Fear of death, treatment, physical changes to one’s body. Fear of telling people, hurting your loved ones, fear of becoming a spectacle, fear of being an inconvenience.
Fear of recurrence is a big one. You seem to be cured and go back to work, back to ‘normal’. Family and friends, happily relieved, seem to be moving on, but the anxiety around fear of recurrence remains, eating away at the happiness that you’ve ‘beaten’ cancer.
Every one of these feelings is valid and normal.
Facing these fears is the only way to manage them. Acknowledge your feelings and try to find counter-balancing techniques.
It is helpful to develop daily, short term goals to start with. You need longer term goals too because they go a long way in helping you to take back control of your life. Try to determine what the smallest steps are that you can take to manage your anger and fear. Allow yourself the time to work out what will help you to cope better, or make the fear less, and don’t feel ashamed to ask for help if you need it. Even the smallest steps assist in building resilience and taking charge of emotions that can be debilitating.
Meditation is strongly recommended as a way of combating fear. Often just mastering a breathing or progressive relaxation technique to employ in times of anxiety can be hugely helpful, along with identifying some affirmations to repeat to oneself: ‘I am doing all I can right now’ or, ‘I believe in the future.’
Journaling, as we’ve discussed before on this blog, can also be a huge help in managing fear. Having a place to express, or let out, the unspoken anxieties you don’t feel able to share with your family or friends, or even struggle to say out loud, can be hugely helpful in diminishing their power over you. I know someone who through her cancer treatment continuously doodled pictures of faces with wide open screaming mouths, she said it was cathartic and expressed all the screaming she felt unable to do in her day to day life.
The benefits of therapy, counselling and support groups are also undeniable. Through all the stages of diagnosis, treatment and building your life again after cancer there are people who can guide you through, and share these experiences with you.
‘Cancer anger’ is a real, and valid, emotion too.
Anger that this is happening to you and by association your family. Anger at doctors who aren’t as helpful,clear, sympathetic or gentle as you would prefer them to be. Anger at people who say or do insensitive things. Anger at oneself for being angry.
But you know, you have cancer; you’re allowed to be angry. Express it. And learn to manage it.
Therapy, learning to express yourself to your friends, family and doctors, reporting medical staff who you think acted unprofessionally, kick-boxing, yelling at the mirror, throwing rocks in to a lake – the ways in which cancer patients have expressed their anger are varied and multi-fold.
No one expects you to walk this path without being angry or fearful.