Cancer is obviously an emotional roller coaster. Not only for the person with cancer but for the people around them as well. When you have cancer, some of the emotions you experience are one’s that everyone expects you to have – feelings like anger, sorrow, fear and a general feeling of being over-whelmed or worn-out with it all. But there are so many other emotions, that you just don’t hear about as much. I was speaking with a friend who has also had cancer recently, about all the other unexpected emotions we had felt and it turned out they were the same, it suddenly seemed strange that we had never spoken about it before. And so (as seems to be a running theme with me at the moment) I think talking about these things so people are more aware is what can help, so that’s what I am going to do….
Personally I felt a certain amount of relief when I was diagnosed. This may sound strange but I had known that something was wrong for sometime so to know that I wasn’t going crazy or not eating enough fibre (as the GP kept saying) was a strange sort of relief. At least now I knew what it was, we could start trying to deal with it.
Guilt. This is a big one. And many other Cancer Superstars I know say the same. There are so many facets to the guilt as well. Guilt that you are inflicting this illness on others. Guilt if certain family members or friends are coping very well. Guilt that you are doing better than the person sitting next to you having chemo. Guilt over getting the all clear when someone else didn’t. Guilt over not being around for your kids as much as you should have been Guilt over eating red-meat or drinking bottled water or whatever the latest, ‘this will give you cancer’ is, that could have possibly brought you to having the disease. Guilt over not acknowledging just how bad it was when someone else was going through cancer before you because you just didn’t realise how much they would be going through. Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt!
Whenever you mention this to anyone who hasn’t had cancer, again they look at you like you are mad. To be fair, it does sound mad. None of those things are your fault and thinking about it logically, by definition you should only feel guilty if you have done something wrong.
But that’s the amazing things about emotions, they can be completely irrational and yet retain their strength and conviction over the person who is feeling them.
The other funny thing is when you don’t have a reaction that others expect you to have. For me it was it was the ‘why me’ emotion. I never felt this. People would say ‘you must be thinking why me’ and when I said I didn’t, people would look at me like I was crazy… or lying! It was really strange. I did feel ‘why now’ and thought the timing was unfair given that I had a 3 month old and 2 year old when I was diagnosed but never why me. My friend felt like she had to apologise for not being emotional enough and crying all the time. I think people often think I’m strange that I am able to talk about it so matter-of-factly (is that a word) and not break down. I don’t know why this is. Just because I’m feeling strong at that moment, doesn’t mean I’m not going to break down later that day / weekend / whatever. No one could sustain that level of heightened emotion with a constant outpouring of feelings when you are going through cancer. Doesn’t mean you’re not feeling it though.
My 2 year old only has room for one emotion at a time so can go from a screaming fit to laughing in a nano-second but adults and especially one’s who have cancer don’t act like that. The number of conflicting emotions that you can be feeling at anyone time when you have cancer is cataclysmic and enough to give you a serious headache. Just like in the word cloud above that I made, to show how many different emotions can be in your heart at any one time. But regardless there are no right or wrong emotions. Everyone is going to handle it differently depending on there constitution and circumstances.
I think if you are a Cancer Superstar, you just need to give yourself a break. Whatever you are feeling is fine, no doubt it is something that all Cancer Superstars are feeling and it probably will pass onto another emotion soon enough. If you are the loved one of a Cancer Superstar, be patient, don’t expect them to feel or think anything and work on the assumption there is even more going on in their head than they are probably talking about. This may not be because they are trying to keep things from you, most likely because there are so many emotions happening at one time, it is hard to pull them all apart and explain.
If you are feeling seriously down and struggling to cope, speak with your doctor. There is a lot they can do to help, don’t feel like you shouldn’t ask.
What emotion are you experiencing that you didn’t expect? Doesn’t have to be cancer related…. let me know in the comment box x