Living with cancer is no easy feat (duh) and the medications certainly don’t make things any smoother. There are side effects galore and dealing with those on a regular basis can be be SO incredibly frustrating. Aside from the physical effects, Jack has had difficulty with memory and regulating his emotions. Then there are those weeks when he’s on the steroid – and we are all tip toeing around hoping that we don’t make a joke that offends the kid and sends him into a depression spiral.
Jack’s done so amazingly well this past year dealing with all of the cancer crap that it really should come as no surprise that he’d stumble a bit. But still, it was surprising AND alarming.
I don’t recall when it started exactly, but sometime in the last year Jack started to get really upset with himself for forgetting things or doing things wrong and he would react by hurting himself. Sometimes he would hit himself in the face, sometimes he’d bang his head against the wall, and we even saw him push his thumbs into his eyes (cringe!). Not too long ago he came home from school and told me he’d put himself on time out during recess after a teacher asked him to stop bouncing on her shoulders.
We’ve told him over and over again how much we love him, how it’s our job as his parents to protect him and not let anyone hurt him – including himself! We explain that it’s okay to make mistakes and that we are there to remind him of what to do when those mistakes come up. His job is to try to do better in the future – not to punish himself for making those mistakes! This hasn’t seemed to get through to him, though.
Sometime before Christmas I sent a message to Jack’s Case Manager at the hospital to ask for a referral to a therapist. It was clear that Jack was having some anger management problems and we were at a loss as to how to help him express himself better. We were referred to the department’s social worker, who, unfortunately, happens to be the least helpful person who very much would like to help EVER. And so she called me and got some information and then sighed and expressed her sympathy and said she would get me some information so that we could take Jack to therapy. Except she didn’t.
A couple weeks later when I saw her at the clinic and she still hadn’t gotten me that information (and it was STILL an issue), I reminded her. Alas, no help came.
Then, in the epic awesomeness (ha) that was last week, we had another incident that scared the shit out of us. Jack was working on his homework but kept getting distracted by a paper monster sitting nearby. When David attempted to move the monster so that Jack could concentrate, Jack got upset and grabbed the monster and threw it. David reminded him that throwing things isn’t okay, and Jack responded by grabbing his pencil and aiming it right at his own eye. David grabbed it before he could do any harm, thank goodness.
But holy crap! Our six year old almost stabbed himself in the eye with a pencil to punish himself for throwing a paper monster!
So it was time to take matters in my own hands and I made an appointment for him to see a doctor that afternoon. After some discussions with the pediatrician’s office I was then referred to the intake psychologist in the psychiatry department, who gathered more information about our situation and decided we should probably skip the regular intake routine and go straight for an appointment ASAP.
Had Jack had any big changes or stressful situations in his life over the last year? Oh, gee, where do I start??
Has he ever said he wanted to die? Um, no! Shit! He’s six!
Thankfully, we got Jack an appointment with a child psychologist scheduled for Friday. I was told to keep all sharp objects, medications, cleaning supplies and other harmful things out of his reach. Which is just NOT something you expect to EVER hear in relation to your first grader! (And, well, he doesn’t have access to those things anyway! But David did hide his safety scissors from him just in case. And now he’s a bit behind on homework since pencils suddenly posed a threat.)
All of that and Jack wasn’t even on the steroids last week. He started those today!
The appointment went well. Jack liked the therapist and even drew him a picture that he got to keep (which is pretty rare). He and the therapist came up with the idea that rather than trying to hurt himself to teach himself a lesson and help him remember, he would instead draw a picture of what he wasn’t supposed to do and tape it to the wall in his bedroom. This has seemed to work so far – Jack now has a “DO NOT JUMP ON MOM” picture on his wall.
This week is steroid (Decadron) week, though, so we’ll see how it goes. We see the therapist again on February 4th. I’m hoping things won’t be too chaotic in the mean time. We could all use a less eventful week.