Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

OCTOBER 11, 2017

There is no getting around it. Probably there should be no getting around it. One of the intense emotions most (all?) of us feel when hearing a cancer diagnosis is rage. How can this be happening to me? I have always eaten well, exercised, worn my seat belt and generally taken care of myself. Or I have young children who need me. Or I just retired and was looking forward to this part of my life. Or....

Especially for women, who are generally socialized not to display anger, this is tough. I painfully remember these feelings and my absolute ignorance about how to express them or where to put them. Clearly it isn't fair to be generally irritable or worse with everyone around us. It's not their fault, and we will need them in the months ahead. It does not help us to direct all the anger inward or to bury it. Trying to suppress it or pretend it isn't there will only result in a giant explosion of rage somewhere down the line.

From Susan Gubar in the New York Times: 

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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