The Day I Got Angry

amy   January 5, 2017   7 Comments on The Day I Got Angry

A bracelet a friend made for me shortly after diagnosis

Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, I’d like to think I’ve been a good sport about it. From finding the lump, to diagnosis, to genetic testing, and then surgeries and treatment, I have rolled with it. I’ve likened my changing body to Mrs. Doubtfire, dueling banjos, and a Vegan diet. I’ve laughed my way through new ridiculous fitness routines, read books to burn off energy while on steroids, and played the cancer card once or twice when it was desperately needed. I’ve even timed getting out of bed on winter mornings to when I have a hot flash so that I’m motivated to throw off the covers. That takes a refined skill, my friends.

I’ve also had moments of self-pity and panicked doubt, trials where hope seemed far-fetched, and a deep longing for my life “before diagnosis” to return. It has been a bumpy three years, but one thing I can say is that I haven’t spent a long period of time feeling angry. There have been flare-ups of frustration, stages of deep sighing, and phases of clenched fists. There have been evenings where I have gone to bed early because the day had been a difficult one, and my best defense was to end it. The next morning, the sun would rise again, and so would I.

I embraced the clean slate, the do-over, the chance to begin anew, even with my new reality looming large.

I have met many other women who have been diagnosed, but, with all of them, diagnosis has been the starting point of our connection to one another. A friend of mine had a breast cancer scare. Thankfully, no cancer or reason for concern was present. Her experience had jarred me, but I was enveloped by the rush of relief that she was cancer-free. I have been in a safe, secure place, where I have lived comfortably by insulating myself from the anxiety and terror of someone in my life also having breast cancer.

Recently, that illusion of security has been shattered. A dear friend now has been diagnosed. While her causation is not genetic, her trajectory is still similar to mine.

Now I am angry.

I am so angry that I threw a full-on tantrum, stomping my feet and wailing, Hulk-smashing everything within reach.

I am so angry that I hold back tears every time I see a pink ribbon or a stupid slogan that glamorizes this scourge, as if it makes its victims into saints and martyrs.

I am so angry that I stalk her social media accounts, staring at her posts while trying to piece together comments that are useful, encouraging, inspiring, insightful…anything but unhelpful.

I am so angry that I sit in a pew at church each week and I cannot talk directly to God.

I feel frantic swells of helplessness, and then manic shifts to act. I want to tell her every detail I can possibly relate, and then I worry I will make her more afraid than she should be if I overload her with information.

I want to make a bargain with the universe, to say that I’ll go through it all again if she is reset back to before this began.

It is irrational, I know, to think that no other person in my life would be diagnosed with breast cancer. It is as if I thought I would take this journey and, by doing so, no one else would be subjected to it. What a self-centered view of the world, and it shows how much a person can revert back to early childhood when confronted with his/her greatest fears.

I don’t doubt my friend’s strength, poise, or ability to accept and deal with what is in front of her. If can make it as far as I have, I know that she will do twice as better. But I can’t shake the anger that this is happening again in our circle of friends.  I sense a bitterness inside of me that I haven’t experienced before, and it has forced me to confront the truth.

I have no control over who will and will not have cancer. I cannot measure my experiences against anyone else’s. There is more chaos and heartache in the world than I want to believe.

But I can control how much of myself I am willing to give. I can use my experiences as a springboard for empathy and compassion. I can control how I treat others, and how I acknowledge and respect the complexities we all confront during our attempts to do the best we can with what we have.

I didn’t want her in my cancer club, but now that she’s here, I can be for her what she always is for me: a friend. I can strive to be a source of light, and of love, and of laughter. And maybe I can share a trick or two to make getting out of bed on a cold morning a smidge easier.


7 thoughts on “The Day I Got Angry

  1. Deb

    Sorry to hear about your friend. Although I’m sorry that that circle of your friends continues to grow, she’s blessed to have you in her corner. Keep up the fight! Love you.

  2. Donna Ryan

    You’ve captured a lot of my own feelings so I thankyou for that
    I chose to engage in cancer events because it’s a platform to raise awareness however I too refuse to be a Martyr or a victim –
    My own friend was diagnosed and I was more upset, angry & darn right annoyed more st her diagnosis than my own….
    I’m sure you will an invaluable source of support
    Donna x

    1. amy Post author

      Thank you for reading this blog post, Donna, and for commiserating with me. I am not shocked to hear that others have had similar reactions to loved ones diagnosed with breastcancer. Life is so messy and complicated, but it’s the ties that bind us through empathy and compassion that give us purpose and inspiration!

  3. Nancy Stordahl

    Hi Amy,
    You sound like a wonderful friend. I am sorry your friend has joined this horrible club. Sometimes anger doesn’t surface right away, so maybe some of the anger you are feeling after your friend’s diagnosis represents a little of the anger that’s been bubbling below the surface since your own diagnosis. But what do I know? I can only speak for myself, I have experienced quite a lot of anger! And I’ve cried so many tears. Many women (and men) say they’ve never asked, why me? Well, I have. Not sure what all this says about me. Probably nothing good. Anger is a valid emotion and if we can’t feel angry when diagnosed with a shitty disease like cancer, or when someone dear to us is, when is it okay? You will be a much needed source of support for your friend. Of that I am quite certain. Take care of each other. Happy New Year to you and yours. (Right now, that sounds like a really trite thing to even say). May 2017 be kind to you. May it be kind to us all.

    1. amy Post author

      Hi, Nancy. Thanks for reading the post! I’ve been wondering over recent days if the intensity of my anger may be an indirect result of not adequately experiencing it with my own diagnosis. Maybe it has been somewhere inside of me this entire time? I do keep circling back to that irrational thought that “since I’ve gone through it, no one else in my life is supposed to.” It doesn’t make any sense–especially since my cancer was genetic–but I feel as though anyone I love NOT genetically related to me should have been off limits when it comes to breast cancer. Her diagnosis seems underhanded and against the rules.

      Then again, here I am talking about all of this from a childish, self-centered perspective. What makes her diagnosis have anything at all to do with me? The mind games this experience plays with us!

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