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Dr Mary

Posts: 1154
Joined: Jun 2010

Can you enlighten me on the PSTD thing after chemo? I have seen you post about it.

DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

We were warned by the caseworker from BC/BS to expect a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the patient at least, probably in the caregiver, and possibly in the kids. When you think about it, the time after treatment ends is very much like the time after a combat vet comes home. You see the enemy everywhere and continue to show signs of stress. The vet sees a bomb in every backpack and can't explain why he can't just relax and enjoy life now that "it's all over." For the cancer patient, this means you see cancer in every twinge and you start to snap at those folks who say, "so everything's fine now, right?" since, yes, you are done with treatment, but now you have to wait and find out if you have to go through it all again, or if they've killed other organs with the treatment, or if they've caused cancer elsewhere with the treatment, or.. .

Couple that with the extreme change in routine - for about 5 weeks, all we did was drive to radiation every day, see doctors, buy drugs, research drugs, buy more drugs, research supplements, buy supplements, research refeeding syndrome, track every single nutrient (in and out), count and inspect stomach, bladder and bowel output. It was intense, but it also took up a lot of our time. Suddenly, life is almost normal. I keep waiting for the daily crisis but it doesn't happen. I feel like I'm all ready for whatever comes.. . but it doesn't.

I think Doug and I have a handle on our stress, but the kids (the 13-year-old, especially) need help. He saw his father throw up so many times in a day he lost count - he would sit in the same room during the day and would jump every time Doug even coughed, and then run to get a basin/towel/water or me if it wasn't a false alarm. He saw Doug go from Superman to needing him to make trips up and down the stairs to get the decorations for the holidays. The 17-year-old went through more, but she also had the relief of being the one in charge when we were gone, so at least she felt less helpless. She's also been going to a counselor weekly for her own issues (we were about to stop that when this happened) so she has support there.

I'm following up to see if ACS has help - I'm not sure he'll be interested, but we need to try. He's not sleeping well and he really wants to spend more and more time on the video games. He does get exercise, both at school and with Tae Kwon Do, but he's not doing much else (that part doesn't take Freud to figure out - he and his father used to go out and play in the yard together almost every day - I'm hoping it gets warmer soon, as it's tough for Doug to play out in the cold).

Sorry - probably more rambling than information. PTSD is poorly understood among vets (and was largely ignored for years and still doesn't get the attention it should, but don't get me started on that one) and not talked about so much in cancer survivors.

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the world again. . .

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