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It’s Okay to Feel Your Anger, Maybe Even Necessary

I am not an angry person. Anyone who knows me would say this is true, but of course, I certainly get angry from time to time.

Who doesn’t?

Sometimes anger is a bit misunderstood in Cancer Land. It’s one of those “forbidden” emotions, which is silly because why wouldn’t receiving a cancer diagnosis (or having a loved one receive one) make a person angry from time to time?

When I first received the call from the doctor delivering the news of my diagnosis matter-of-factly as if letting me know I had an ear infection or strep throat,

I admit it. I was shocked, and then I was angry.

I was angry cancer “picked” me. I was angry breast cancer still existed. I was angry at my mother for not being here when I needed her and yes, I was angry she didn’t get cancer until she was in her seventies. I was angry to be diagnosed decades younger, as if getting cancer at a later age is better. It’s not. I was angry for putting my family through cancer again and so soon. I was angry for losing control of my health, my plans and my life in general. I was angry cancer interrupted the smoothness of my life, for butting in where it did not belong.

So yes, I was angry for these and lots of other reasons too.

Often people with cancer feel guilty for not “doing cancer right.” They feel guilty for not feeling positive and may even wrongly feel this lack of positivity affects their cancer outcome. It doesn’t. They feel guilty for whatever it is they might really be feeling that doesn’t fit the mold of “proper cancer behavior.” They often feel, well, angry.

Well, guess what?

It’s okay to feel your anger, in fact, it might even be necessary.

Anger, just like any emotion, is not good or bad in and of itself. Feeling angry can be a perfectly reasonable emotion for a person with cancer to be feeling, just not all the time, of course. Anger can provide a means to vent and let off steam. For some, it might even be essential to feel anger in order to process through the messiness of cancer.

Yes, anger can sometimes be a necessary, even useful emotion. It can be a great motivator.

Just like I always told my students, it’s okay to feel angry. It’s what you decide to do with your anger that matters.

Anger is like a pot of boiling water on the stove.

First, the water starts off at a slow simmer with gentle bubbles gurgling, creating just a little heat and steam. As the temperature builds, the water becomes hotter. As it reaches its boiling point, it becomes powerful, even dangerous with its scalding temps and vaporizing steam. If the boiling continues, eventually the water disappears and you end up with nothing but an empty, burnt ill-smelling pot.

Anger, too, can simmer, intensify and finally boil over if you try to keep it in or covered up. Just like the “boiled out” pot on the stove, concealed or covered-up anger can eventually leave you feeling empty, burned out and able to accomplish little.

This is why it’s important to allow yourself to feel all your emotions, even anger. 

Purposefully channeled anger can be a great motivator.

Use yours to fight back in your own way, not someone else’s way. Let yourself feel your anger and harness its energy to accomplish things.

So, if you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer, allow yourself (or them) to feel all their emotions, including anger.

Figure out (or help them figure out) a way to use it in a constructive way. It might take a while to figure something out, but you will.

I am not an angry person, but I do get angry sometimes.

These days what makes me angry about cancer is hearing news that yet another friend was diagnosed with mets. And another, also with mets, was hospitalized and still another ended up in ICU with chemo complications.

I get angry when I hear about organizations proclaiming their mission is to eliminate cancer and yet they are allocating less than 20% of donated dollars to research and less than 5% to metastatic cancer research.

I get angry when the focus continues to be on breast cancer awareness and pink ribbon shopping nonsense. I get frustrated when well-meaning people don’t take time to question.

Mostly, I get angry when people I know and people I don’t know keep dying from metastatic breast cancer.

Yes, I still get angry from time to time.

When I do, I do what I always do, I write about it.

What do YOU do?

What makes/made you angry about cancer?

How do you channel your anger?

Have you felt guilty for feeling angry?

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It's okay to feel your anger, 'cuz #cancer sucks! #breastcancer #cancersucks #emotions #feelings #mentalhealth #coping

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Thursday 27th of October 2016

Thanks for finally talking about > It’s Okay to Feel Your Anger, Maybe Even Necessary | Nancy's Point < Loved it!

Blog post title – Where We Go Now

Saturday 8th of October 2016

[…] Well, I blog about it. I have a post called “It’s OK to Feel Your Anger.” I not only think it’s ok, I think it’s essential. All emotions are real and need validation. We can’t try to hide them or stomp them out, they only come back later in another form. Thanks for this post that says feeling angry is alright. Of course, we do need to figure out ways to channel that anger, but that takes time. Give yourself that time. And again, what I do is blog about it! Here’s a link to that post if you’re interested. http://nancyspoint.com/its-ok-to-feel-your-anger/ […]

Valerie Nemeth

Monday 22nd of February 2016

Nancy,

Since I was dx'ed with breast cancer in December, it had me feeling a mixture of being peeved and down at times in relation to the loss of my personal "bathing autonomy," and unfairly being forced to put my reality of normalcy in the form of work, school and volunteering on hold in favor of a reality of blood tests, biopsies, medical appointments and chemo sessions. I at times dreaded the notion of how I may go down the highway to chemo hell in the sense of how the side effects may be cumulative and catch up with me with subsequent chemo rounds and found I could only hope I would continue to get lucky with being able to tolerate the subsequent rounds of chemo with seemingly no side effects. Considering how something may have been "up" with my right breast earlier in 2015, I seemed to have survived my efforts to give an "f.u." to breast cancer by not letting it get in the way of other things I considered to matter to me such as saying good bye to CAT FANCY and DOG FANCY magazine as they were ceasing publication and "morphing" into Catster and Dogster magazine, by buying the final hurrah issues of those magazines and technically completing my "v.i.p's" or "very important projects" of the "memory books" where I celebrated all in my life that I considered "cool." Considering how the breast cancer is my worst enemy, I plan to in a sense get my "revenge" on it by finding the right groups of like minded people who'd "been there done that" in how they dealt with it or were STILL having to deal with it and also get it that BREAST CANCER SUCKS and seeing about joining them to advocate AGAINST breast cancer and FOR better treatments and possibly even a way to cure it.

Jewelene Gresham

Thursday 5th of June 2014

Hello Nancy,

I was surprised yet relieved to find your website. In a few weeks it will be a year that I was disgnosed with breast cancer.

Although I am now cancer free, I am angry as hell. I am bitter and at times enraged at what cancer has do ne to my life. People seem to see me as ungrateful. I am so greatful to still be here but I am angry at what cancer has done to my life.

Valerie Nemeth

Monday 22nd of February 2016

L.O.L , I recently read a blog called the "Breast Cancer Couch" by a psychologist who happens to have breast cancer and she at times referred to it as the "Fing Cancer," F.C., or "Fecking (though she wasn't necessarily British) Cancer. I'm sure we all could agree that any breast or other cancer is of the "f'ing" variety and I happened to get a big kick out of that blog post.

Nancy

Friday 6th of June 2014

Jewelene, Welcome! I'm glad you found me. There is a lot to be angry about. I know what you mean about being viewed by some as ungrateful. We are very grateful to be alive, but that doesn't mean we must sit back and be quiet. Vent somehow. It's healthy to let it out in some way that works for you. Writing works for me. Thanks for reading and commenting. Good luck with things.

Laura

Saturday 22nd of March 2014

I was diagnosed with breast cancer ten days after my dad died from brain cancer. I was in too much shock at the time to be angry. Then I found out I had caught my cancer very early and I was too grateful to be angry. A year and a half after diagnosis and six months after the final stage of reconstruction (I decided on bilateral with recon) I am recognizing now that I do feel angry. Angry at the unfairness of the loss of my dad, loss of my youth, and whatever remained of my innocence. That's what it feels like. I do not dwell on it. I have three beautiful kids I dedicate my every day to right now, and I'm grateful that I can, yet I know that accepting the loss, grieving the loss, and bring angry over it will continue to show up unexpectedly. Sometimes out of nowhere these emotions will be triggered and resurface. I am tempted most if the time to push then away and not let then take time away from me, but I know that dealing with them head in is part if the healing I've yet to do.

Nancy

Sunday 23rd of March 2014

Laura, It's perfectly understandable that you have many complex emotions surfacing, including feelings of anger. You've been dealing with a lot of things of late. It takes time to process any one of them individually, and when a person is forced to process all of them at the same time, well, it's a lot. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time. Talk to others who understand, or want to. Pushing away feelings isn't generally helpful. Good luck with things. You are not alone.