On Monday October 8th, I took Tanner over to see Dr. Berryman in Dallas for his monthly appointment and could tell right away that he wasn’t in a good mood – but was, instead, quiet and withdrawn. After they drew his blood and we were placed in the back area waiting room, I pulled out my phone to show Tanner a picture of his nephew Beckett in his Halloween costume and he immediately started crying. The next thing I knew, he was curled into a ball and was hyperventilating and his back started bowing up in spasms.
He was finally released from Baylor Hospital over in Dallas this Saturday and prescriptions for Klonopin and Cymbalta were added to all the other prescriptions he takes for his cancer treatment.
With him being 20 years of age now, I am mostly left out of much of the discussions - but I did hear Dr. Berryman talking to his nurses and saying that he thinks the largest part of Tanner’s issues were caused by nerves and stress – which in turn caused me to turn to research online…
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Childhood Cancer Survivors: How Common Is It?
The rate of PTSD symptoms in these adults, aged 19–40, was four times higher than in a group of cancer survivors aged 9–17 who were studied earlier. The younger survivors’ sense of mortality was not as fully developed. The emotional price to pay for surviving cancer seems to coincide with the normal increased stress of young adulthood, when people are setting out on careers and spouses and children, said Hobbie. “They reach a point where, developmentally, they realize cancer has a far-reaching impact. At 16, you don’t care if you had it. At 30, when you meet the love of your life, you do.”
This most recent study is just one of a series led by Kazak, in collaboration with a team of researchers that includes Margaret Stuber, M.D., of the Neuropsychiatric Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. Kazak’s ultimate goal is to design intervention strategies that can help patients, parents, and siblings to recognize PTSD symptoms and treat them effectively.
Kazak and Stuber were the first to find an association between ongoing difficulties, concerns, and anxieties in former leukemia patients and trauma seen in PTSD. They also found, among other discoveries, that mothers of pediatric cancer survivors have significant symptoms of PTSD—much higher rates than PTSD seen in their children, who were only several years past treatment. Their studies revealed a pattern of increasing PTSD as patients aged, but unremitting widespread symptoms of trauma in their parents.