I have severe depression and C-PTSD, and I have been going through extreme levels of stress, and I am only recognizing it now. Being a full-time caregiver for my mom’s cancer treatment was rough, and I made it through without the stress I feel today. Being a caregiver to someone post-chemo and in remission should be less stressful, but it isn’t. Post chemo, my mom is realizing that she is missing her memories of the ordeal.
The first month after chemo, she slept and didn’t want to eat anything or get out of bed. I brought her meals, but she kept forgetting to eat or didn’t want food. I had to monitor her blood sugar to keep it from dropping too low. There were many times I had to stand there and tell her to eat repeatedly. Chemo pain is strange because it lasts beyond treatment. Her pain was managed with Lyrica and a narcotic for breakthrough pain. During chemo, I kept track of her narcotic consumption but only limited her to the maximum dosage per day. Post-chemo, the doctor wanted to reduce the narcotics slowly, so I had to begin the process of restricting those pills. Towards the end of the first month, she began to ask me to bring her specific meals again. Her memory was foggy, and she stumbled, grasping for words. Her cognitive abilities were impaired due to chemotherapy, but I could see improvement from the last treatment. A big scare came one night when she fell out of bed while dreaming despite a bedrail to prevent falls. She must have hit her knee on something that left a bruise on the way down. An X-ray found nothing broken or dislocated, but it made walking painful, so I had to increase her narcotics until the pain passed. My focus on getting her out of bed each day had to wait a bit longer.
In month two, her struggle with words and names became less frequent, and her cognitive ability improved significantly. As her cognitive ability improved, she noticed her memory had gaps, which is normal and can be scary. Her knee recovered, but sleep came with a new symptom of restless legs due to the chemo-induced neuropathy, so she was often unable to sleep without narcotics, which I dispensed sparingly, reminding her the doctor wasn’t going to continue the prescription indefinitely. Broken sleep limited her energy levels and willingness to get up and move around. In talking with her doctors, the key to getting stronger is getting her moving and out of bed. Towards the end of the second month, I stopped checking in with her early in the morning for breakfast and waited until mid-morning to encourage her to get out of bed for breakfast. Towards the end of the month, she was getting up at least two days a week.
The third month was scary and stressful; my mom developed a severe cough, which became pneumonia. After two weeks of antibiotics, her chest had cleared. Surprisingly, the pneumonia and cough had her sleep into the afternoon before getting up, but she wasn’t stuck in bed. I developed flu-like symptoms after a series of vaccines that lasted for a week, and it was a struggle to keep up with mom’s needs, but I forced myself to take care of both of us. In the last week of month three, I encountered an allergic reaction that made my vision blurry to the point I was only able to make out vague shapes. My doctor prescribed eye drops that worked almost instantly but only lasted about four hours. The doctor didn’t want me dosing more than two times a day, so I had to plan my days and nights accordingly. Two weeks later, my eyes were normal again. And my annual visit to the eye doctor confirmed it.
Four months post-chemo, and my mom is doing much better. She continues to avoid walking and standing unless necessary. So, I have been encouraging her to do more, using my blindness as an excuse. My mom’s doctors are noticing her cognitive improvements and have encouraged her to exercise and gain strength again so she can take her driver's license exam to resume driving. I have waited months for an audiologist appointment, and it confirmed my hearing loss and need for hearing aids.
Through all of this, my best friend went into the hospital due to appendicitis, and he has waited months to schedule the surgery due to his foot infection. His foot infection didn’t respond to treatment, so he had his toes amputated, and he is living in a nursing home undergoing rehabilitation to learn how to walk with a prosthetic. So, both of us are going through crazy times with minimal support, and we are both struggling.
I have been waiting for a therapist who accepts my insurance and will take new patients for more than two years. I believe a therapist might have been able to help me manage my stress levels. I have been visiting open group therapy sessions, but with C-PTSD and extreme trust issues, my ability to participate is limited.
#PTSD #MajorDepressiveDisorder #Caregiving #Stress