Working Through Cancer Anger

Started by anonymous, March 25, 2015
25 replies for this topic
anonymous

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N/A
Posted on
March 25, 2015
A few months after my mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction, I had it out with the light fixture in my walk-in closet. 

Like me, the bulb was burnt out. Removing the cover to replace it was easy, but I couldn’t get the cover back on for the life of me.

As I struggled, I got more and more frustrated. I didn’t want to give up and ask for help; I wanted to make it work.

Suddenly, my brain made a hard left turn and all I really wanted was to smash the darn thing onto the floor.

Which I did.

The cover hit the floor and exploded. Shards of plastic sprayed everywhere. It was a moment of violent, beautiful clarity that shocked me awake.

I was a cauldron of red-hot anger, and I hadn’t even realized it until that moment.

Looking back, it’s my denial that shocks me now. Of course, I was angry. My entire life had been turned upside-down. I had a bright red scar from hip to hip, and a reconstructed mound and missing nipple where I used to have a breast. I was afraid, lonely, guilt-ridden and traumatized.

My anger was that part of me that railed against it all. It was the part that hated submitting when punching someone or running made much more sense to my fight or flight impulse. It was the part of me that was sick and tired of letting cancer dictate my life.

Anger was as valid an emotion as any other. By making itself known when that light cover hit the floor, it forced me to deal with it. Luckily, I met with a therapist at my cancer center on a regular basis. She encouraged me to talk through my anger, first with her and then with others.

Our conversations helped me sort through my general anger at having cancer and my specific issues with family and friends who didn’t understand why I “wasn’t “over” cancer. She also reassured me that it was normal to feel anger as a result of living with cancer.

Months after the walk-in closet incident, I returned to the breast center for the first mammogram of my remaining breast after my mastectomy. As I wrote in a post at my blog, the technician’s ignorance and gross insensitivity made me “over the top angry.”

As extremely difficult as that experience was, I didn’t swallow my anger. Instead, I was able to express it constructively and get a resolution that worked for me.

Denying my anger and characterizing it as “bad,” resulted in bad behavior (and, six years later, the light in my walk-in closet is still missing a cover.) As a normal emotional response, anger isn’t good or bad – it just is. Dealing with it openly can be difficult, but it’s a lot more constructive than smashing things.

You can read more about my struggles with cancer anger in “Seeing Red: Coping with Anger During Cancer” from CURE.

Are you dealing with cancer anger too? Let me know in the comments below. I answer every one.
 
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Debbie Woodbury

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
March 25, 2015
A few months after my mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction, I had it out with the light fixture in my walk-in closet. 

Like me, the bulb was burnt out. Removing the cover to replace it was easy, but I couldn’t get the cover back on for the life of me.

As I struggled, I got more and more frustrated. I didn’t want to give up and ask for help; I wanted to make it work.

Suddenly, my brain made a hard left turn and all I really wanted was to smash the darn thing onto the floor.

Which I did.

The cover hit the floor and exploded. Shards of plastic sprayed everywhere. It was a moment of violent, beautiful clarity that shocked me awake.

I was a cauldron of red-hot anger, and I hadn’t even realized it until that moment.

Looking back, it’s my denial that shocks me now. Of course, I was angry. My entire life had been turned upside-down. I had a bright red scar from hip to hip, and a reconstructed mound and missing nipple where I used to have a breast. I was afraid, lonely, guilt-ridden and traumatized.

My anger was that part of me that railed against it all. It was the part that hated submitting when punching someone or running made much more sense to my fight or flight impulse. It was the part of me that was sick and tired of letting cancer dictate my life.

Anger was as valid an emotion as any other. By making itself known when that light cover hit the floor, it forced me to deal with it. Luckily, I met with a therapist at my cancer center on a regular basis. She encouraged me to talk through my anger, first with her and then with others.

Our conversations helped me sort through my general anger at having cancer and my specific issues with family and friends who didn’t understand why I “wasn’t “over” cancer. She also reassured me that it was normal to feel anger as a result of living with cancer.

Months after the walk-in closet incident, I returned to the breast center for the first mammogram of my remaining breast after my mastectomy. As I wrote in a post at my blog, the technician’s ignorance and gross insensitivity made me “over the top angry.”

As extremely difficult as that experience was, I didn’t swallow my anger. Instead, I was able to express it constructively and get a resolution that worked for me.

Denying my anger and characterizing it as “bad,” resulted in bad behavior (and, six years later, the light in my walk-in closet is still missing a cover.) As a normal emotional response, anger isn’t good or bad – it just is. Dealing with it openly can be difficult, but it’s a lot more constructive than smashing things.

You can read more about my struggles with cancer anger in “Seeing Red: Coping with Anger During Cancer” from CURE.

Are you dealing with cancer anger too? Let me know in the comments below. I answer every one.
 
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Firestorm531

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
March 29, 2015
I feel like I'm stuck at the angry stage of all this mess :/ the hospital where I had all my treatments is no longer having any type of support and seeking it elsewhere has been pointless. Until someone has walked through our shoes, they really can't seem to comprehend why we're dealing with such a wide myriad of emotions and why we're so angry.
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Yog

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
March 29, 2015
Excellent article about the reality of anger and cancer. Such an important topic to discuss and I think many people (relatives, friends & co-workers) think that in this day and age of cancer, it is all about staying positive. I simply cringe when people say that to me or compliment me on how positive I am. And while I am extremely grateful for having survived 3 rounds of breast cancer, I have also had many moments where I am so angry - especially at my own body. So, thank you for writing about this emotion! Hope you are doing well Debbie!
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Elle

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
March 29, 2015
I am three years postoperative from a left simple mastectomy with no reconstruction. Although I escaped radiation and chemo, I was physically handicapped with massive chest edema and scarring and finally ended up with a diagnosis of Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome. I have had tons of PT, acupuncture, scar message, the PALS Program plus I still go to the gym but it seems obvious now that I won't get much further past the restrictions from the surgery and now the Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome. Yes, I have my good days and feel great but then the anger returns so I am wondering if one really does get over the anger part of it. I like many others look great, appear normal and that all is well but it isn't quite so some of my closet friends are past the point of talking about my situation any more. I was told to ignore it and move one so the support system shrinks. I do count my blessings that I have been cancer free for 3 years but wow does it ever linger ............. Happy Spring to everyone! Elle
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meme

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
April 01, 2015
After being diagnosed with stage 2B Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in April 2013 I had a double mastectomy, reconstruction and chemo. It wasn't until about 12 months later that I found myself deeply entrenched in anger. About that time I received a message from my family doctor's office telling me that I was "way overdue" for my routine mammogram. That opened the floodgate of anger for me and I promptly called their office and proceeded to yell at anyone and everyone who talked to me about their stupidity and insensitiveness to call me with such a reminder. I clearly remember screaming at the office manager that I didn't need a mammogram because I no longer had breasts. After hanging up I then had a total crying meltdown on my living room floor. How dare they, was all I could think. It was at that point that I knew I had entered a new phase of trying to recover...the anger phase. I sought professional help from an oncology therapist who became my lifeline to delving into getting past my anger and beginning to accept that what happened to me was life changing. Anger is sneaky and creeps into the spaces that are void because we are simply in survival mode. It builds and builds until an event comes along that forces us to acknowledge its presence. I had no idea when I was first diagnosed that there were so many variables in a cancer journey. Knowledge is power.
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swski

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
April 01, 2015
I was diagnosed with a pretty aggressive prostate cancer in July, 2010. When I asked the doc if I had 5 or 10 years. He smiled and said I can promise you'll be around in 10 years. I'm at the 5 year mark and though I feel lucky and happy to be alive most days, I find myself incredibly sad and, bottom line, angry lately. It never leaves your thoughts. It gets very tiring and the side affects from the drugs that are giving me the chance to live this long are so waring. It just sucks! It's all good when you're upbeat and positive but even the people who love you and care for you get weary when you're not. They also get to live with it day in and day out. Thanks for the opportunity to vent. :|
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rhondalea

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
April 01, 2015
From the moment my doctor felt the lump in my breast, through testing and treatment, I wasn't angry about cancer. I was stage 2A, triple positive, so they threw everything at me: surgery (bilateral mastectomy), chemo (ACT), monoclonal antibody (Herceptin), radiation, hormonal therapy (tamoxifen). I'm fully cognizant that even with all that treatment, my cancer may come back, but I don't waste time worrying about it. I'd rather live my life. Unfortunately... I got angry when I realized that anesthesia, infusion drugs and oral therapy damaged my brain, and my oncologists and other doctors did nothing but shrug at me and offer an antidepressant. I wasn't depressed. I was confused and boggled and disorganized and thoroughly fatigued. I was also very afraid--nay, terrified--that my life was slipping away from me. I fought my way through oncs and a dismissive neurologist to get treatment. Thinking about what it took to get to the neuropsychologist and the speech therapist and the MBSR course still makes me white-hot with rage. I fired one onc, but the next one has been no better. Cancer happens. We have some methods to help prevent its onset, but the statistics should lead everyone to expect the possibility. What happens after cancer, though, is a joke. We're left to flounder with after-effects, and the doctors just look at us as if we should be so very grateful to have merely survived the treatment ordeal. At my first visit with the neuropsychologist (after testing), she spent the hour explaining to me what I had been going through. It was such a relief to have just one person understand the issues instead of gainsaying or distracting from them. She told me that neurosurgeons are a problem, but she would now need to add oncologists to the list: "You can walk, you can talk. Go out and live your life." What life? After chemo, I flooded the house three times when I cleaned the turtle tank. Three times, after years of cleaning the tank with no mishap. I left the stove on. I left the oven on. I sat on the couch and had to force myself to get up to go to the bathroom, even if my bladder was bursting. I didn't have the energy to care for myself, much less the cats and my husband--and it was all a symptom of the brain injury, not of depression. So yeah, blinding rage that no one would help me. It's a miracle that I managed to persevere, and I still don't know how I did it. These medical professionals need to get on the ball. Too many people are left with the fragments of a life because their doctors fail to recognize and treat QOL issues.
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penquinhead

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
April 01, 2015
Better to be a peace with the cancer rather than angry at it. I have been at peace with my pancreatic cancer for 6 years from day one. That's why I am a 6 yr survivor. Still working and climbing mountains. Never felt any pity too.
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Terri2

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
April 02, 2015
I have matastic bladder cancer. I was diagnosed 4 years ago, by then itwas in my bladder 90pecent my kidney and ureter. After 3 months of chem 2 years of surgery, and 8more monthsof chemo I got a 8 month remission then it came back thisvtime my lungvand abdominal muscle . I was a shih tu breeder for 13 years, I dont use cages they sleep with us. I wnted to breed different not get rid of them when they are done just love them more we kept runts and took back ones that didnot work out. End total 30. About the time I was told it was back I had a litter of 6. Things didn't go well and I lost the mom. Now I am bottle feeding them and of course I am falling in love. The anger comes in withthe loss of control. My husb baa and has ssid no more breeding, which I agree but makes me sad. Now he said we will only keep one pup. I said two. We a are out of money so he is right but my heart just can't take that right now. We are also losing our 15year old girl Cherry. Well my anger came out when he sad no, how dare he , one broken door later and we are not speaking. I dont know how to get ovr the anger of the loss of contol of mm y own life. Keep in mind I do the care of the dogs and unless I'm flat on my back its the only time I ask for help.
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annon123456

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
April 02, 2015
By Yog - when I get that (stay positive) I just tell them that the research has documented that one's attitude during treatment does not affect outcome. People who have had strokes, heart attacks, etc. are not told to stay positive. I ask them what makes cancer so special that we can't feel the same discouragement, anger, fear, etc, that folks with other really bad medical things happen to them feel? Why aren't cancer patients allowed the space to grieve what has happened to us, feel these emotions and process them? Why are we supposed to deny our feelings and act as if we feel positive? That usually shuts up most of them (I say it less bluntly than I am saying it here though - no sense making people mad).
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