I read these facts whilst perusing the #CCAM feature on CLIC Sargeant’s Website this morning:
- 63% of parents experienced depression during their child’s treatment
- 37% of parents experienced panic attacks during their child’s treatment
- 95% of parents experienced anxiety during their child’s treatment
- 84% of parents experienced loneliness during their child’s treatment
- Only 37% of parents accessed support for managing stress and anxiety during their child’s treatment
95% of parents experienced anxiety during their child’s treatment. When cancer strikes young lives, CLIC Sargent helps the whole family cope.
This got me thinking about my own mental health and Felix’s diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Have I been depressed, experienced anxiety or loneliness? Do you what – I don’t know. It’s all a bit of a blur really and it feels like the emotions and feelings pass in waves. I do have two distinct memories where I felt as though things were crashing in on me.
There was one occasion, in the early days, when Felix had been admitted to hospital with an infection. My husband was staying in with him and I was on my way home to my other two children. On the way home I popped into the supermarket to get a few bits. I can remember aimlessly walking up and down the aisles, exhausted from emotion, wondering how much stress your body could take. I knew that I was reaching capacity. I felt so alone, so desperate, so sad. I couldn’t do anything to take the pain away from my child and family who were all suffering so much. I felt raw to the bone. I felt like I was shrinking away amongst these people, the crowds, the queues. I couldn’t do this. I didn’t buy anything, I went home and slept.
There was another occasion when we had embarked on a camping trip with the family. We were so desperate to doing something fun and normal – all of us together, making memories. Felix had just finished the Delayed Intensification phase, he had no hair, he was bloated because of the steroids and had weak legs because of the vincristine. I woke that night in a state of blind panic: what were we doing here, in a field, what if he gets ill, what if I don’t hear him? I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get my thoughts together, I had to get out. I took myself out of the tent and stilled myself. I was shocked and scared by the strength and depth of this emotion. The fear and exhaustion of the previous seven months had been suppressed long enough. This fear and exhaustion could no longer be contained.
I’ve never really spoken about either of these events – how could I when Felix was going through so much? My priority was keeping things together for Felix, his sister and brother, my husband, our extended family and friends. At that time, I couldn’t consider how I felt, I couldn’t risk it, I would fall apart.
In recent months, I have been able to consider my mental health with the love and support of another Oncology Mum. Together we are exploring the waves of emotion we feel and considering the impact of this trauma on our well-being. We are both using the therapy of writing to contemplate how having a child with cancer has impacted our perspective, actions, thoughts and feelings. I’m so pleased to have started this process. In our own time, we will help each other make sense of our feelings and emotions and I look forward to sharing it with you in the future.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual!