jane’s name, but nothing else has been changed.

If I recall correctly, the only thing I said towards the end of the phone call was “what”. After that Jane’s granddaughter yelled something else I couldn’t understand and hung up the phone. That was the last ever heard from Jane’s family, and I doubt I will ever hear more from them again.

Depression set in

I felt as if I had just been accused of murder. Well I think I really had been accused of murder. Not only had I just lost a friend to cancer, but I was being told it was my fault. I didn’t know how to deal with this. I didn’t know how I should feel or what I should do.

Instead of seeking help from my wife or someone else I simply kept it bottled inside. I did not want to bother anyone with my problem. Part of me also felt guilty for being the cause of Jane’s death. The intellectual part of me knew I had nothing to do with Jane’s passing. But a big part of my heart kept telling me the granddaughter was right in accusing me of causing Jane’s death. Even today I still somewhat feel that way.

As April moved on I became more and more withdrawn. I would put up a front when out in public so people wouldn’t know what was going on. But I know some people, such as my wife, knew there was something wrong. Sadly I never shared this experience with anyone until writing this post. Had I done so sooner I believe depression may not have set in so deep.

Moving forward

Going forward there were other factors I believe led to my bout with depression. However the death of Jane was the big event that really started my downward spiral. Even today I do not believe my depression is completely gone. But I know I am much better emotionally now than I was just a few months ago. Part of me hopes by writing about the past few moths will help me work through any lingering depression.

PS

This post took three days to write and rewrite. Just today I removed almost 1,000 words talking about how I felt. None of it made sense, so it had to be cut. I will possibly try in a future post try to pass on what I was feeling and experiencing.

Today’s song

It is my custom to play this Terry Jacks song when a friend or relative dies…

Bonus song

The podcast will happen. I am currently working on finding a new partner for the podcast. She would have wanted that. Sing it Freddie…