9th March 2020
Do not underestimate the potency of cancer anger. It hit me a month ago and it hit me hard. It came unannounced and floored me. And I’m still angry.
I should have been expecting it. The whole grief cycle thing – dealing with cancer is in itself a kind of grief reaction. I knew that the anger phase would, if you like, be a necessary evil.
I had just expected a slightly more insidious “get ready here I come!” warning prior to its arrival.
I guess I’d been in crisis mode since diagnosis, running on autopilot. I just did what I needed to do. Bowel prep, scope, pre-op assessment, batch cooking, Christmas wrapping, clinic, surgery, post-op recovery.
All the while my husband was manning the fort and sorting out the logistics of our family’s day to day existence, which needed to carry on despite this mess.
And then there was the usual Christmas chaos, the children were still off…
…and then they went back to school and nursery.
I think that’s when the trouble started. For the first time, I had time and space to think.
It’s not that I had been in denial before then, I just hadn’t had the emotional energy to start processing everything. So I began writing. Writing about the last year. Nothing particularly emotional, just documenting the events, trying to make sense of the process that had led up to this.
From the time of diagnosis until that point I had been frustrated more than anything – after all it isn’t like they weren’t looking for a cause. If anything, I was perhaps angry that I had no one to be angry with.
I don’t think I’ve ever been really angry before. It is a scary emotion, terrifying in its intensity. I feel like a pressure cooker, ready to blow, but trying desperately hard to contain it, mainly for the sake of the children, but I also suspect the fallout wouldn’t be pretty!
Anger is an ugly beast. It’s like rocket fuel, it’s so powerful. I can try and run it off or swim it out of my system, but the relief is temporary, and soon I sense it slowly building back up – the pressure cooker once again.
I am angry for so many reasons…That this has happened to me (not that I am any less deserving than anyone else). That at 39, I had cancer. That it took a year to get diagnosed and that it had probably been there for 18 months by the time it was whipped out. The possible implications the delay to diagnosis may have. The fact that only time will tell if there will be implications – a painful waiting game…so much uncertainty. That life has changed dramatically, without my involvement or say so – for me and my family. That my superwoman mentality has been shattered.
I am, it would seem, only human after all.
But mostly I think it is that I have lost my sense of control…and I realise now, I am (and always have been) a complete control freak… and I am really struggling to cope with this loss. A grief reaction of its very own.
At work I have always been in control. As a partner in the practice I can, with my partners, determine the direction of travel. I can make decisions and manage risk and uncertainty and I can manage it well, day in and day out. I may not know the outcome but I can act in a way where all the possible outcomes can be managed.
I have not been in control these last few months. I cannot control this situation and I do not know what the ultimate outcome is going to be. It appears I can deal with everyone else’s uncertainty, just not my own.
I think the anger is abating… maybe I’m just getting used to it. I still feel I could do with climbing to the top of a mountain and shouting my head off. The exercise is definitely helping, although I think largely it comes back to me needing to be in control. Exercising is one aspect of life that I can exert control over.
I know I will get there, that this phase will pass…eventually.