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Patricia P

Patricia P.

Hair loss, fatigue, nausea. These are some of the common side effects associated with cancer treatments. Depression and anxiety can be equally debilitating, but the emotional consequences of cancer and cancer treatments often receive less attention than the physical. That’s something Patricia P. would like to see change.

When Patricia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 shortly after she retired from her career as program coordinator for the forensic psychiatry department at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, she found herself “quite down” for the first time in her life. She was surprised to discover that the mild to moderate depression she experienced is quite common among cancer patients and may be associated with certain medications.

Anxiety, too, is common, which she experienced when her surgery was delayed because of a spontaneous hematoma. “Waiting produces so much anxiety. That’s why it is so important to reduce wait-times. If people could start treatment within two or three weeks of diagnosis, it would really reduce their worry and fear.”

She notes that the emotional scars of cancer can linger long into survivorship. “It is always in the back of your mind that the cancer may come back.”

Patricia sought and received professional help for her depression, and she now hopes to help others through her work with Cancer Care Ontario’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. “Cancer is serious enough, but no one thinks to mention the depression. People need to know that fear and anxiety are normal, and it’s okay to express them. If I can make a difference for one person through this work, that is a step forward.”