Diem Brown Blogs: Dealing with Mood Swings After Chemo
"Feeling like you don't have control of your emotions is one of the most frustrating side effects," Brown says
After successfully battling ovarian cancer for the second time and sharing her journey on PEOPLE.com, Diem Brown is back to blogging. This time around, she will not only share updates on her own life, but also about competing on her new show, MTV’s The Challenge: Rivals II.
Success is when preparation meets opportunity.
Some people might call me overly cautious, but I try to make sure that when the right opportunity presents itself that I am 100 percent prepared for it. That, above all, explains why I ran, swam, and trained so hard in preparation for this season of The Challenge. I was terrified that if I slacked off, my cancer treatment side effects would catch up to me in the final.
Chemo is no joke – it’s like nuking an anthill as it kills the cancer, but it also ravages your entire body. You can see the visible side effects but some of the most annoying side effects aren’t visible to the eye. Your body has been fighting a war and it’s tired. Your mind has been clouded with what I call "chemo brain" and so you’re not as sharp and it’s harder to remember things. Your hormone levels are being tweaked around with injections and pills so at times you feel verifiably crazy.
That last invisible side effect – the hormones – is what I felt affected me the most on this challenge.
I like to think of myself as a pretty laid back, easy going type of person. However, on this challenge I felt I had very little patience, leading to a short fuse and intense mood swings. I wasn’t sure if it was from the steroids, from the chemo, from menopause, or from the hormone shots.
Things I would normally brush off would eat at me non-stop. I could feel this inner rage building, creating a monster that was tip-toeing around inside me just waiting for something to tick it off. I’m reminded of that scene from Knocked Up where Katherine Heigl screams at Seth Rogen, so I assume pregnant women also know this fun lil’ mood swing monster.
Feeling like you don’t have control of your emotions is one of the most frustrating side effects. When I was first told about these mood swings and menopausal craziness I laughed it off thinking, “Stop! I can control how I act and how I feel. I’ll be fine.”
Well, I learned very quickly how missing a pill or an injection drastically affected my mood. There were some days where I was incredibly sad for no reason, my body felt heavy and exhausted, and I didn’t feel the warmth of happiness anywhere around me. I could tell I was overreacting but I couldn’t stop it.
Dealing with the Side Effects on TV
“I feel crazy what’s wrong with me?!?” Doctors warned me about these mood swings, but I honestly had no idea how dramatically the hormones really do affect your mood. You go from laughing to crying as quickly as quickly as you can turn a page in a book.
I didn’t talk about my fun lil’ menopausal adventures because, let’s be honest, the word “menopause” is not something women like to talk about. The word alone made me feel judged. It’s embarrassing to admit that, but I felt like I was on The Golden Girls talking about prune juice instead of being on an MTV show talking about fun, risk-taking adventures.
I wish we could alter our notions associated with the “M” word. Maybe it’s not “our notions” but rather “my notions.” Maybe I’m the one who has attached such negative feelings to menopause, I don’t know but I wanna be honest and open so that said, I’m honestly working on it.
My other housemates on Rivals 2 were healthy, young athletes and at times I did feel insecure around them, scared I might not be able to physically keep up being only weeks removed from chemo treatments. So I would run and, yes, sometimes I would run three times a day! Heck, if anyone wanted a running partner I was their girl! I would run, lift, swim and do puzzles because I wanted to prepare my body and mind to overcome the feeling of exhaustion.
Happy to Be on the Show
Aneesa saw me as this crazy runner girl, but I was quietly afraid I may have lost a step. I was now working with a post-chemo combat body. It did a fantastic job kicking cancer’s booty but physically it was drained. I didn’t want to let the after-effects of chemo win so I would push myself everyday so that my body got used to overcoming the feeling of wanting to quit.
Was I annoying to Aneesa about running? Heck yeah I was. Rivals 2 is a team challenge so I wanted us to do as much together as possible. Paula and Emily worked out together every day, and sometimes twice a day. They were the girl team to beat so I thought we should be training harder than they were. I would get frustrated because I wasn’t sure if Aneesa had the same first place ambitions as I had.
I wanted to win and felt the only way to get to first place was to train harder than anyone else. My approach to motivating Aneesa however, needed work!
I am so happy I was able to come on this show because it was a great escape and presented me with a training ground to get myself feeling like I was back to normal. The houses used for the challenge shows are always filled with some crazies and so this time, with all my medication and hormonal mood swings, I felt like I fit right in.
I want to highlight that if you’re going through chemo, menopause or any hormone therapy, know that the mood swings and side effects do eventually stop and your hormones do level off and allow you to feel like yourself again. It feels so good once you are able to regain control of your emotions.
The hormonal reactions are a phase, so prepare yourself and strap in for your “fun” roller coaster adventure, knowing there’s a finish line where you can get off the ride.
Relive Diem’s Emotional Journey on PEOPLE.com: