And it surprised me.
It started as just a routine trip after school to take care of the girl’s horse, Freedom. It was one of those rare spring days, where the grass is new green and the air is spring fresh and the trees are covered with pink puffs.
I relaxed in the car with the windows rolled down, soaking up the sunshine while I read my book. I had just seen my fourteen year old riding Freedom up the long driveway towards the orchard. Joshie was climbing a tree across from the barn. Having finished mucking out the stall, mixing Freedom’s grain and filling his water trough, my fifteen year old had also settled down with a good book. Only she was perched on top of the white fence encircling the pasture where the other horses were lazily grazing.
Suddenly, I heard the galloping of hooves on the long, straight driveway. I looked up to see Freedom running rider-less towards the pasture, his tail flying behind him. I quickly turned looking up the driveway where he had come from and there was his former rider hobbling along, shaken and pale. By this time I was out of my car and running towards her yelling, “Are you all right?” “Yes” she hollered back. Her voice was trembling.
My fifteen year old had easily grabbed Freedom’s reigns, because he had run right towards his buddies in the pasture. After finally reaching his stunned rider, I began to examine her bruised body as she told me what had happened. Freedom had been calm munching some grass peacefully one minute and the next second he had jerked his head up, twisted his ears around and then began to buck in circles. Thankfully, she had fallen off onto the grass after she had flipped forward and backward a couple of times. She landed only two feet away from the blacktop driveway. Her hip was bruised. Her elbow was sore. But then she said the words, “My neck really hurts.”
With those simple words, I could feel my body being overtaken with panic. I wanted to rush her to an ER somewhere to get her neck x-rayed. I quickly called my husband. He was calm and told me to just come home. “But it’s her neck” I shouted, and all the memories of that week came rushing back.
Memories of Joshua’s neck being sore: How Josh had held his head funny, walking hunched over. How he had had trouble sleeping those five nights, obviously uncomfortable. How the pediatrician had thought it was just pulled neck muscles and the chiropractor had wanted to adjust it and I had known in my gut not to let him touch Josh’s neck. How my husband had been out of town that week coming home on a Thursday morning. How he had felt the ER was unnecessary that Thursday night. We had gone because of Josh’s whimpering, but once the Motrin had set in, Josh seemed fine and my husband had wanted to go home saying there was nothing wrong. Then the ER doctor had walked into the room and suggested we take an x-ray before we go. The picture was snapped exposing a cancerous tumor in my then four year old’s neck vertebrae. In that second with that one x-ray our lives had changed forever.
All it had taken were those simple words spoken by my 14 year old…”My neck really hurts” and I was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I realized what was happening. I took a deep breath calming myself down. We drove home and she was fine. She was sore for a few days, but her neck was well. I smiled to myself that night, proud I had recognized I was having a PTSS moment. It had overtaken me at first; I had recognized it and I had not allowed it to flourish.
It’s been almost three years since Joshua’s cancer treatment was finished.
But it’s been about a year since I’ve had a PTSS moment…