Monday, March 14, 2016

Breast cancer related PTSD

What is wrong with me? I've been trying to figure it out for several months. I've struggled with insomnia, irritability, cloudy thinking, self isolation and a loss of interest in life. Could it be that I'm suffering from breast cancer related PTSD? I think that might be the case.

According to the National Cancer Institute, it's not uncommon for cancer survivors to experience crippling emotions even years after treatments have ended or the word "cure" is handed down. Follow-up visits, anniversaries of diagnoses or surgeries, birthdays, sights, smells, objects or symptoms similar to those they had when they found out they had cancer, such as lumps or aches, can be enough to trigger a tailspin of fear and anguish. Many survivors who battled cancer develop "cancer-related post-traumatic stress," which it likens to post-traumatic stress disorder, only not quite as severe as the full-blown condition that arises when some individuals, such as rape survivors or members of the military, are exposed to seemingly imminent death, injury or another major sources of stress.

When I was in the middle of fighting cancer, I adopted a warrior mentality. I buried anything I felt. It was easier that way and I was able to get through it, but now that my 2 year cancerversary is just a few months away, I'm finding all the feelings I pushed deep down inside resurfacing. Dr. Anne Kazak, of Nemours Alfred I. DuPont Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware says, "You may be done with treatment, and you may even be referred to as cured. But the psychological effects of experiencing a serious illness can take much longer to surface." Dr. Kazak also says it's important to seek help from a mental health professional.Treatment for cancer-related post-traumatic stress is similar to what patients undergo for PTSD and can include cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help patients learn coping strategies to better manage stress, develop awareness of distressing thought patterns and become desensitized to triggers."

So I guess the next step is to seek out help. My local breast cancer center offers group counseling and I'm hoping they also have individual counseling available. It's hard to admit I have a problem, but I do. I know I've not been feeling or even acting like myself for months now. There's no shame in admitting something I'm experiencing as a result of a traumatic event in my life. I think the real shame would be to ignore it and not seek out help.

It's time for me to get back into the land of the living. I'm so tired of letting this whole cancer ordeal run my life. While it's true that I do feel physically exhausted and fatigued as a result of surgery and I do deal with the daily challenge of Lymphedema, God has been gracious to me. He's spared me and I know He has a reason for that. Now it's high time I figure out what the next step on my journey should be. 

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