A day or two ago I was messaging with a mom whose daughter was on our floor telling her how Ava was handling being home. I told her how the chemo wasn’t as bad as we had expected and how our biggest challenge was Ava’s anxiety. The mom responded that it was totally understandable since we all know suffer from anxiety and a bit of PTSD. Her words struck me. Not because they weren’t true, but because it helped me realize that this fear will most likely live with us far longer than the cancer will live in her. It also gave me an even better appreciation of all who live with mental heath issues.
At the moment everyone is being very understanding of Ava’s quiet demeanor. On Sunday my friend Nicole came to visit. She brought lunch and was super understanding of how little Ava wanted to chat. Same went with my friend Michelle and her husband. They brought her a beautiful “lapgan” Michelle knit. With them Ava chatted about books she’s read. She had a pretty good day and ate quite bit. Monday was different she was anxious about her outpatient chemo infusion and barely ate. Her anxiety over the unknown was so great she didn’t even talk to us much. These are probably the hardest things for me. Seeing her not eat, knowing she can’t afford to lose any weight, and not being able to comfort her when she’s worried because I don’t know exactly what has her stressed.
Like most parents we’ve always taken our kids to the doctors when they get so much as a cold. I can’t even count the amount of times we’ve heard it’s just a virus. We all worry so much about our children’s physical health, but do we worry as much or show as much concern over their mental health? Are we as proactive in getting them help there? Years ago Ko was having panic attacks about thunderstorms and high winds. He was struggling with what could happen and what may happen. Kev and I had him visit with a therapist and it was so helpful for him and for me. We’ve been able to pass on some of techniques Ko learned to Ava. I understood that even though their fears aren’t the same the cause is, both want some type of control in their world, they both want order and structure, and have fear of the unknown. Shoot, I’m an adult and I feel the same way.
Yesterday when we went to clinic I was more interested in meeting with the psychologist than the oncologist. I need her to help us get Ava’s mind ready to fight and just like her body was. When they gave us her weight I understood that we may need more than techniques to handle her anxiety. When she’s anxious she will not eat or drink. Period.
It brought me back to the PTSD reference, sometimes learning to breath through your diaphragm isn’t enough. Sometimes visualizing isn’t going to cut it. Just like you can’t kill cancer cells without chemo sometimes you can’t “control” anxiety without medicine. And yet there’s still so much stigma around meds. Its so much easier to list off all her chemo meds than is to say we’re at the beginning of a list of oils and medications we will go through to get our sweet girl the help she needs. Why is that? How come we are so proactive when it comes to our children’s physical health and not their mental health? It’s also why we go see our primary cares yearly, yet rarely speak to someone about our mental health. You see you don’t need to have leukemia to be overwhelmed by the unknown, the feeling of loss of control, and benefiting from structure.