When you hear the term PTSD, do you only think about people returning from war? That seems to be the most common association with that term; veterans and military. PTSD affects so many other people. People you may not have thought of.
I have post traumatic stress disorder. No I was never diagnosed, but I really don’t need a doctor to tell me something so obvious. The Mayo Clinic defines it as “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” Many parents who have a child diagnosed with cancer (or any life altering illness) show symptoms of PTSD. The worst moments are usually around the diagnosis day, certain treatments and like myself, the final days of your child’s life. I have many moments of anxiety from past memories, nightmares that wakes me, and the never ending flashbacks. Then there are occasions that I didn’t think would affect me, but then the rug is pulled out from under me and I am gasping for air.
A few weeks ago, my son Valin needed an MRI on his knee. Just a routine MRI to see where the pain is stemming from. I was working, so Marco took Valin. I wanted to be there, but knew all we would be doing is sitting in the waiting area until the scan was done. That entire day I had a knot in my gut with worry. Marco kept telling me everything was fine and he would send me photos of Valin in the machine. My heart ached seeing the photos, as all the memories of Madox laying on the table getting his scan came flooding back to me. I started to sweat. The last time one of my boys were having an MRI, we received a cancer diagnosis. I was getting in my head and panicking. Then an hour later Marco texts me “heading home,” and all my tensions released. I immediately thought ‘they wouldn’t have sent them home if they saw anything.’ My racing heart slowed. I was able to catch my breath. My concentration on my current task returned. My anxiety attack left me as quickly as it arrived.
The following day I was working when I received a call from Valin’s doctors office. I missed the call, but when I noticed the number with no message, my heart began to race again. All the worst case scenarios came slamming into my thoughts. Then all the memories of Madox’s battle with cancer but now I was seeing Valin’s face instead of Madox’s. I called the office back 3-4 times until finally the physician called me back. “Hello Ms. Suzio? This is Dr. M. I just wanted to talk to you about Valin’s MRI results.” Panic. Fear. Dread. Thoughts of burying another son. “Everything looks good..” Silence. I didn’t hear anything else after that. My body released. Tears flowed freely. My son is fine. He will not go through pain and torture. He will grow up!
PTSD ebbs and flows. Many times knowing the triggers, and times not. The recurrent traumatic memories we all lived with and witnessed with Madox will never leave me. Trying to control them will forever be my toughest challenge. We live life as best we can, but there are simple moments that catch us off guard. Moments that are seen as day to day events to most parents, can be difficult stages to navigate for others. Living with PTSD will be a lifelong struggle.