May 1, 2011
When Tanner was diagnosed with Leukemia, I thought it was going to be the most difficult day of my life. But, at least there was a concrete plan of how best to treat her. There were numbers and statistics and protocols based on years of research. And, I knew that nothing any of us had done caused it, and nothing we could have done would have prevented it.
Today is different; and in many ways, worse. Tanner is inpatient at Vanderbilt for a psych evaluation after two tough days that led us to the decision that she needed more help than we, or a visit to Allison, could provide. I don’t want to give a lot of details, because Tanner deserves some privacy as she struggles to deal with a disease that had me reduced to a day full of tears and xanax just last week. If it is more than I can bear sometimes, I think it is not unrealistic to expect that it is more than a 7-year-old can bear sometimes, too.
We are also concerned that her antidepressants could have backfired. Anti-depressants and kids are known to be tricky and the labels on her medicine warn that it can cause suicidal thoughts in children.
She has also had a very rough couple of weeks. I didn’t write about it, again to give her some space to deal with it without others knowing, but since she told her whole class about, I figure she wouldn’t mind. She began losing her hair again last month after her chemo. We were so blindsided; we had no idea that this could happen again. John found her crying on the slide at the playground and she told him that she had known for days that it was falling out, but thought we would think she was stupid for thinking that. Turns out, it happens sometimes. It seemed like an unimaginable cruelty to have it happen so close to the end for her. Like cancer was trying to get in it’s last licks. It stopped falling out after about two weeks and, although she is noticeably thin on top, she still has her hair and it has not happened again after this round of chemo. Still, it was incredibly difficult for her… for all of us, really.
Then, we had my colossal mistake… where I thought her LP a few weeks ago was the last one… only it wasn’t. I don’t think she can really get over thinking maybe I lied to her on purpose. I know I had a rough couple of days after that one and still haven’t really forgiven myself for it, but it is what it is and I can’t do anything to change it.
Then, this week, we sent Jake to my parents for some much needed special time. It’s hard being the “other kid;” the one who doesn’t have cancer. He needed that one on one attention from his grandparents, and I needed some time alone to regroup and reorganize. Unfortunately, in meeting our needs, I think we hurt Tanner. It was very clear to me during the week that she was so sad that she can’t go to her grandparents house alone for special time, and she knows it’s because of the leukemia. Balancing everyone’s needs in this case seemed precarious at best.
Allison believes that Tanner wanted to come to the hospital and did what it took to get herself here. She believes that Tanner’s world felt very out of control and that she feels safe here as an inpatient. I wouldn’t disagree with that, but I also think we could have a medicine issue as well. There is also a plethora of documented research linking traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder to kids who have cancer. I think Tanner definitely could fall into this category.
The psych team will come in the morning to evaluate her and, hopefully, we’ll know more then. This is, by far, one of the most tormenting things I have ever been through. To not feel like there will be a clear plan for how to deal with her issues. To feel like something we did, or didn’t do, could have exacerbated her problems. To know that we most certainly made some mistakes that may have hurt her. It is agonizing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I know that I can count on you all not to share this information with your children, who might tell other kids at school that Tanner is having these kinds of problems. Children can be cruel, even unwittingly so, and I would die to know that this blog had caused her any more pain than she is already in. The only reason I share this information is 1) because I know people care about Tanner and want to know how she is doing, and 2) because I feel strongly that the only way to end this *&^%$ing disease is for people to know how awful it really is and be moved to give of themselves to help.
I’ll write more when I know more. We are, as usual, blessed by the wonderful people who come running to our aid when we need it, and do not need anything at this point.