You never want to be the roommate that is always home. That would be me right now. 

For the first time in decades, I don’t have a carry-on suitcase in my bedroom awaiting the next spontaneous trip. Occasionally I feel a pang of FOMO (damn social media).  Everyone sipping Aperols in Tuscany, vintage shopping in Paris, and embracing the magic of Japan. I used to do all that. But I understand that I have one job right now and there is no running from it. 

I’ve been thinking of the Hebrew expression “The shoemaker walks barefoot.” It means a person with a certain skill uses it for others, but not for themselves.

Despite going through a crisis of immense magnitude, I accepted my own anxiety and depression as a given.

Me take an antidepressant? This situation reminds me of the oncologists’ study where the majority reported they would refuse chemotherapy for themselves. I am aware of the potential drawbacks of antidepressants, having researched treatment-resistant depression for years.  I find it challenging to place my faith in these medications. Is my current state not just a natural response to a devastating situation? 

Natural or not, when I was diagnosed with lung cancer for a second time, my anxiety and depression were incompatible with human life. I was terrified. I felt useless, small, and weak. I could not eat or sleep. I could not stop crying. 

I prayed with all my might for my heart to stop beating.

I know how much cancer loves anxiety. It was a trade-off. Take the medication or feed the cancer. I chose to be kind to my body. 

Two weeks before my first chemotherapy cycle, I started taking escitalopram, a commonly prescribed antidepressant belonging to the class of serum serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This was not prescribed by my oncologist despite my ongoing reports of anxiety and dark mood. I made an appointment with a therapist. Medication alone is not enough. I also started meditating on a regular basis. 

I believe that these interventions are having a positive impact. The initial change that I observed was a reduction in my frequency of crying. My sleep has improved and I am now able to function more effectively. I have noticed a decrease in my thoughts of death. Although I wonder if my emotions may be blunted. I prefer this state over disabling anxiety any day. 

Now more than ever, I comprehend the resistance my patients have to taking medication. But I also find it profoundly perplexing why many of us continue to endure suffering – refraining from utilizing available treatment options. I have transitioned from the barefoot shoemaker to someone who now trusts and respects my own profession. 


Dr. Annie K.