A man holds a space in his chest that's filled with a tangled thread.

Bladder Cancer: Riding an Emotional Rollercoaster

Last updated: April 2023

Hearing the news that someone you love has cancer is the beginning of an emotional rollercoaster. For anyone in the same position as I was when I first heard the news of my mother's diagnosis, I hope sharing my experience will help you to see you are not alone and that the emotional rollercoaster you're about to ride or currently riding does slow down a little.

Initial emotions: shock, fear, WTF?!

The first emotions I felt when hearing my mother's diagnosis were shock, fear, and an uncontrollable feeling of disbelief. Then the adrenaline kicked in–sending my body into fight or flight mode.

The whole world seemed to slow down. It felt like time had stopped while my brain tried to make sense of what I had just heard. I remember my heart started racing. A feeling of breathlessness overcame me. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest, pushing all the air out of my body. My palms became sweaty, and I heard a pounding in my ears as the blood rushed around my body.

I didn't have any control over what I was thinking or feeling. I couldn't control what thoughts came into my mind. I couldn't focus. I felt like I just couldn't think. That was day one of the emotional rollercoaster ride – and it was only just beginning.

Looking for someone to blame: anger, rage, unfairness

It took a few days for the news to sink in. The stress response that the diagnosis triggered slowly dissipated and changed form.

What were shock, fear, and disbelief transformed into anger, rage, and the need to find someone to blame. Unfortunately, due to multiple misdiagnoses over more than 18 months, it was easy to find someone to blame. I wanted to find the doctor that had misdiagnosed my mother's symptoms and hold him accountable. I needed someone to blame; otherwise, I was going to go insane.

Ultimately, I came to realize that playing the blame game would accomplish nothing. I would only feel worse if I acted on the impulses that I had. But these feelings were so incredibly strong. I had never felt emotions like this. Yet, just like the first wave of emotions, these uglier feelings of raging anger and unfairness also transformed over time.

Awe, proud, amazed

Watching from afar as my mother faced one of her hardest battles, I became inspired by how she approached such a difficult situation. Slowly, the uncontrollable anger evolved into awe.

I became amazed at how my mother charged head-first into her battle against cancer and how she tried her best to stay positive. She faced rounds of chemo, life-altering surgeries, and so much more. Her whole way of life was changed forever - she was changed forever.

I was proud and amazed at how she could stay so positive about her situation. Her whole life has changed drastically and permanently. But one thing I never expected as I watched my mother's cancer battle from a distance was how this changed her for the better.

Yes, this may sound incredibly strange, maybe even slightly insulting, but being confronted by her mortality and knowing the survival statistics for her grade of bladder cancer gave her a lust for life I had never seen.

A new lease on life

I became so incredibly proud of her and how she dealt with every awful moment of her treatment. I watched as she grabbed life by the balls and did things she would never have dared to do pre-diagnosis.

My parents went off on an 8-month adventure traveling the world; they participated in a 2500km tuk-tuk race across India; she faced her fear of heights suspended above Singapore, and so much more. I was truly in awe. I was amazed. And I was so incredibly proud.

The emotional rollercoaster that lasted a good few months did finally come to a stop once I realized this: My mother may have been fighting cancer, but she was going to make sure she lived while doing it.

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