It is common to feel anger and rage that cancer has been inflicted on you. You want to shout ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve this?’ while knowing that there is no ‘good’ answer. You can read technical explanations about how cancers develop, or the factors which make us more susceptible but this is not really the point. All you want is for someone to tell you it’s been a ghastly mistake, and that in fact you have a perfectly straightforward and treatable condition.

We were almost too numb to be angry at first, and oddly, what anger we did feel was directed at the small but (to us) significant inadequacies of the health system. There is also the suspicion that if you once let go of your emotions, you’ll never be able to stop and can wave goodbye to any last semblance of control and rational thought. We were trying desperately hard to be calm and sensible although we were at times incredibly frustrated at the apparent lack of action or progress and at our own powerlessness. There was also the sense that everything we’d worked so hard for years to build up was crumbling around us and that our whole future together was disappearing before our eyes.

We generally consider anger to be a negative emotion, but it can have a positive side in helping you to focus your thoughts and energy. You can channel your anger in a constructive way so that

rather than saying, ‘It’s not fair’, you gradually come to think, ‘OK, so I’ve got cancer. I can’t change that but I can fight to cope with it the best way I can.’ When talking about serious illness, and especially cancer, we often use language which we associate with a battle – ‘I’m not going to let this disease beat me’, ‘I’m going to fight this with all my strength’. Cancer becomes the ‘enemy’, to be treated as something which has to be fought with every possible resource. You can draw on your anger to fuel your determination and a more positive frame of mind which will help you to face your cancer and treatment with greater strength.

Inevitably, frustrations can simmer inside you and there will be times when these boil over and your anger is directed at the people you love most. This is rarely because you feel angry with them personally, but because it is natural to express your emotions to those closest to you. If your anger stems from the sudden loss of control over your destiny, from a sense of loss of strength and ‘status’ or a sudden feeling of inadequacy, it can be hard to put these feelings into a coherent explanation – and you may not feel like doing so. However supportive those close to you are, they need some understanding of your anger in order not to feel hurt and shut out. Of course, you won’t feel like entering into lengthy explanations every time you snap at someone, but if communication is good, people will have a basic understanding of why you feel so frustrated and find it easier to offer you the right type of support when you need it.

It can come as a surprise to experience anger at what is intended as kindness by others. For example, acquaintances who have a friend or relation who has been treated for cancer may say to you, ‘I know how you feel. My friend’s friend had cancer, and it was awful.’ It may seem to you that they claim to know exactly what you are going through, having shared a similar experience only second-hand. You may feel enraged because nobody knows exactly what is in your mind except you. Everybody’s experience of cancer is different, and even two cancer patients talking to one another can’t know exactly what is in each other’s mind. Cancer patients are still individuals even if bound by a shared disease! However, we all draw on our own experiences in our conversations, and people will try to sympathize with your situation by remembering how they felt in similar circumstances, either first or second-hand. The comparisons are well meant, even if you feel like shouting at them, ‘You haven’t got a clue what it’s like!’

In a similar vein, there is a fine line between sympathy and patronizing behaviour. You might find that people are more tactile than usual with you and, for example, touch your arm frequently when talking to you. They are probably trying to demonstrate physically their support and sympathy for you, showing that they are close to you – but it can feel very patronizing. Pregnant women sometimes complain that when their pregnancy becomes obvious, even casual acquaintances feel they have some right to touch their ‘bump’, as if it has become public property. This is a similar syndrome, and it’s difficult to avoid without causing offence: you might feel like saying, ‘Please don’t touch me, I’m not a cat’, but at the same time don’t want to convey any sense of rejection.

You can hardly avoid changes in your perspective on life following your diagnosis. What used to cause your blood to boil with anger and frustration may seem irrelevant now and people who moan endlessly about their seemingly trivial problems can become a further source of irritation to you. A friend who complains of toothache or of standing in the supermarket queue for ages or the breakdown of their car may leave you feeling, T wish I had your problems’ or “Think yourself lucky!’ It is difficult not to voice these thoughts or to be angry with others for taking for granted aspects of life which are currently beyond your reach. Your sense of perspective and outlook on life have taken a battering. In the meantime it is helpful if others take account of this, but life is not that simple and you will need your reserves of patience.

Some men find that anger, whether a brief but violent outburst or a simmering, seething frustration, is expressed in unexpected and uncharacteristic ways. You may be more prone than usual to sudden outbursts or a tendency to snap unreasonably for little or no reason. You may feel a need to exert your authority more than usual, to ‘prove’ that you are still the same strong, capable man, to insist that things are done ‘your’ way, or become more defensive about your role and abilities. The temptation may be strong to reject ungraciously and crossly offers of help with a task which is traditionally ‘yours’, such as walking the dog or cutting the grass.

If you are usually mild-mannered and even-tempered, experiencing anger and frustration from a variety of sources may come as a shock, both to you and your family. This is not a reason to suppress it as ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. You are allowed to be angry, and without feeling guilty or the need to apologize afterwards.


Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.