Years ago a doctor casually mentioned that, in her opinion, the most damage from surviving a heart attack was psychological.
“Cardiac patients seem to notice all the risks in the world,” she said. “Often they end up being afraid to do things on their own. It robs them of their independence.”
Cancer, it seems is the same.
Josh, his brother and two of the most responsible fifteen year olds I know have just gone down to the beach to swim.
These are the things that didn’t cross my mind eighteen months ago but seem worry-worthy today:
- The swimming area is about 500m away. What happens if he can’t make it that far or can’t make it back?
- What if he swims and has neuropathy from the cold water that leads to shock?
- What if he swims and isn’t strong enough to withstand the current?
- What if he doesn’t swim and dehydrates?
- Today is a blood thinner tablet today – what if he falls and starts bleeding.
- What if he starts vomiting? What if the vomit contains blood?
- What if he has pain?
- What if he becomes confused or has a panic attack on the beach?
- What if he goes and has a great time and then is too tired to do anything else this week?
- What if (and this is the truly nasty lesson from cancer) something horrible that I haven’t even imagined was possible happens?
“Go and have a rest,” my sister tells me as she sighs contentedly from a lounger by the pool. She is, I think to myself, as mad as a hatter. As if I could relax whilst they are at the beach!
Nausea has taken up residence just below my jawline. Sweat dribbles down my spine. My heart thumps in my ears. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I mentally jog from foot to foot. The sane part of me knows that giving Josh independence is healthy and healing. The mother in me is mentally twirling the car keys ready to drive to the parking bay closest to the swimming area to keep and check on the boys. The sane part of me wins…until Chris comes running in.
“Mom, bring the car!” He yells.
My heart stops for an eon and then rushes to expand. The idea – surely my sternum will crack under the pressure. I grab the keys. “What happened?” I think I’m shouting as I run for the car.
“Nothing! Josh is tired. He wants a lift,” Chris pants. He offers to pull the car out of the garage.