My Uncontrollable Anger at My Cancer
I was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in September of 2017. Over the next coming months, my life was consumed with an ongoing series of hospital appointments, tests, waiting for results, TURBTs, and receiving results. I felt like I was on a merry-go-round and couldn't get off. Each set of results became more serious than the last. My cancer was eventually diagnosed as high grade and "aggressive" and about to break through the bladder wall!
Agreeing to a radical cystectomy
It was decision time. I was advised by my medical team that a radical cystectomy was my best option. Without question, I agreed; I just wanted to be rid of this "thing" within me. I had to wait two months for the surgery as it was the holiday season. How I got through those months I don't know. Everything seemed kind of unreal. I slept a lot as my energy levels were at an all time low.
Time for surgery
The New Year arrived, as did my surgery date. I was feeling a little anxious, as anyone would be, but as I had no other options left to beat this beast, I felt surprisingly calm. I underwent surgery, and awoke with my stoma and a large bag hanging from my side. My surgeon advised me that he believed he had removed all the cancer. But, as what had now become usual, I had to await results of the biopsies to be sure.
The first few days
The next few days passed by in a blur. I was taught how to deal with the cleaning and changing of my stoma bag, met with a physiotherapist, and was given simple exercises to do. I met with a dietitian who gave dietary advice. The nursing staff gave me cards with the telephone numbers of my local stoma and Macmillan nurses. And so it went on.
Then suddenly and without warning I burst into tears, followed by uncontrollable sobbing. Why was I crying, why was I so upset? Then it hit me, I was angry, so damned angry! Anger like I had never experienced before. I felt out of control of my emotions, hysterical almost. I hadn't just lost my bladder but also my cervix and the anterior wall of my vagina along with other bits and pieces, and they were never coming back. I felt a loss, a loss almost like losing a loved one. It was the realization that my life was never going to be quite the same again, and I didn't know how I was going to deal with it.
Seeking professional help
It was at this point I realized, I had been given help and advice on all matters relating to the surgery and managing my stoma, diet, etc., but at no point had I been give any emotional support or information of how my surgery would affect me mentally. The anger I held within began to scare me. I had questions, lots of questions. How did this happen to me? Why wasn't the tumor found earlier? I was also very angry at myself for not having demanded a second opinion earlier. But all this was fruitless, it wasn't going to change my situation. I had to learn to deal with it. But how?
I knew I wasn't equipped to deal with this alone, I didn't know how to. I recognized I needed some form of professional help, counseling perhaps. This was a big deal for me as I always considered myself a "strong" individual and that realizing and asking for help felt like a weakness, but it isn't!! I had been crying uncontrollably for most of the day and still very angry, so a counselor was sent for.
First meeting with my counselor
The counselor arrived; he appeared very young, but seemed to immediately have a calming aura about him. I explained through uncontrollable sobs, how I was feeling and that this was so not like me. He said, "What do you mean this isn't like you? You have never had cancer before, you are allowed to feel angry". Those words were the turning point for me. It was okay to be angry and upset, it was okay to thump the pillow. What wasn't okay was to hold the emotions in - which is exactly what I had been doing, and it wasn't healthy.
A different kind of normal
He talked me through various techniques to help with the anger, such as breathing exercises, and focusing on the positives. That the feelings of upset, loss and anger were perfectly normal, and no, I wasn't going mad. He made me realize I had gone through my whole cancer journey being strong, being positive as appointments came and went. Now, my cancer journey was hopefully coming to an end, I had time to reflect, time to take a breather. That's when I had finally let go of all my pent up emotions and fears, that's why I was upset, that's why I was angry. Up until now, my life had been consumed by "staying strong." But now I had been given a life again now, albeit a slightly different life, so I had a life and I had hope.
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