Is it Okay to be Angry?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the emotions and ups and downs that come along with the diagnosis of cancer, feelings that are shared by caregiver, patient, and anyone who cares about a cancer patient.
Believe it or not, there’s a positive side to the sadness, anger, and tears – you work through those and then move forward ready to fight the battle with whatever it takes. Anger does have a place in our lives, as long as it’s controlled and redirected.
The emotional toll
I’m going to take a small diversion here, though, and look at some of the things that I personally battle emotionally and bring me down before I can lift myself up. I know there are many patients, caregivers, and others who don't have these same feelings and thoughts. Coping mechanisms, emotions, apprehension, and strengths are all different for everyone. Here are some of my thoughts and experiences.
Tears: so many tears have been shed by so many affected by the cancer in our family. Some days are consumed with crying. And other days I fight to not cry because I know if I open up and give in, there will be no stopping. Yet on the other hand, tears and crying can be cleansing. You get it out, relieve the tension in your chest and in your mind, and can start to look ahead. Tears can be a conduit to healing.
Anger is not always a bad thing
Anger is a big part of the cancer battle. I’m so angry at the cancer and what it has done to change our lives, to change us, how it has hurt the people I love. Because of cancer, some days I’m angry at the weather, be it sun or rain, angry at the cars on the street, angry at the book I’m reading, angry at the dog. Just angry in general, but bottom line, really angry at the cancer: at the pain it causes, at the fear it causes, and the fear of the future.
Do I have a right to be angry? I think so. But it doesn’t make much sense to be angry at the weather, at a book, a dog, at a car driving down the street. Some days it’s really hard to control my anger, but I can certainly control what I do with it.
I can use that anger to fight the cancer battle, whatever it takes. Use that anger to give me the energy to do the things I need to do. Use that anger to learn how to be the best caregiver I can be. Use that anger to help others, redirecting what I've learned, possibly in anger, but that may be helpful to other caregivers. Anger is not always a bad thing.
Adding COVID to the mix
COVID adds a whole new element to this cancer battle. Can I sit in the waiting room during my husband’s surgery and wait for the in-person report from the doctor? No. Instead, as of my writing this, wait in the car for a phone call. I’ll be the caregiver, but what if I’m exposed to COVID? We have to have a plan b, and c, and d all lined up because plans can change in a moment’s notice.
Is there a patient room available at the hospital for his post-surgery recuperation? In many cases, no. It’s hit or miss, and sometimes the availability of a post-surgery patient room isn’t known until after the procedure is completed.
I know I can’t provide the same degree of pain management at home, the same kind of nursing care, the same response to an emergency. But I’m afraid, and angry, that COVID can leave me in that position. Yes, I’m very angry with COVID, and I think that’s justified. What can I do? Follow the same strategies we’ve followed for the last two years: masking, hand washing, stay away from crowds, get vaccinated and boostered, be careful.
Turning anger into something good
Can I make my anger into something good? I think that many of us have been taught that anger is bad. But it doesn’t have to be. Our anger is caused by a reason. Do a deep dive and see where the reason and the power are. Think harder, find the motivation to turn anger into something positive.
Let anger be a motivator for positive change, let it change pain into a direction of compassion and kindness. Anger can make us think harder, do more, and be aggressive in finding solutions.
Anger is not always bad. It depends on what we do with it.
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?