Many parents go through PTSD after their child has been diagnosed with cancer, and definitely after their child has died. I have written about that in previous blogs. Many don’t fathom the extent of that trauma for parents. Speaking to people, some have questioned if there’s a trigger, or a single moment that causes the memories, the spiral. No, not always. I can’t speak for everyone, but mine frequently leads up to certain dates, certain moments in Madox’s life. February has been a mentally taxing month for me. My anxiety, my depression, my stressors all start this month, leading into March….diagnosis month.
I don’t purposely think about what is coming up. I feel as though my body, my heart and mind all KNOW what date is coming up. I have started my day happy, but by the time I reach my destination (work), I’m sobbing in the parking lot. I don’t know what it is, or why my mind drifts to certain times in my past. It just happens and I am consumed by it. Absolutely, certain songs will trigger an emotional mess. Which is why I rarely listen to music on my ride to work. I use to love listening to music during the day, but after Madox’s passing, I seem to gravitate to podcasts. No triggers. No unsolicited memories.
What doesn’t help are the “past memories” reminders on social media. A simple post I made in February 2014 will immediately take me back. ‘Why did I post that?’ ‘What was happening?’ ‘Did I unintentionally know Madox was sick?’ Clearly, I begin to overthink my previous intentions. Then the photos. Oh gawd the photos. Those, 100%, are what shreds me. After Madox was diagnosed, I use to sit next to him while he slept, thinking thinking thinking. ‘What did I miss?’ ‘How did I not know he was ill?’ I would remember single moments in our days leading up to the diagnosis. He was tired here. He was tired there. Nothing that completely stood out to me. Did that matter? No. I would still feel enormous guilt for not seeing it sooner. Feeling like a horrible pediatric nurse and a worse mother. Two photos that initially gave me joy looking at, now causes me to be melancholy. Identifying the why’s of that moment.
One photo of he and daddy laying on the couch snuggling tears at my heart. Madox had complained of feeling tired, and that he wasn’t feeling well. I thought he was coming down with a flu or cold, so I snapped the shot of them together. I use to awwww looking at that photo. Now I deflate knowing why he felt so unwell. The second photo was daddy pulling both he and his brother Valin while we went skating. We skated out with their hockey sticks. By the time we needed to turn around and head back, Madox was slow and complaining of feeling tired. So dad had him hold on to the stick and pulled him back. Dad made it a game and pulled both boys while skating backwards. We took turns pulling Madox that day, having no sense he was so sick. We dismissed it like most parents as he not getting enough sleep the night before. Both photos were during different weeks in February. Why would I think cancer? Why would anyone think cancer? Why didn’t he tell us how bad he felt? Why did he down play it? Why didn’t he complain more? SO MANY WHYS!
I struggle through February with the anticipation of what March will bring. My apprehension is my downfall. I know that, but I don’t know how to prevent it. I am taking it day by day. Wearing my ‘happy’ mask, ‘I am doing great’ mask, and getting on with my days. So thankful I have Marco and Valin to give me purpose and to keep me grounded.