Alex Trebek: Managing Depression After a Cancer Diagnosis

Alex Trebek recently announced he is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Later, during an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, the Jeopardy host spoke about experiencing depression after his chemotherapy treatments. “I’ve had kidney stones, I’ve had ruptured discs, so I’m used to dealing with pain. But what I’m not used to dealing with is the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness. And it brings tears to my eyes… but I’m fighting through it,” Trebek told Roberts. “There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I’m really depressed today, and I have no idea why. Why and I crying?” 

If you or a loved one received a cancer diagnosis, you might feel depressed now and then. What can you do if you start to feel hopeless about your health status? The Cheat Sheet reached out to experts and cancer survivors to learn more about managing depression after a cancer diagnosis.

Get support

Get involved. Support groups and community activities are ways to keep you social while satisfying your mental health needs. No two cancer experiences are the same, but being around other cancer patients will give you a sense that you’re not alone.

Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN, registered nutritionist specializing in oncology and weight management

Seek help from a mental health professional

Alex Trebek|Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
Alex Trebek|Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Seek help after the first step of acknowledging the anger, the sadness, hurt, and frustration. Being able to talk to a professional with a neutral point of view helps bring new perspective. It’s critical when you are feeling so isolated, which is what many patients experience. Despite the encouragement and support of loved ones, it’s lonely to deal with such an extreme diagnosis. Seeking help first is key. Adding medication to the fold may be right for some people, though with the amount of medication already being introduced into your system, it may not be what people are open to in the beginning.

Stephanie Chuang, founder of The Patient Story, a cancer patient and caregiver voice and platform

Set a schedule

Create a schedule for yourself even if it’s a simple one such as ‘8:00 am get out of bed, 9:00 am breakfast, 9:30-11:45 rest.’

Mike Robinson, founder, Global Cannabinoid Research Center, Santa Barbara, CA

Exercise

Alex Trebek| Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM
Alex Trebek| Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM

An excellent way to manage depression after a cancer diagnosis is by participating in a Cancer Recovery Fitness program. We know that exercise is helpful for healthy people, but it is especially helpful for cancer patients. Exercise groups are created and are comprised of patients who have similar cancers, surgeries, issues, and concerns, resulting in a support group. This makes taking care of health enjoyable, fun and cost effective.

Carol Michaels MBA, creator of Recovery Fitness

Don’t keep your feelings bottled up

Keeping our feelings in and bottling up our emotions can turn into a full blown major depressive disorder. Don’t try to do it all alone and definitely don’t listen to people who make you feel as if they’re minimizing your situation.

Mike Robinson, founder, Global Cannabinoid Research Center, Santa Barbara, CA

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