Thursday, January 26, 2012

what happens after cancer?

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:

1. "Reliving" the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity
  • Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again
  • xRepeated upsetting memories of the event
  • xRepeated nightmares of the event
  • xStrong, uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind you of the event
2. Avoidance
  • xEmotional "numbing," or feeling as though you don't care about anything
  • xFeeling detached
  • xBeing unable to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • xHaving a lack of interest in normal activities
  • xShowing less of your moods
  • xAvoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event
  • xFeeling like you have no future
3. Arousal (heh)
  • xDifficulty concentrating
  • Startling easily
  • Having an exaggerated response to things that startle you
  • xFeeling more aware, hypervigilance (to health issues)
  • xFeeling irritable or having outbursts of anger
  • xHaving trouble falling or staying asleep
You might feel guilt about the event (including "survivor guilt"). You might also have some of the following symptoms, which are typical of anxiety, stress, and tension:
  • xAgitation or excitability (these next 5 only happen in hospitals)
  • xDizziness
  • xFainting
  • xFeeling your heart beat in your chest
  • xHeadache

I've found that most PTSD information available online doesn't mention cancer at all. Perhaps because 30 years ago the survivorship for agressive cancer was much lower, or age skewed more towards the elderly, or there aren't enough cases to merit any research. Or no one cares. I'm sure it depends on the subjective experience-- how threatening the cancer was, how drastic the treatment, a person's predisposition for anxiety, genetics, etcetera. The only solution to PTSD: a shit ton of therapy.

I mention this because most of my week has been spent in NY City hospitals, and my god. my. god. It's a whole different type of crowded. It's like the airport in a snowstorm. It's every anxiety I could imagine. I sat on the dirty floor in a packed room for 3 hours waiting for my prescription. It's a lot like I imagine Ellis Island felt like; tons of helpless people stuck in a tiny dirty room, no one speaks english, and everything smells really... funky. Bad funky, not good funky. Going from insured in CA to uninsured in NY is like Dorothy going from Kansas straight to the second circle of hell (my favorite circle btw).

I didn't think this part through very well. because I avoid hospitals. because I have a little ptsd problem. see what I did there?

look i drew you a map


Anonymous said...

kaylin, i have been struggling with PTSD sine my diagnosis as well. if you haven't already, consider going to Cancer Care. they offer free individual counseling and support groups and have a specific program geared towards young adults.

stay strong! i'm inspired by you.


John said...

Thanks for your post on hospitals. I can only imagine how hard it is to have to submit to the medical community under the conditions you describe. I like your map. It reminds me of the many times I would go to MD Anderson with Hannah. Here was a hospital about the size of a small town, filled almost exclusively with cancer patients. At least at some of the other hospitals there were a few car wrecks and cardiac patients. I know Hannah hated this little world, and was always making her visits as short as possible. Hang in there!

John's Brain said...

Having just been sprung from the hospital, again, it’s definitely “second circle” worthy. Every time I check into a hospital, I also feel like I’m entering some strange time-space-warp dimension where you are mentally, spiritually and physically separated from the real world. BTW, that’s not a good feeling.

Jennifer Calvert Edwards said...

What is difficult after it is all over is that it never completely goes away for the survivor. Everyone else says, "Thank goodness it is all over" or "just forget!" How? Every time I look in the mirror I am reminded when I see all of my scars and losses. Every time I go to the doctor I have a panic attack because I know what it feels like to get bad news. It is comforting to hear other cancer stories.

Carol Young said...

I agree with Jennifer that what's so hard is that cancer never really seems to go away. I finished chemo almost six months ago, but there are constant little reminders, like scars and pills and fatigue, that pick away at you. I guess, sometimes I'm afraid that it will come back. I've been reading some of the advice for cancer survivors at . But every day is still a struggle for me.

Monica said...

I have PTSD too, especially when I have to go to the hospital where I had the majority of my treatments. I agree with John's Brain about hospitals feeling like some kind of space time warp dimension. I hate hospitals but I have to spend way more time with them than I'd like. My fear of hospitals, the ER, and doctors is so much that I've often delayed going to the ER for far longer than I should have when I've needed to go. I don't know what the solution is...time, I hope.

Jessie O said...

I thought I was doing pretty well but when I went in for proactive mammogram/breast MRI this winter (oh good, a new cancer to worry about) I lost my shit at the doctor's office (Oncology office--ugh), and then again at the MRI center. Both times I felt completely not in control of the emotional outburst I was having.

It feels like there are all these feelings somewhere inside me and I just don't have access to them on a conscious level. Being around cancer/medical establishment leaves me reeling.