(This post is the second of a series addressing emotions faced by young cancer survivors and how to cope with them. See Part I: Guilt here.)
For the cancer patient or caregiver, anger can stem from many places. In my own experience, the anger started right away with the two words I’m sure we’re all familiar with: “why me?” Had I done something to deserve this? When a friend of mine sent me a cancer-related article that I disagreed with, my rage became more evident as I let the annoyance show itself to the people I most cared about – my family and closest friends. Unfortunately, these people were on the receiving end of some rants that I still cringe over when I think back.
Even if you never experience the “why me” questions, you may feel mad regarding the difficult side effects to your health and your life. Many of us experience fatigue, nausea, and pain – and sometimes it’s hard to know when it will stop. We spend time devoting ourselves to the anger and resentment rather than focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Many resources I came across as a cancer survivor all had one thing in common: let yourself feel the anger rather than ignore it. Acknowledge that you’re mad about cancer – about how it’s changed your health, your fertility, your appearance, your life – and find healthy ways to express it. Debbie Woodbury, the founder of Where We Go Now, said: “I remember being really angry at the people who wanted to move on and forget about my cancer before I was ready to do the same. I felt alone, abandoned and unheard. As my anger increased, it got too big to share with those same people.” I remember feeling this way. Maybe some of you have too.
Meditation was a great outlet for me to focus on the present and find peace in all of the chaos and irritation I felt over cancer and its treatment. Aside from that, here are some other great suggestions from Cancer.net and the Mayo Clinic:
- Discuss your anger with a trusted family member or friend
- Do a physical activity while feeling your anger at its full intensity
- Beat on a pillow/soft object or yell out loud in a car or private room
- Explore complementary therapies, such as massage, relaxation techniques, or music or art therapy
- Take the powerful energy of anger and direct it to something positive, active and creative – writing, exercising, painting, knitting, etc.
Regardless of where you are in your cancer journey or your journey with cancer survivor anger, if you have felt anger then please know you are not alone! I hope the above suggestions begin to help you in coping with your emotions – please feel free to share in the comments if you have any great ideas for how we can all best cope with our cancer anger.