Anger Because of a Cancer Diagnosis

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As a colon cancer survivor, you may have spent hours pondering why, as an otherwise healthy adult with no known risk factors, you were chosen to develop cancer. The unjustness of it doesn't appeal and can actually transform into anger, if left unexplored, over time.

It's important to clarify that not everyone will feel angry at the diagnosis. Many people feel fear, regret, or even guilt once told he or she has cancer. These -- as well as anger -- are natural and normal emotions that are actually a healthy part of the acceptance of your diagnosis, initially.

After learning that you have cancer, you may daydream about what your life would've been like if you didn't smoke, drink excessively, or take other risky health behaviors. Conversely, you might be stuck in a rut of fear wondering how you are going to survive the upcoming treatment and continue to feed your family. These are all very normal -- and quite common -- concerns. This is why many cancer treatment centers actually incorporate therapy as an integral part of your treatment. 

Getting back to anger, there are positive ways to harness this emotion, rather than letting it destroy your interpersonal relationships and eventually, you.

Examine the Emotion

This might sound obvious, but you may not have explored exactly what factor is making you mad. Are you mad that you ate salads instead of cheeseburgers for the last 10 years and it doesn't seem fair that your colon didn't thank you? Or, are you frustrated that you gave up smoking in your twenties and are thinking, "A lot of good that did. I still ended up with cancer." By exploring exactly what you are angry about may help you to move forward and past the emotion. Congratulate yourself for your healthy behaviors and work on accepting the fact that many times, cancer is not fair. We still don't know why babies are born with it or why a perfectly healthy 20 year old gets it. 

Let Your Friends and Family Know Where You Are At Mentally

Many cancer survivors try to internalize feelings about being diagnosed with cancer. Instead of protecting family and friends, as was intended, you usually end up harming relationships with angry outbursts that really weren't intended for that person. It's okay to apologize and then let your friend or family member know what you are feeling. My guess is that he or she will be surprised and will also completely understand. 

Shift Your Priorities

After a cancer diagnosis, this one is probably already occurring naturally, without much effort from you. Spending those extra moments looking at your daughter's school work or talking to a long lost friend takes on a whole new light when you are forced to remember that our time here is limited. However, if you consciously work to spend a few moments each day replacing feelings of anger with gratitude for what you do have, it can help reframe your state of mind. 

Consider Counseling

You're probably thinking: I don't even know how I will make time for all these treatments. Why in the world would I want to set up counseling and have even more appointments to go to? The answer is simple. If your anger is pervading your life and you haven't moved past it, it can lead to even more serious complications. Unchecked anger can manifest in physiological concerns to include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Triggering risky behaviors

By risky behaviors I am speaking the activities we might engage in if we are aren't thinking clearly, such as excessive drinking or self-medicating, picking fights, road rage, or even unprotected sexual activity to vent the anger. If you find yourself walking down these paths, it is prudent to discuss your concerns with your doctor and remember that you are not walking down this path alone. 

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