How I deal with intrusive thoughts about childhood cancer treatment

PTSD. post traumatic stress disorder.

This is another diagnosis I have as a result of childhood cancer. It makes a lot of sense really, just from looking at the wording of it, as cancer treatment comes with unholy amounts of trauma and stress.

A symptom / result of PTSD is having intrusive thoughts. Throughout my school years, I would try my best not to think about cancer, or chemo, or check-ups, or anything remotely related to my cancer diagnosis. And guess what? I thought about it every day. And I pushed these thoughts away every single day.

The problem with doing this was that it caused a myriad of long-term emotional problems. The main one being intrusive thoughts. These are thoughts that pop into your mind at random, and they have no relation to what you’re thinking about or what you’re doing. They just arrive unannounced and uninvited. I’ve had them since about the age of ten. I’ll be food shopping or having a pint with friends and suddenly think about a night spent crying before surgery, or an emotional outburst I had at my parents. You’ll notice I’m talking in the present tense; I still get intrusive thoughts. The difference now is that I know how to cope with them. I acknowledge them, look at them from a reflective, (somewhat) objective point of view, and deal with them then and there. This technique has made them so much easier to deal with. I try to find a link with what’s going on, to them explain why I’ve had this thought.

For example, a thought will pop into my head about my knee replacement surgery. I’ll acknowledge it. To make this seem less serious, I literally say ‘hello’ in my head. And then I’ll say ‘what are you doing here?’ or ‘why am I thinking about you?’. Personifying the thought helps me to visualise their approach and, more importantly, them leaving. I’ll affirm that I’ve had this thought because my leg is hurting a little extra. And I’ll think ‘oh, that makes sense.’ and then the thought usually leaves.

When you push these thoughts away, they escalate and become much worse. This is another really important reason I’m encouraging people to talk about their remission lives, we can make things change if we start a conversation.

If you want to know more about intrusive thoughts, or if you think you might be suffering with them, the info is always just a google away.

I also found an interesting paper about cancer and PTSD:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1611(199911/12)8:6%3C521::AID-PON423%3E3.0.CO;2-X

(you have to be a student to read it for free, but I thought some of you might be(?))

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2 thoughts on “How I deal with intrusive thoughts about childhood cancer treatment

  1. I’m really glad you’ve written about this as I have no doubt that as a family we’ll be going through this with Caroline at some future point. Thank you for writing such insightful things for others to take and use in their own lives. I hope your blog brings you support and catharsis too. Don’t stop writing from your heart… X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really interesting. I did not have cancer as a child, but five years ago as an adult. I don’t think I get intrusive thoughts that often, but I think I suffer other things from it. I am in remission now, but I. Early died. This has affected me very greatly. I wish I could read that Article, but I am not a student. I really want to know about that. Thankyou for this post. And thankyou for following my blog

    Liked by 1 person

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