By Nicole Clark
When I was first told I had PTSD, I laughed. “PTSD? Me?”
My husband was diagnosed with PTSD. He survived two tours to Afghanistan before the age of 23 and I thought PTSD was something only soldiers who had been to war experienced. After thinking about the signs of PTSD, although our experience was different, it made sense that living through and beyond cancer would have a similar effect.
PTSD is a strange beast. You can be fine one minute, and then — without warning — you can be transformed back into a hospital bed, feel like your head is bare, taste metal, or have a PICC line hanging out of your body.
Last weekend, while sitting around a fire on a fall camping trip, my long sleeve shirt tugged on my left arm in a way that made me gasped and set my heart racing because I felt a PICC line. I immediately grabbed the inside of my arm to make sure there weren’t tubes hanging out of it. I stared at it in disbelief. It’s been almost eight years. This wave of unpleasant memories don’t happen often anymore, but when it does, a feeling of relief once I’m grounded and present is shortly followed by gratitude and a quick prayer.
I’m still here. Thank you.
I used to dread the feeling of being fine one minute and then the sound of a “ding” could have me standing in a 5×6′ elevator heading to the fourth floor for chemo. I used to have sudden outbursts of anger and rage anytime we were heading towards Halifax because all of my experiences there were unpleasant. The drive used to make me nauseated and irritable even years after treatment. It brought on fears of me thinking I might be in a car accident on the way there, a feeling so strong I would come painfully close to not getting in the car at all.
I would have to fight with myself and the voices in my head telling me not to go. I went anyway. Realizing I was fine and making it back home safely made it easier the next time. Going there and having a positive experience or making a new memory pushed the bad ones to the side, making room for the good ones.
Cancer is a lot to go through. Hell, life is a lot to go through! Having cancer at a young age is a mental rollercoaster and you better hope with all you’ve got that the seat belt works. You will be tested. It could be right away, or maybe months from now. Maybe a year or more after you’ve been given the “all clear.” When it does, remember that “YACC has your back.” You are not alone in this. The strongest thing you can ever do is recognize when you need help and to take that step forward to get it.
You’ve got this. I get to say that because there was a time when I thought that I didn’t. You’ve got this. If you still don’t feel that, remember that the YACC community is right beside you whispering, we’ve got this.