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Post-traumatic stress disorder in cancer patients


Is anyone surprised that a new study shows 40 percent of cancer patients have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The study says one in 10 patients said they avoided thinking about their cancer, and 1 in 20 said they steered clear of situations or activities that reminded them of the disease (read hospital).The symptoms of PTSD, according to the write up, are being "jumpy" and "having disturbing thoughts about cancer and its treatment or feeling emotionally numb toward friends and family."Evidently only a few of us get full-blown PTSD, the rest of us get symptoms that can persist into the future – no kidding. Sorry for the sarcasm, and I am actually glad they are doing this research because I'll take it to the next tech who tries to draw blood from me.I've learned to warn them not to fish around in my arm if they don't get it on first shot – because I tend to get violent. Jumpy doesn't begin to cover it. The last tech started to chuckle and then looked at my face, "You aren't kidding are you," he said. "Nope." Someone trying to put a needle in my left arm takes me back to chemotherapy. Or rather, it takes my body back to chemotherapy. The last time a tech came at me with a needle, I said very tersely, "Do you know what you are doing?"She looked at me very calmly and then drew my blood. It was, as they say, "a good stick."I've also learned that if I tell techs I need a pro, they will self identify – or go get one. For a while during and after chemotherapy, I couldn't drive toward my hospital because I got sick to my stomach. I didn't' attribute it to PTSD, but to becoming Pavlov's dog. I see the hospital, I get chemo, I throw up. I just eliminated the chemo and got right to the bad stuff. The study on PTSD was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and is based on a survey of 566 patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was conducted at Duke Cancer Center in Durham.I wonder if the patients they tested were getting any kind of psychosocial support. I think that if we learn to face our demons, it's easier to go on. They didn't specify in the study if there were particular issues patients gave, but I know that for three years after my diagnosis I was a total wreck thinking the cancer was going to come back. Then I joined a support group where I could talk about my fears and know that it was a real possibility and decide what to do about it. The report also said being diagnosed with cancer is stressful and it stays with you. I say being diagnosed with cancer changes us – forever.

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