Coping with Cancer Anger


Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. Maya Angelou

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an emotion as “a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”

Notice there is no value judgment as to the negativity or positivity of our emotions. They are simply reactions to friends, family, medical professionals and cancer itself.

The truth is we often consider anger to be a negative and try to avoid it at all costs. The social message is loud and clear: Don’t overreact, don’t yell, don’t curse, don’t scream, and don’t ever be impolite. Hold it in at all cost. But how do we cope with cancer anger?

As a cancer survivor, I remember a lot to be angry about. Although I never wondered “why me,” I did feel anger about changes to my body, loneliness, and having to deal with past emotional traumas stirred up by cancer. I was especially angry when a year had passed since my diagnosis and I was not yet “over” cancer.

I also remember being really angry at the people who wanted to move on and forget about my cancer before I was ready to do the same. I felt alone, abandoned and unheard. As my anger increased, it got too big to share with those same people. The only thing that saved me was being able to voice my anger to my oncology therapist, who encouraged me to curse, yell and be impolite. I know it is only due to her being there for me that I was able to work through my cancer anger and get to a better place in those relationships.

The experience which made me the most angry was my first mammogram after my diagnosis. I was already emotional about returning to the scene of my initial bad news, but the technician’s insensitivity pushed me over the edge. She started off on the wrong foot by talking about my history in the middle of the waiting room, where our conversation could be overheard.

In the dressing room, she asked me again about my history (she couldn’t seem to understand why I only needed one breast to be mammogramed.) Finally, I realized that she didn’t even believe that I had had a mastectomy, despite the fact that I told her so many times. At that point, she told me that many patients don’t always know the difference between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. Really? You try having a mastectomy and then tell me you don’t know the difference.

Next, she moved on to my diagnosis, which in her opinion (despite her lack of a medical degree), was “not breast cancer.” This shocked me, but I looked her straight in the eye and responded that it was in fact cancer. Not to be deterred, she responded by saying that there was some debate whether it was or wasn’t. At that point, I stopped talking because I didn’t want to break down and cry, or possibly punch her.

Despite my silence, she kept talking. She told me she knew someone else who had DCIS and she had a mastectomy too, “so she wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.” Could she not sense my intense worry and upset at that very moment? Or did she actually think that my mastectomy made it all better and I had nothing to worry about anymore?

When the mammogram was completed, she invited me to take a rose. I considered not taking it, because I was nauseous from the whole experience, but I did to keep my head down. I got dressed, holding myself together, walked as fast as I could out of there and got to my car, where I broke down and cried. When I got home, I threw away the rose.

A day later, I was still over the top angry and knew I had to do something. I decided to call the breast center and complain. When I talked about it later with my therapist, she applauded me for calling, but asked why I felt I had to hold it all in while I was there, rather than let the technician see the hurt she had caused. It was an excellent question.

The bitterness of cancer anger was exactly what I was feeling before I made that phone call. By holding in my anger, I caused it to eat through me, rather than use it to deal with the source of the problem. Once expressed appropriately (by complaining about how I was treated) my anger burned clean my resentment and bitterness. I felt validated. I felt empowered and I felt heard.

How have you coped with your cancer anger after cancer treatment? Have you been able to express it constructively, or have you held it in like I did?

Survival > Existence,

Image courtesy of Michał Koralewski
Erika Sudz's picture
Cancer Rage

This was a great read. I don’t know if I am dealing with cancer anger as much as cancer rage. I too have learned not to keep my mouth shut about bad behavior that I am witness to. I used to just let things slide but I seem to be on this customer service rampage anymore. Don’t get me wrong I deal with it in a constructive way by filling out a card someplace or calling to speak with a manager. The rage that I often feel is when I am at home. I find myself with less patience with our boys and our pets. I’ve had to make a conscience effort to leave a room to collect myself and come back to talk with a clear head. I thought that was more of the Tamoxifen talking than cancer. It is getting better now I am almost 3 months post op. I’m sure it will get better as more time passes.

Welcome to WWGN!


Welcome to WWGN and thank you for your comment! I’ve been cancer enraged too and agree completely that it’s at its worse at home.

You’re very smart to leave the room until you’ve collected yourself. I’ve done that many times myself (and there were too many times when I didn’t do it when I should have.)

Congratulations on being three months post op. Just know that getting out from under all of the emotions cancer heaps upon you is a long process and you’re not alone.

Take good care of yourself.

Survival > Existence,


Rachel@ccchronicles's picture
This is an excellent post

This is an excellent post Debbie, and I think you have captured the reasons for exactly why I blog.

Thank You!


Huh, I guess anger is also an important motivator. And I’m glad it motivates you to write your blog.

Survival > Existence,


Well, I blog about it. I have

Well, I blog about it. I have a post called “It’s OK to Feel Your Anger.” I not only think it’s ok, I think it’s essential. All emotions are real and need validation. We can’t try to hide them or stomp them out, they only come back later in another form. Thanks for this post that says feeling angry is alright. Of course, we do need to figure out ways to channel that anger, but that takes time. Give yourself that time. And again, what I do is blog about it! Here’s a link to that post if you’re interested.

I So Agree With You About Validating Our Anger


I think the idea that anger is negative is the culprit. It’s just like any other emotion, no better or worse. And I so agree that if we don’t validate our anger, it will come back to haunt us. It’s not going away just by wishing.

Thanks for sharing your post, I’m definitely going to take a look.

Survival > Existence,


Janis Greve's picture
cancer anger, frustration, loneliness

Hi Debbie,

Me again. Hope this takes this time. Anyway, just wanted to say that I share your experience with health professionals who sometimes diminish or are just all-around tone deaf when it comes to interacting with breast cancer survivors sensitively. I ran into this mostly when I was going through my surgeries for Stage 3 breast cancer–nurses who, out of a misguided desire to “reassure,” told me that they’d had a mastectomy and, really, losing a breast was no big deal, they don’t miss it, and who needs those things anyway?

I’m angry, too, but mostly about different things now that I’ve “come out the other side.” Mainly I’m angry about the radical changes chemotherapy made in my quality of life. It put me through radical, permanent menopause, which, for me, entailed the end of my intimate life as I knew it (and as most people know it.) That’s no small loss. I’m also angry that so much of life-after-breast-cancer feels like you’re left holding the bag, scrambling after alternative therapies (the only things that give some comfort), and paying for them out-of-pocket since they’re not integrated into the healthcare system and insurance doesn’t cover it.

I, too, have a blog, and that’s really my way of coping. I’m hoping to garner a few readers and enter into a community (of writers and non-writers alike) who can all provide comfort where our health system fails. (My blog’s not just about breast cancer but also about finding connections with others on the grounds of our common vulnerability.)

Anyway, thanks so much for your piece! I enjoyed it. You said something about registering with WWGN–how do it do that?


Debbie's picture

Sharing and Coping

Hi Janis:

I’m so glad you made it onto WWGN and thanks so much for your comment! It’s super simple to become a member of WWGN: go to the home page and hit the “Sign Up” button in the upper left-hand corner. A box will pop up asking you to type in your user name and email address. Next, you’ll get a verification email in your inbox. Just click on it and that’s all there is to it! If you want to receive my blog posts by email, that’s a separate, but equally easy, process. Go to the FeedBurner box in the right-hand column, enter your email, then hit “subscribe.” A word verification box will pop up, which helps me keep spam off the site. Then, you will receive a verification email.  Hit verify and you’re on my email list. (I will never share your email with anyone else, I promise.)

I completely understand your anger at cancer’s losses. It’s overwhelming enough going through the diagnostic and treatment phases of cancer, but then there are irreversible effects. All you want is to get through it and then you realize that it’s never over. It seems no one adequately warns you about this, and there are so many health care professionals who just don’t get it.

I guess all we can do is cope as best we can. For me, that means writing and sharing. Thanks for sharing with me and I hope we can continue this dialogue.

Survival > Existence,


Philippa (Feisty Blue Gecko)'s picture

Validating anger and emotion

This is such helpful post. Cancer is totally life changing and we are confronted with a plethora of emotions, many of which are unexpected and unwelcome. That doesn’t mean they are not valid though. Blogging is one of the most healthy and useful ways of processing these emotions.

Like you say, one of the most difficult things I find is that people expect you to leave it behind you. Cancer is just not like that. Once you hear the words, your body and psyche is changed for ever.

Thank you for a great post.

Debbie's picture

Validating My Feelings Led to Healing


You’re very welcome and thank you so much for your comment. Those three little words (“You’ve got cancer”) are so very lifechanging. And what I find most amazing is how the changes keep sneaking up on you – I just couldn’t take it all in at once. I’m still experiencing some shock over it – and I suspect I always will.

Realizing that all of my reactions are valid, however, was my most healing revelation. That realization was the impetus of my Gifts and Losses list, which brought some balance back into my life.

I guess it’s all about coping in whatever way works for you.

Survival > Existence,


Dianne Duffy's picture

Oh so angry

Wow! I could have written this, except I had a double… Yeah, sometimes the health “professionals” are not that professional.

I have at least twenty stories just like this one, but I have not really blogged about any of them. I do have a blog, but I figure no one wants to hear me complain. I am glad that you blogged about it though. Makes me realize I’m not the only one that’s treated this way.

I have learned to hold it in while I’m there. Letting it out while you’re emotional only causes more problems. It’s best to go home and contact them later. And tell the therapist, so glad I had one I could really talk to.

One thing I was really angry over, I finally wrote a letter to the NP that made me so angry. I never mailed it. It was just enough to get it out on paper. I felt so much relief after writing it. I don’t know why I held onto that for three years. It felt so good to finally let it go.

But I also found that the Tamoxifen was responsible for much of my anger. How do I know this? After three years, I quit taking it. The anger just melted away. I just can’t go back to feeling like that. Tamoxifen affects some women that way. I’m just lucky I guess…

Thanks again for writing this.

Debbie's picture
Releasing Anger In A Way That Benefits You


Isn’t it ironic that you’re in a breast cancer, with “professionals”, and some of them are the last people to get what a breast cancer survivor is going through? When I complained, the manager reassured me that the tech would be spoken to and retrained. I really hope they followed through. For me, I never went back. Too many bad memories and no trust left.

I’m not a screamer either – I had to walk away and regroup before I could react. Sometimes I do wish I did have a major meltdown and made a scene, but it’s just not me to do it. I like the idea of writing the letter and not sending it. I guess the thing that is most important is how you release your anger – not whether or not the perpetrator gets to hear it.

Thanks so much for sharing and I hope to hear from you again here at WWGN!

Survival > Existence,


Tami Boehmer's picture
Cancer anger

I know what you mean about cancer professionals being insensitive. I have metastatic breast cancer and my oncologist made a couple of remarks when I ask questions about cholesterol and radiation effects. “Well if you’re around in 15 years when you’d have to worry about it, then you have a good doctor.”

I responded that I did indeed intend to be around and that I thought I HAD a good doctor! Then I handed him my book From Incurable to Incredible about stage IV cancer survivors who have beat the odds. I didn’t rage at him, but felt I made my message clear.

He shared the book with his nurse and she told me how they discussed their patients had beaten the odds, too. He no longer makes these insensitive comments, and actually was quite optimistic on my last visit.

So I agree; it’s good to take action and not hold it all in. I would still be resentful if I didn’t respond.

Debbie's picture
What an Inspirational Story!


What a great story and I’m so glad you shared it! When we share our anger constructively, we can educate others and possibly they will be more sensitive in the future. I’m still amazed that a doctor, of all people, would be insensitive to the harmful effects of his/her discouraging words. But you set your doctor straight and good for you!

I love the Maya Angelou quote because it really is true that bitterness (or resentment) eats at you, while anger (rightly expressed) can be a positive force.

Survival > Existence,


Tami Boehmer's picture

And good for you for taking action, too!

AnneMarie's picture


Nothing to add except GREAT! Great Great Great!!!!


Debbie's picture
Me Too!


Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Survival > Existence,


FroggyR's picture
Cancer Anger

I have been living with Ovarian cancer since 9/11/01. I’ve never felt anything other than positive feelings throughout. That is until recently. All of a sudden I am angry. I feel out of control, like any little thing will set me off. I mentioned this to my daughter and she sent me a link to this site. She said she has heard other survivors talk about cancer anger. This is all new to me. After reading the link she sent me I realized I wasn’t going crazy after all.
I mentioned how I’m feeling to one of my Oncologists and he said if I’m complaing, something must really be wrong. He said I have PTSD. I thought that was what soldiers got during war, how could I have it? Well, my Oncologist put it this way, I’ve been fighting a war for over 10 years, 24/7/365, why wouldn’t I be suffering from PTSD? Then it made sense to me, but what do I do now. How do I get rid of it? Where do I go for help?
I’m still fighting this cancer, it’s on my pancreas again and this time they say I’m not strong enough for treatment. So far the tumor has stayed small, and for the first time ever I only have one, not multiples.
I know I can beat it, but each time it gets a little rougher to fight. Maybe if I didn’t have all the emotional stuff going on it would be easier, and maybe if the medical staff were trained in Sensitivity it would be easier. It’s amazing how insensitive some “professionals” can be. I got so angry after one of my nurses said something very insensitive, that after stewing for a few days I called the office manager and lodged a complaint, but by then I was really worked up. My sister called my chief Oncologist’s nurse and told here what happened and she told her to tell me not to see that Oncologist, just my main one. Apparently, they felt my anger was “just emotions, and ignored my complaint. I’ve been with that particular oncologist from the getgo, and we had what I thought was a good relationship, I trusted him completely. Now I’m just angry with him and his staff and am not going back again. If I need chemo again, I’ll go out of my area for treatment. This does not make me very happy. He said he would be my doctor for life, maybe they feel I’ve lived too long.
I’m not done fighting yet, the cancer has given me a new purpose, to help other survivors with cancer see that there is hope. Never give up, no matter what anyone says. Keep strong, and keep your faith strong, you will get through.
My chances of living were slim to none when I was diagnosed. This is 10 years down the road. NO, I’M NOT GOING TO GIVE UP! I WILL SURVIVE. Somehow, I will get through this, hopefull, this site will give me some insight.
Thank you,

Debbie's picture
You Will Get Through This and There Are People Here to Help


You are definitely not crazy for experiencing cancer anger, even if it took ten years for it to hit. To struggle with cancer for over ten years, and be facing yet another tumor and the insensitivity of “professionals” who should know better – you have every right to your anger!

After my mastectomy, I knew I needed help dealing with my feelings and began oncology therapy. My therapist also told me I was suffering from PTSD and used the “being at war 24/7/365” analogy. I can tell you what I did to cope with it – I continued to see her until I didn’t need to anymore. In fact, committing to therapy was the most important thing I did for myself and I don’t know how I could have moved beyond the worst emotional effects of cancer without it.

My therapist also helped me understand my “every little thing sets you off” period. She told me I was like a full- to-the-top glass of water. With the addition of even one more drop, I spilled over the edge. I had no tolerance for even one more irritant, no matter how small. She assured me, and now I can assure you, that what you are feeling is entirely normal and expected for someone coping with cancer.

You ask, “Where do I go for help?” I have an answer. CancerCare offers free, professional support for anyone affected by cancer. By contacting CancerCare, you can get counseling over the telephone no matter where you live in the U.S. or in person at their offices in New York CityLong IslandNew Jersey, and Connecticut. Again, their services are entirely free!

You can contact CancerCare by calling 1-800‑813‑HOPE (4673); or emailing them at Coincidentally, I plan to feature CancerCare in next Wednesday’s Cancer Warriors post, so you can also learn more about their services then.

It’s also important to keep sharing with a community of people who get it – which is exactly what WWGN is all about. I’m so glad you’re here with us and I hope I’ve been of help to you.

Survival > Existence,


best yoga dvd for seniors's picture

Coping with Cancer Anger | Where We Go Now

My brother suggested I might like this web site.
He was totally right. This post actually made my day.
You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information!

Marcia Lieberman's picture

Cancer rage

I was just diagnosed. I was told it is “early,” but don’t yet know much more. I will be seeing a surgeon in a few days. I have times when I scream and rage, and frighten my poor, loving husband. When I suddenly start screaming or throwing the newspapers on the floor. I don’t want to see friend because I know they care and some love me, and are sorry for me. It makes me feel like a victim. I will ask them not to visit my in the hospital. I will try to find a support group and will look for a therapist, but I think that support groups and therapists are only palliative measures. I don’t think they can really help with primal rage. I don’t know if I’ll allow myself to start screaming at a support group meeting or in the presence of a therapist. People are not supposed to start screaming. Everyone tells me I will survive and all that, but I think that no one who hasn’t been given a diagnosis of cancer, even one said to be “early,” can ever understand the rage and the wanting to push people away, since no one and nothing can really help. I am not religious. I believe that cancer is mainly bad luck, and that the universe is indifferent.

Debbie's picture

Primal Anger is a Completely Legitimate Emotion


I completely understand what you’re feeling. I was also told my cancer was “early” and that I was “lucky.” I didn’t feel at all lucky however when I found out I needed a mastectomy. In fact, being told I was lucky only made me confused and angry.

All I can tell you as someone who has gone through what you are experiencing is that it eventually gets better and the anger diminishes. Right now, however, the anger is a completely legitimate response to what you are going through. I did get counseling and I can tell you that my therapist let me do whatever I needed to do to talk and work through my emotions. Getting counseling was the best thing I did for myself by far.

You’re going to go through many different emotions and you will make decisions as you go along. Right now, you feel like pushing people away, but that can change later as you go forward. Try to take one day at a time and be good to yourself no matter what you are feeling.

Good luck and I am pulling for you. You are no more a victim than I am and you can get through this just like I did.

Oh, and I had moments of smashing a few things in anger too.

Survival > Existence,


Going To Goa Blog's picture

insensitive doctors

My significant other was diagnosed with stomach cancer beyond stage IV. It was a return of cancer and he was given 2-4 months to live. He has chosen to live out the remainder of his time in India and I am caregiving him here. The decision was to avoid all unnecessary treatment as nothing will really help, just wants to stay alert, painfree, and not die in a hospital. Still, we have encountered some odd “bedside manners” from healthcare professionals. Scott has survived to nearly the 8 month mark now and he has created nearly 200 paintings since his prognosis, all done in India, many from his bed which is difficult to do in the watercolor medium. So this week one of the docs comes and the first thing he says is “Scott I wasn’t sure if you were dead or alive because I hadn’t heard from your missus in 2 weeks since I saw you last”. !!!?!!! Okay. The doctors here are no different than the docs back home. Some have the touch and others do not. They can’t tell us why Scott is surviving—currently at less than half his original body weight—and eating virtually nothing. He is living on positivity and love and creativity. If you’re interested in sharing our journey we have a blog about it. I was very moved by your post and won’t soon forget it.

Debbie's picture

You’re Living a Miracle


Thank you for reading my post and sharing your experiences with Scott and his doctor. It’s a shame that every doctor can’t be more sensitive and supportive. It’s obvious, however, that Scott has an exceptional caregiver in you. That, and positivity, love and creativity can make miracles. (And beautiful paintings!)

All my best to you both.

Survival > Existence,


Erik's picture


Great article – My wife is so angry – she has been dealing with health issues for the last 10 years – cancer included. She has had one lumpectomy surgery already and will have to have more or just go with a mastectomy. I bear the brunt of her pain – for anything and everything. She is so angry and feels alone, frustrated and scared – I have been there for her as best as I can, but her anger and rage overwhelm her and us on a daily basis. I love her with all my heart, but I don’t know how to deal with her pain/anger/rage. It is destroying her and our relationship. As you mentioned, her anger/rage brings up all other issues in her past and our present. It becomes a giant ball of anger. Her life has become unbearable and she is broken and we are broken. Her heart/soul/mental state are frayed to the point of divorce for us. I just want her to be happy and healthy again and to find a way to cope with the anger/rage.

Debbie's picture

You’re in a Pressure Cooker Situation


I’m so sorry for the pain you are both feeling. I can’t imagine living with all that you both are living with; it’s a pressure cooker situation.

It sounds like your wife needs to unburden herself to someone other than you. Often, family members just excerbate the problem (as you have been experiencing.) It’s not fair, but it’s true that we sometimes take out our pain on the ones we love.

If possible, I highly suggest therapy. It saved me when I was where your wife is now. Perhaps your wife can get a referral from her cancer center. She can also call Cancer Care. Therapy may cost money, but if the cost of doing nothing is divorce, that will also cost you big.

Also, please encourage your wife to find support groups, or other avenues that allow her to talk with other survivors. She shouldn’t have to feel alone when there are so many of us out here willing to share and support her.

Good luck and many blessings.

Survival > Existence,


Tana007's picture

I’ve been angry a lot with my

I’ve been angry a lot with my cancer diagnosis. Also depressed, crying, sad, feel alone. And scared. The anger is destroying my marriage…. HELP!

Debbie's picture

You Can Work Through This With Support

Hello Tana007:

I’m so sorry you’re dealing with cancer anger, loneliness and depression. I’ve been where you are now and it’s entirely normal to be experiencing these emotions. You’ve taken the first step to healing by reaching out here at WWGN. Now, please continue to reach out for support by contacting your cancer center and/or speaking to your doctors. You can also reach out to CancerCare, which offers free telephone contact with a social worker. Another free resource is the Cancer Hope Network, which will match you with a cancer survivor who has been in your shoes. Don’t let the anger destroy your marriage. I experienced a rough spot in my marriage too due to my anger. But, because of my time with a therapist and support groups, we were able to work through it.  You can do this with support.

Blessings to you.

Survival > Existence,


Lisa's picture

Cancer Rage

I want to thank you for posting this. I was actually on the site looking for someone who was experiencing the same emotions I am. I am at a loss as to how insensitive family and friends can be. I have truthfully never felt so alone. Friends I have had for 15 years and one of my sons who lives within 30 min of me are no where to be found. Whenever I try to talk about it, people just tell me “People deal with things in their own way”

I am sorry, I have never been treated so badly as when I came down with cancer by the ones who claimed to love me. The positive is that one of my sons was an angel, a client who barely knew me, and a friend from years ago turned out to be the ones who were REALLY there for me. I try to focus on that.

Has anyone else had an issue with friends and Family going MIA once you found out you had cancer?


Debbie's picture

Keep Reaching Out to Others Who Get It

Hi Lisa:

You’ve touched on an issue that tortures many survivors. The good news is that you are not alone. I would hazard a guess that most of us have experienced what you are going through (including me.)

The bad news is that you cannot control how other people behave. If you can sit down (possibly with a therapist) and try to work through this issue with close family members that might be helpful. But, in the end, we are all responsible for our own emotions.

That being said, you do have people who are there for you and good for you for focusing on them. Continue to widen that circle by seeking out other people who “get it.” I found wonderful therapists who supported me when I was struggling with after-treatment issues (including this one.) I also found survivor groups to join and survivor friends.

Making connections with professionals and other survivors was vital to my healing. It also helped me understand that some people just can’t get what we are going through – in other words, it helped me forgive and move past the disappointment.

Good luck and keep reaching out to create a supportive community. It will make all the difference.

Survival > Existence,


Hellsfairy's picture

Irrational anger

First of all thank you so, so much for your blog!! At last I feel like I can say how I really feel!

I am one week post-op and although coping quite well, I’m still not liking the, to me, irrational anger that I feel. I am based in the UK and have recently become involved in ‘Knitted Knockers UK’. A group of people who knit prostheses for those of us who have had mastectomies. It is a lovely idea, and is done with such love, but I have this anger burning in me at the moment which won’t go away. I almost feel that it is such a ‘British’ thing to do(although this is done in other countries as well)…knit something, have a cup of tea and everything will be ok!! Well it isn’t, and a knitted boob is not going to replace my real one, even though I know many women find them helpful. I’m angry at the talk about giving women their dignity back and such like! I know it is all being done with so much love and support…But I can’t help how I feel at the moment, and I’m normally a very caring, grateful person….And one who would no doubt feel as if I was doing something really helpful in making these things!!

I hope I will eventually come out the other side feeling much more calm…But at the moment my British stiff upper lip has turned into an angry rant which I feel so much guilt about!

Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you don’t see me as an ungrateful person….I’m finding these feelings very difficult to cope with at the moment.

Lynn x

Debbie's picture

There is Nothing Irrational About Your Anger

Dear Lynn:

You are very welcome! And thank you for sharing your honest feelings! I remember feeling exactly the way you do now. Looking back, I now know that my anger wasn’t at all irrational. I had a lot to be angry about. What was irrational was telling myself that I should be grateful, happy, calm, over it, etc., etc. It took the support and input of a great therapist to help me realize that my feelings were normal and entirely warranted given all I had been through.

What helped me work through the anger was accepting my feelings, warts and all. Covering up how I really felt only led to resentment and loneliness. Also, like you, I was very eager to give back and start volunteering after my surgery. Again, it was my therapist who told me straight out that I wasn’t ready to help others, because I needed all of my energy (what little of it I had) to devote to myself. As I read your comment, I can’t help feeling that one week post-op is too early for you too. You’re too close to the realities of breast cancer to be where these other women are; this is extremely personal for you.

My therapist assured me that I would find the right way to give back in time, and I certainly did. Do not rush yourself into anything. You are exactly where you need to be at this moment, anger and all. You are struggling with a very real trauma and no amount of knitting and tea is going to make that better. Right now, you can express your gratitude by healing, resting, and taking care of you. When you are stronger, and you will be, you will be definitely able to give back in any way that speaks to you.

I wish you love, healing and peace. And please, please don’t force yourself to spend needless time in situations that make you angry. It’s just not worth it.


Jessica's picture

Thank you.

It’s so hard to find any humor these days, but reading that someone else feels the same way makes me feel better. I do a good job putting on the smile, and dealing with most everything internally, but I get frustrated at myself when I’m frustrated??? I appreciate reading other women’s rants. Here is where I laughed…
‘Really? You try having a mastectomy and then tell me you don’t know the difference.’ & ‘or possibly punch her’
Thank you!

Debbie's picture

You Deserve to Come Out From Behind the Smile

Hi Jessica:

Thank you for quoting me, it made me laugh too! I think the anger I felt was ultimately a gift, because it made me realize I wasn’t the one I should be frustrated with – it was those dense people who made my day even harder than it had to be. Rant on! And let it be known that it’s okay to come out from behind the smile and let people know how you’re really feeling.

All the best,


Amanda Brown's picture

Thank you for your page. I am

Thank you for your page. I am not a cancer survivor, but my daughter is. Reading your post and the responses helps me to see some things from her perspective.

Debbie's picture
You’re very welcome.


You’re very welcome. It’s my honor to help you better appreciate your daughter’s experience. The support and understanding of our loved ones is so important  and your efforts to do so are wonderful to see.


B's picture

Thank You

Hi Debbie,

I normally stay away from blogs and chats at this point, but I’m so glad I found yours. I have a grade 3 DCIS and I’ll have a unilateral mastectomy this week. You’ve hit my emotions spot on. I have been so frustrated with people’s nice notes and every single question. I’m mad that my husband and my parents and family are dealing with this and I’m mad that I’m so young (26) and everyone tells me how rare it is at my age — like I won the lottery.

Thanks for sharing. It certainly helps to feel normal, instead of “lucky” that it’s “only” DCIS. Thoughts and prayers for you, Debbie.


Debbie's picture

Thoughts and Prayers to You Too B

Hi B:

I know how hard it is to be where you are right now. I wish you healing as you work through the many, many emotions that cancer heaps upon us. You have every right to feel mad and not very lucky at all; I know I did. Please let me know how you’re doing. I’m with you. (You can email me at anytime.)

Take care and all the best.


e strong's picture

The subject is from a song…a campy and corny one at that.
Humor aside, I am in a dark, dark place. My therapist tells me I am consciously choosing to “suffer” and I agree. I nurture my rage…it’s like a comfortable blanket and I often let it take control. Anywhere else I talk about this (aside from my therapist) I get the look like “you are crazy’ and “you ‘wont have cancer,’ you should be happy now” looks.
I want to be a good mom to my 6 and 3-year old kids…a good wife to my incredibly supportive husband, but I am constantly failing. I am so angry that I am not happy, I am angry at my doctors who can’t see to identify or believe my ongoing physical pain, I am angry at stupid drivers, poor customer service, and mostly I am livid/rageful/hateful of this ugly, gross and hideous body of mine. I am now 45 lbs heavier from when I was diagnosed in November 2015 (and yes, I work out every day and monitor my calorie intake of less than 1500 calories a day, eat real food, blah blah blah). My stupid f-ing hair looks like I am a clown (tight curls that make my already fat face look even more stupid). I am 16 months past active treatment and I hate what I have become…a disgusting, angry human.
I know I have to do the work to feel better, but I am stuck in the anger stage and I don’t seem to budge. Then I get more angry that I am not progressing through anger to move forward in my grief. I hate myself.

Debbie's picture

I’m So Sorry You’re in So Much Pain

e strong:

I’m so sorry I missed this comment earlier. I feel your pain and pray that you’re in a better place now. The only way I know to get through the anger, resentment, loneliness, grief, etc., etc. of cancer is with tons of support from a good therapist and other survivors. Keep reaching out and don’t give up. It takes time. I know 16 months sounds like a long time, but everyone has their own timeline.

Take good care,


9 thoughts on “Coping with Cancer Anger

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