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Medical Is this a trauma response? (Cancer caretaker trauma)

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Hi everyone,

Without getting too into it, I had a grandparent in high school who was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer. They miraculously survived for about a year or two, with a prognosis of one to two months. I was around 15-16 years old and saw a lot of their illness, treatment side effects, etc. as well as their process of crossing over to the other side. What I mean to say with that, is that I watched them die, in many different ways - spiritually, physically, and literally. I had many adult family members relying on me for emotional and mental caretaking, which I wasn't even able to do for myself at the time.

Fast-forward to now, over 10 years later. I've always been scared of cancer in the back of my mind, seeing my grandparent (and beloved pets) fall so ill. But I've recently reached a level of paranoia I haven't reached before in the past with this in particular. It started a few months ago - my partner showed me a movie called The Last Song (lol). Okay...(spoiler) the dad has cancer and is dying, gotcha - I think to myself. Then, my partner and I are watching a show called Dead To Me and...(spoiler) one of the main characters gets diagnosed with cancer. We start watching Sister Wives soon after and what do you know, Meri Brown had a sister who passed from cancer...etc. I keep seeing cancer themes everywhere, and it's really freaking me out.

I'm trying to work myself up into going to my nearest medical center - just to be safe and get actual proof for peace of mind and to make sure I'm still healthy.

But now what I'm trying to figure out in the meantime is if my paranoia regarding these "synchronicities" are really paranoia? Or if it's the universe "telling me I need to get tested." I don't have a good grasp of what trauma responses look like in relation to this topic because the research is so triggering and heavy.

Tl;dr: I have unaddressed trauma from watching a grandparent die from cancer. Is it a common trauma response to cancer to feel paranoia that you're also sick? Is it possible for caregivers or witnesses to feel doomed to the same fate?

Idk if it's a trauma response, but I am sorry for the loss and trauma, not the least of which was expecting a teen to be the rock or adult for others.

I could get in to all the logical reasons, but I think this feels more emotional than logical (I could be very wrong?, I apologize if I'm sensing it wrongly). If it makes you feel better than you should gp. Though most cancers have symptoms, that is where a dr should begin, asymptomatic ones usually are the problem. But even physicals can miss it, or routine bloodwork or a dental exam could catch it. In the case of your grandparent's being a rare form that is what to be aware of. It usually requires about 5 factors, but genetically can be less but also will show up earlier. Some that are hiding in plain sight can be more dangerous, like melanoma for example.

There have been so many in my family I chose I couldn't in good conscience have kids. Mind you I couldn't envision a future anyway. I would never be surprised to get diagnosed with it, only perhaps what type, and am amazed I've lived this long. I do not live in fear of it for myself (more so for loved ones), do not obsess on it or assume that is whatever my problem is. (I stick with probable, more than possible). Even my grandpa in his 20's got married the day before his 1st cancer surgery, of which he had about 20, but my grandma didn't decide not to marry him. So, Idk. Those movies are usually- what's the word?- unrealistic, dramatized and not very much like real life (and are the last movies you want to watch when you're dealing with it). Real life is that many people do get it, many don't, some live full lives, and many others manage it as one does Diabetes, or MS, etc. There are actually a couple of diseases I've found to be even worse, and that I did not realize until I cared for people with them.

I hope you are healthy and can put your mind at ease. It is always in your advantage to be able to walk in on your own two feet with strength though. Something put it on your mind- is it your own symptoms, a similar age, or gneralized fear, or something else entirely?

(ETA, apart from choosing the movies, and shows competing with each other for viewership with story lines (of which people seem to watch a lot of drama, especially health related drama) remember with smart tv's you and your neighbour could be watching the same show and seeing different ads: depending on how one is profiled I could be getting the one for the Suburu and my neighbour for the sleep-numbered bed! 😊 So the Universe, Idk, but simple common sense doesn't hurt. )
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Sorry I missed the edit I should add also however I will say, though this was just my experience, I did equate the 2nd case to the 1st case, and the 3rd to the 1st two, etc. So the 1st few I never met except my aunt whose dr called her a hypochondriac (she had Hodgkins and died at 32), but my dad expected not to outlive his dad at 53. He made it 6 weeks past, but got diagnosed and died within 36 hours. It was more complicated than that, but when my sister got diagnosed in her 20's next I 'felt' she'd have 36 hours. She refused much of their treatments and recovered fully. I realized it didn't mean you only had 36 hours. My mom got 4 months, it felt like so much more time; in both parents case their 'time left' accordingto the drs was '10 years ago' , but those were jam-packed years.The next sister diagnosed in her 30's went through all the treatments (useless) and was totally compliant, but then demanded an experimental drug which worked until they took her off (5 years clear) and she died. Twenty years of it but travelled the world. Etc. So these were all varied circumstances and outcomes and they were anything but predictable. If it occurs (hopefully not) you can be ok also, I know many people who have lived many years. But those 'mental-battles' went on within me and got updated each time. Except for my dad's, which frankly was unnatural and involved other's actions. (Even today I learned people action's can defy what our minds originally conceive is possible, which is why it's so shocking to process, that helps me actually. Even if I don't want to think about it.)

I also think your feelings are 'normal' and not unusual, fwiw.

Hope that helps and doesn't hinder! If so just disregard! Best wishes to you. Gentle hugs! 💙
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I am so sorry that both of you had to experience this and so much loss. Thing is, cancer isn't just one disease, but hundreds, and each variation has its own treatment, remission and cure rates. There are cancers that have a genetic/familial tie and specialized screening is extremely important. Otherwise, living a healthy lifestyle, avoiding known risks (eg smoking) and getting screening at the recommended ages is for now the best way to prevent and treat.

Do what you need for peace of mind, but address the fears and find a therapist that can help you process the trauma. Being a cancer patient and caring for a cancer patient can cause PTSD, but not something that is recognized or discussed a lot. Even in films, the "noble" cancer patient dies and everyone mourns, but it is so sanitized and far from the reality of this disease(s). The truth is that some cancers and their treatments leave a person in pain; unable to eat; full of tubes and other devices; not able to bath, urinate or defecate without assistance; and at times mean and nasty from all the drugs. There is nothing "noble" about it and it is this unrealistic portrayal that keeps patients and their caregivers in denial of the reality and perhaps from seeking help when the reality is so far from the societal portrayal.

I guess I want to reassure you that any fears, anger, frustration and loss of hope are very valid feelings, for yourself and towards the patient. I know my husband and kids had times they wish they had something to knock my ass out to inject into my port. (I'm not a nice person on steroids.) I never wanted any of my children to have to clean me up after a bought of diarrhea where I didn't make it to the toilet. Now my children are in their 30's and not teenagers and one is an RN so being adults they have an understanding, but it was still hard on them as I am their "mom".

I didn't develop PTSD from cancer, but from childhood abuse and domestic violence. Having PTSD and treating it gave me the tools to handle to help handle the mental/emotional aspects as in this house we live and breathe CBT (Note: cognitive behavioral therapy is taught in some cancer support groups). I think its time to flush the Hollywood portrayal down the toilet and be honest about the disease(s). Its also time to validate feelings as honesty can do a lot to reduce the trauma and help the healing process.

OK, climbing off soapbox now.
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