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Posted 8/12/2016

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  This is such an important and almost taboo topic. OF COURSE we are furious that we have cancer, and of course we have to control those feelings, and of course it is totally unhelpful and unproductive to lash out at others, and of course we can't help it sometimes. It is much more acceptable to be sadly accepting, to gracefully submit to whatever is coming, to spare our friends and families and caregivers our wrath.

  There is plenty to be angry about! The biggest thing is the diagnosis itself, but there are also so many appointments that can take over your life, worries about pain and money and death, people who say stupid or hurtful things, needles that hurt, body parts that are sacrificed, vacations and other plans that must be changed. The list goes on and on. And this list is for people who reasonably expect to be well and stay alive. For those who are not so lucky, the list is longer.

  Learning what to do, how to manage, our anger is vital. Most of us settle down, most of the time, and talk about it a little with people whom we trust. This is another good reason to consider a cancer support group; everyone in the room knows a lot about fury. 

  With some misgivings and a lot of embarrassment, I am going to share a story about my very bad behavior in 1993. This was long enough ago that I can laugh.....a little. It was the day that I was to start chemotherapy. I had been through surgery (wide excision and axillary node dissection, that was the standard operation then), and had been lost in the terror of being a single mom with two daughters and inconsolable worry about what would happen to them if I died. On this day, I was accompanied by the man who would later become my husband (and he gets lots of credit for sticking around after this) . My oncologist examined me and then announced that chemo would have to wait a week; my surgical sites were not yet well enough healed to proceed. She wisely left the room, and I lost it. Furious, mostly because of everything that was happening, but also because I had tried to control events and schedules and carefully chosen this particular day because of a couple of important commitments in the future that I "needed" to attend. I clearly had not yet learned that cancer takes over the calendar and all plans are futile.

 While storming around the room, I went to the window and yanked hard on the curtains. They fell down; they apparently had been snapped on to whatever held them. Fortunately, I had enough sanity remaining to laugh. And the anger quickly became pretty hysterical laughter.

  With that confession, here is a really honest and wonderful essay by Susan Gubar:

The Anger of Cancer

While dealing with lung cancer, my friend Nancy K. Miller seethed in her blog at pharmaceutical advertisements and hospital commercials that bombard us daily with pictures of joyous cancer patients supported by doting intimates. These jubilant characters have nothing to do with the frustrated people we know who periodically erupt in righteous indignation. I often must remind myself that anger needs to be understood as the flip side of the roiling fear that cancer instills in patients and also in caregivers.

Over the past few years, every member of my support group has bristled over well-intentioned but hurtful relatives.

Carrol enjoyed her Joan of Arc post-chemo look until her 82-year-old mother asked, “Why aren’t you wearing your wig to cover up?”

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