Really - Who Am I?
First there was surgery for the aggressive prostate cancer. Then came the recurrence. Then came hormone therapy plus 8 weeks of external beam radiation treatment (EBRT).
Two years later, a diagnosis of large cell non-Hodgkin’s emerged, and with it came 4 months of chemotherapy plus all the “fun” that ride brings. Over time my body healed, and of course being male, I gave little thought to the many traumatic events I had experienced. It was behind me. No need to look back.
It is so easy to believe that the mind heals along with your body. When my last treatment was over, I knew it was safe to presume there was no need to dwell on the past. Then months later a small voice in the back of my head began to whisper, "Perhaps what you are feeling is post-traumatic stress (PTSD)." I quickly dismissed the silly idea.
At one point I figured it might be interesting to “just read about PTSD”. After all, I felt it was only returning warriors, firefighters, EMTs, and more who experienced or were impacted by many horrific events. I had not witnessed the images these folks encountered. All I faced was just a few bouts with some cancer.
A self-diagnosis of PTSD is subtle and hard to identify. Like prostate cancer in many ways. Why is it so hard to discover? Because it comes from your own mind. The more I read, the more apparent it became that PTSD can happen to any of us who identify as cancer alumni. I like the term alumni – to me it sounds better than calling yourself “a cancer survivor.” Over time I realized PTSD can impact everything in your life … days, months, or years later.
If you suspect PTSD is lingering about in the depths of your brain, I believe it can be valuable to seriously consider joining a support group or seeking out a medical professional if the need is great. Please do not dismiss it.
Are you having sudden flashbacks during the day or waking at night and feeling like the event just happened Feeling anxious, afraid, or guilty? Or you are experiencing panic attacks, chills, or headaches?
Perhaps all you want is to put it out of your head like me and yet get very uncomfortable when an unexpected TV ad comes on and is talking about prostate issues or another form of cancer.
Finding it hard to focus or to get a good-night sleep? Possibly you are more easily angered or less tolerant than you were before. That happened to me while I was on chemo. For some reason, I was driving a bit more aggressively and finally I asked myself, "Why?"
Other signs of PTSD may be thoughts of suicide or feeling deep shame or guilt, or a loss of interest in things you enjoyed previously.
If any of this rings a bell, it may be time to ask the man in the mirror to honestly answer one question, “Who Am I?” If you cannot answer or do not like the answer, perhaps now is time to reach out.
How familiar are you with inherited gene mutations and cancer?