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View Diary: Monday Night Cancer Club: Cancer and PTSD (111 comments)

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  •  My wife and I were both diagnosed with PTSD ... (13+ / 0-)

    A couple of years after our son's cancer diagnosis at 2. And the funny thing is, four years later, the more time passes, the more I tend to feel its effects. During that terrible 14 months of treatment, everything was so real and immediate and visceral that there wasn't time to be freaked out about it. Precisely BECAUSE we might lose him at any day, we couldn't think about how we might lose him any day. Even when he was going into an isolation room for a wildly risky stem cell transplant, we didnt give much thought to the odds he would never leave that room alive. Too much else going on to worry about it.

    And now, we deal with tremendous aftereffects, mostly hearing loss, but it's been three years since there was any trace of tumor in his system. He's so cheerful and sanguine about things that you would never know what he'd been through, not unless you have the experience to pick up on those subtly hollow eyes that you can't get any other way. The more time passes, the more I flash back -- to the night before his diagnosis, seeing him try to walk into our room and collapsing in the hallway; carrying him to the car not long later and feeling him struggle for breath, not knowing that he was literally fighting to hold onto his last shred of life; following behind and holding his IV pole as he ran through hospital halls, never quite being sure if he would even run any other way.

    Oddly enough, it's real life that is the hardest to deal with now. Maybe because I expended so much energy on cancer that I have no concept of what normal life is anymore. So many months of total biological war, and yet I'm more prone to crying over the phone bill than I ever was over cancer. Except that I think the tears over bills really ARE the cancer tears, just transferred elsewhere.

    It's affecting my parenting in ways I didn't expect. I find it hard to not give tremendous amounts of time and attention to him; even when we're on our second and third hour of him insisting I play with his "Cars" toys as he insists I go through the script with him VERBATIM, I find it hard to tear away because I remember with perfect clarity when I would have given anything in the world to have him pester me for playtime instead of sleep for 20 hours a day.

    Sometimes I just have to smile at it, too. He's a typical six-year-old brat, with all the occasional selfishness and lack of consideration that implies, and also combined with nerves of steel and an absolute inability to know when it's best to quit. And even though that's extremely annoying when he's applying it to the Pixar aisle at Toys R Us, it's impossible to hate it TOO much when you consider it's that very tenacity, that dogged refusal to give up and the will to win at all costs, that is directly responsible for him being alive today. I shudder at the thought of the day he genuinely realizes what's happened to him and tries to leverage it against me! Until then, he'll just ask his innocent questions ("Papa, would you be sad if I was dead?") and I'll give my honest answers ("Son of mine, I would cry so many tears they would overflow the oceans") and we'll all just figure out how to move ahead with normal life. Whatever the hell THAT might be.

    •  {{{{{poguesrun and wife}}}}} (7+ / 0-)

      Because at the time your son had no way to know what was at stake, at least not intellectually.
      Now this comment of yours, I hope you realize, could be the core of a very fine diary. At the very least.
      That concept of dealing with real life when for so long you were in crisis mode.... I think I can understand. Sometimes I can almost (almost) miss it, that feeling of urgency and intensity. I never thought I was hooked on drama before, but I guess I've come close. But on re-reading your comment, I think we're talking about two different phenomena.
      Yes, for a while and maybe forever, your tears are "really" cancer tears. I am so glad for you all that you have only the phone bill to weep over.
      Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your family's story tonight.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 08:46:40 PM PDT

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      •  Not so different as you might think (7+ / 0-)

        "Sometimes I can almost (almost) miss it, that feeling of urgency and intensity. I never thought I was hooked on drama before."

        There's a famous quote from a soldier about adjusting after war: "Sometimes I wish I was back over there just so I could remember how much I wanted to be back over here."

        I don't miss cancer treatment. At ALL. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the intense focus, the absolute certainty of what I was doing and where my priorities were every second of the day, the foxhole-like camaraderie of parents, doctors and nurses all laboring in unison to save one tiny life. There was a sense of immediacy and heightened reality that makes it difficult even now to scale my mind back to be able to decide on the best cable package or what-have-you. The downside of learning REAL priorities us that all these details that make up everyday life start to seem very small and it's hard to cycle back in.

        •  Yes, I do hear you. And the war analogy here (5+ / 0-)

          is fitting in multiple dimensions.
          It's easy to set one's priorities and establish one's focus when it's a matter of life and death. Not so easy when the issues are more mundane. I also feel a bit more adrift than I'd like, more often than I'd like.
          People cam get hooked on the adrenaline rush, no matter the cause. It gets tough when people try to replicate the feeling when the circumstances don't warrant it.

          Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

          by peregrine kate on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 09:07:51 PM PDT

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        •  Great insight (4+ / 0-)

          and very true.  The focus and immediacy you mention make you forget the mundane and trivial aspects of life.  Once life returns to "normal" and we gradually slide back into the old ways, you miss the ability to easily toss off those everyday worries and problems.

          "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

          by Betty Pinson on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 05:50:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  And thanks for the kind words (7+ / 0-)

        My wife and I have spent more than one late night analyzing the effects of PTSD on our own selves and I'm more than happy to share a bit of what we've learned.

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