Cancer · Childhood Cancer · Histiocytosis · liver disease · pediatric cancer · PTSD · Uncategorized

The Nature of a Panic Attack (**language warning)

I like writing.  It calms me.  So I thought that maybe I could stop a panic attack if I just wrote during it.  Maybe just getting my thoughts out of my head.  So, I wrote this as a stream of thoughts I had while actively having a panic attack.  I planned ahead, considering I have one of these every other month or so.

This is one of my panic attacks.  Not all of my panic attacks are like this, but some of them can be.  The triggers aren’t always the same.  This particular trigger was being told that we need to talk to the liver team because Sophie’s labs were off and her spleen is getting bigger, even 7 years post remission.The implications of off labs and a larger spleen could be anything from a mere infection to liver failure and a need for a liver transplant. Hence the attack.

We were driving home from the hospital.  It’s a 2-3 hour drive. I had to stop because I was crying.  Sophie was in the back seat watching Clash of the Titans and totally unaware of my crying, cause I’ve gotten good at crying silently since she got sick.  So I stopped at a Burger King and bought us some lunch and she watched her movie and I typed…  for a few minutes.  When it was going on, it didn’t seem like the writing helped, but the panic attack ebbed back enough to be able to drive again without my hands shaking by the end of the typing, so apparently writing does help.

I went back through and fixed most of the typos and spaced it to reflect how my brain was functioning.  There were seriously a few minutes towards the end, moments where the brain didn’t give me a lucid clear thought or didn’t have one at all…  picture silence with the sound of crickets in the background.  Yes… that.  I know… sometimes I’m not the brightest bulb in the box.  So I put in spaces for those as well.

I had planned on writing this out and probably not publishing if I sounded like a crazy person.  What I hadn’t planned on was sounding like a slightly unhinged worry wort constantly hitting the repeat button…  going through this aloud to Daniel, I just kept apologizing to him and saying “God, I repeat myself a lot!”

Nor was I aware of how much I swear in my head.  MAN do I swear a lot. So language warning.   Sorry mom.   It was an experiment that apparently went south quickly.  I blame law school.

As an aside, I’m not doing this again.  Rereading it and fixing the typos reminded me of every second of this panic attack, and I don’t like the feeling it brings back.  So this is a one time only thing, folks.  So get your fill of Kathleen gone crazy… this is it.

Here it is:


The cancer’s not back.   It’s not back, probably.  Right?  Right. Still in remission.   Focus on that.   Focus. 


You can’t cry in front of her.  It’ll scare her and she’ll think something is really wrong and we don’t really know if something’s wrong yet. And she can’t get scared.  I can’t have her scared because I’m pathetic.  Stop crying.  no crying.   Stop it.  

Her platelets are shit.  69 thousand.  What’s that?  60 thousand below normal? That’s what?  20 thousand above transfusion?  I can’t remember.  Was it 40 thousand? 20?  What is it?  What is the stupid number? I can’t remember.  I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT TRANSFUSION LEVEL IS!  What kind of a chemo mom the fuck am I?  was it 40?  30?  shit!  Google.   Google it. 

……..~reading on phone~…..

Shit… don’t google low platelets.  What the FUCK WAS I THINKING?  Spontaneous bleeding?  Who the FUCK needs to read about that now?  I’m an idiot. stupid stupid stupid. 

Stop crying. 

Stop it. Weak, pathetic, shit shit shit shit shit…  STOP IT. 

They are so low.  She could bleed.  She can’t get hurt or hit.  What if Archer hurts her?  What if she falls?  What if she can’t stop bleeding?  She falls so often.  She’s 8 for God’s sake!  She throws herself at things.  She play acts.  She can’t do that anymore.  Or playgrounds.  Or rough housing with her brother.   GOD, so many things.  I’m going to have to force her to stop being an 8 year old.  That’s shit. One bump… that’s it.  One hit or fall.  One. Not even. Just getting hit on the stomach.  One bump and her spleen could rupture and we’d have 4 minutes to get her into an OR.   OH SHIT…

Our house is too far from the hospital now.  We moved and we are too far from the hospital.  What the FUCK was I thinking, moving so far from a hospital?  It would take a good 20 minutes, 30 in traffic to get her there.  Too far.  Where is the ambulance at?  I have to look that up.  Do we have that time? We don’t have that time.  We live too far from the hospital.  She doesn’t have that kind of time. Do we sell the house?  Rent it out?  Dan’s going to lose his shit if I ask him to move again. 

Shit.Fuck.Damn. shit shit shit shit shit.

Stop crying. Stop it.   Be discreet.  Don’t let her see you wiping your eyes.  You can be quiet about this.  Her movie is loud enough. 

Breathe…  In.  Out…  Breathe.  Stop CRYING.   Just breathe slowly…  My hands are shaking.   Put down the soda, you can hear the stupid ice rattling from your hands.  She’s going to look up and notice. 

Shit is going to be so full of typos. Stupid thing to think of.  Stop thinking stupid stuff and stop the panic attack!  Stop it! 

Music.  Find some music and sing along.  That’ll make it better. 

At least she’s distracted.  Thank God for portable DVD players. 

Her liver.  Her poor liver.   This isn’t fair.  It’s NOT OKAY.  But her liver is doing so well! 

I have to talk to her teachers.  I have to talk to the after school program and the before the school program and the teachers and the volunteers.  I have to talk to all of them.   They have to know what to look for.  And the school nurse.  And the principal.   And my bosses.   I have to tell everyone.  I’m going to be missing work and she’ll be out of school for all the appointments we are going to have. Will that upset her?  Having everyone know?  Doesn’t matter.  I have to tell them.  They have to know what to look for and when to call 911. 

Her liver might not be growing with her… it’ll get worse and she could get varices again and have a massive GI bleed again and WE LIVE TOO FAR FROM THE HOSPITAL!  What the HELL was I THINKING???  She can’t have another bleed.  She might not live through another one.  I’m so fucking stupid.   

We have to move.  I need to look at houses on zillow.  I can’t have it take that long to get her help.  If she is bleeding she doesn’t have that long.

Stop it.  stop it stop it stop it stop it.  I’m SHAKING.  She’s going to look back at her childhood and see a totally unhinged mother and need therapy to deal with the loser that I am.  

Oh my God, the liver disease is back.  It’s back.  The liver damage.  It’s back.  It never really went away. but it’s back.  It’s back.  What if she has to have a transplant?  I don’t want her to have to have a transplant.  Her white blood cells are already shit.   The anti rejection meds are going to make that worse.  

Breathe in.  Breathe.  I have to go back through this thing to fix all the typos. Stupid thought.  Why do I care about FUCKING TYPOS??  She’s SICK AGAIN.  

Wow.  shaking.  

Her liver…  but it’s doing so good.  It can’t be bad again.  Right?  It can’t.  She’s already won this battle.  God, why would it happen again?? 

Stop.Fucking.Crying.  Damn it.  This isn’t working.   I give up.  Shes going to hate me and I’m still looking like I’m losing it. I’m done.  If someone sees me in this car, crying and shaking, they are going to call the cops.  This isn’t working…


Well… that’s it, folks.  Reading through it trying to get the typos fixed all I can think is how selfish it seems.  And how stupid some of my thoughts are.   And how much I repeat everything.  And how much money I need to put into the swear jar.  Not sure I got paid enough for that this month.  Maybe I should give up the swear jar and just pay myself for not having panic attacks.  That might be a better route to take.

I’ve debated releasing this thing.  I can see a rational person trying to string thoughts together in here sort of,  but the same things coming out over and over and over.    I decided to release it because this is me.  This is not me 98% of the time.  But this does happen and it’s a part of what liver disease and pediatric cancer did to me and I can either be ashamed of it or I can face it.  Since I choose to not be ashamed of it, here it is.

If you know someone with a sick loved one, understand that something like this might be a part of their lives.  Please don’t judge them for moments of weakness.

I’m choosing to look at releasing this as an act of courage.   I read a quote once:

“Being courageous doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid.  Being courageous means that you have the inner strength to be afraid and still move forward.”
-unknown (anyone know who said this?)

I choose to have the inner strength to be utterly terrified and still move forward.  So that’s what we will do.  We will move forward.  Moving on…


One thought on “The Nature of a Panic Attack (**language warning)

  1. thank you for sharing such a personal & traumatic event!!
    your courage helps the rest of us gain our own courage!!
    you are so very brave!!
    I truly do not know what else to say! God will bless you!


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