I’m Scared, I’m Sad, I’m Angry … Is That OK?

“You are what you think … geez, that’s frightening.” Lily Tomlin

From the moment you are told that you have cancer, that the biopsy was positive, that those shadows in the MRI were malignant, that the scan “lit up” with the colors of disease, your breath sucks in and stays there, landing in the pit of the stomach where it will sit, unbelieving and stunned.

What happens now?

What happens next?

You feel fear …

You feel anger …

You feel sad …

You don’t feel anything … you’re numb …

And the fears keep appearing and reappearing, spinning around in your mind, making your heart race, palms sweaty, mouth dry.  The room is spinning while all around you people are trying to be helpful, to support you with positive messages, with hope. Oh uh, you think … I don’t feel so positive … will this make me sicker?  Am I not doing this cancer thing right?

Yes … unfortunately, you are because all of these feelings and thoughts are authentic responses to the reality that cancer has impacted your body, your mind, your life.

It’s vital to allow these so-called  “negative” feelings.  Whether your choose to express them, write about them, keep them inside of yourself … you have them, they are real … they are thoughts and feelings … those won’t kill you.

The tyranny of positive thinking runs rampant in the cancer community. Although there is no conclusive evidence of stress, depression or  a specific personality type causing cancer, these dangerous judgments continue to exist and cause a great deal of personal pain to those struggling with cancer. Self-blame and the idea that you somehow caused your cancer by not thinking the right way only clouds the truth  that you did not choose this illness. Perhaps in that way it is an antidote to helplessness or a modicum of certainty in an uncertain world.  However, there are better ways to soothe the confusion of not knowing, of not having control, than dwelling on  the unsolicited opinions of  others, or  even worse, drenching yourself in blame.

Be gentle with your fears … let them speak, scream and cry  … and then move on.