My sister, Diann, is having her one-year anniversary from starting Chemotherapy for Stage 3 Breast Cancer. She is struggling with ALOT of emotions and feelings and wonders what to do with them. I resurrected my Blog Post that I wrote one-year after Chemo began for me. Diann could definitely relate to these angry feelings and is trying to understand what to do with them.
Here is my Blog Post from 2013. Even if you are many years out from treatment, you may relate to many of these anger issues that were statements I gathered from women who had written to me:
According to Dr. Phil McGraw, “Anger is nothing more than a cover for hurt, frustration or fear or all three.” Well, that made sense to me as to why I felt angry. As far as my heart was concerned I felt hurt, was frustrated, and definitely fearful about the future. I was so uninformed before breast cancer, I had absolutely no idea what it would mean to live as a survivor. My images were of physically fit, smiling women running Marathons dressed in pink garb with glowing skin, white teeth, perky new breasts and thick long hair pulled back in a ponytail tied with a pink ribbon. It looked so easy and almost inviting.
I am definitely not alone when I feel angry. I’ve received countless emails recently from women who feel angry during and after treatment. They are confused, hurt and feel guilty that they have these feelings. Almost everyone says this in one form or another: “I am so grateful to be alive, but yet I feel angry.” Here are some of their statements. Perhaps you can relate to a few or many of them.
- I feel really angry that I am the one who got the breast cancer
- I have pity parties for myself and for what I have lost. Sometimes my pity parties last for days.
- I get angry at women who go around flaunting their cleavage especially in front of my husband
- I miss my old pre-cancer life and feel angry about the loss
- I cry over what I lost
- I feel guilty that I lived and my friend (or family member) died of breast cancer
- I hate how breast cancer left me with all the side effects that remain like Lymphedema, neuropathy, numbness in my breast, no low cut tops, cannot shave under my arms, heart damage, radiation damage, mouth sores, acid reflux, thinner hair and severe pain.
- I get envious of people who live in a non-cancer world
- I get angry that I had to quit my job
- I get angry that I was fired during breast cancer treatments
- I hate that a pain in my leg or a headache evokes panic of mets and that makes me angry.
- I feel burdened by the weight of Survivorship like I should always be happy because I survived
- I get angry at people who say ignorant things to me when they know nothing about breast cancer
- I feel angry at the family and friends who abandoned me during treatment
- I get angry and tired of being an inspiration
- I am angry that I have no sexual desire and feel bad for my husband
- I get angry that the pink ribbons and pink parades left others thinking that because we lived and because our hair is back, we are fine.
- I hate that I never get done going to medical appointments.
- I really hate and feel mad that people think because I survived somehow I had the “good cancer”
I am angry that chemo stole my mind and I cannot think clearly like before breast cancer.
- I hate feeling frequently detached from the rest of the world.
I am angry and tired of people having a quick fix for me when I am in panic mode about recurrence
I really hate it and get angry when people who still have estrogen and normal muscle mass (because I lost mine to estrogen-blockers, ovary removal and “chemopause”) say “I can show you how to exercise and lose weight.
I get angry when other people complain about really minor things because I had to face mortality head on
- I feel very guilty for all of these feelings like it is wrong to even have them or admit them
Admitting that we have angry feelings is a huge step. Of course, we celebrate that we survived. But the reality is that survival is often at a cost. So many women have so much to deal with physicially and emotionally after survival. Some days you feel like jumping around and celebrating survival with pink pom poms. Other days you feel like taking those pink pom poms and (fill in the blank…..).
When I was researching for this post, I found a very interesting article in Maclean’s, a Canadian Magazine about anger and breast cancer survivors: http://www2.macleans.ca/2008/11/20/the-angry-breast-cancer-survivors/ Perhaps you will find it interesting as well.
Note: One of the ways I dealt with my anger issues is to focus my energy on my online store for cancer patients – http://www.hellocourage.com