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How to Express Your Cancer Anger, Even if Something Gets Broken

Question: How many cancer patients does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer:  A few months after my April 15, 2009, mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction, I changed a light bulb. The light fixture had a cover which I removed to get to the bulb. Everything went well until I tried to reattach the cover.

As I struggled, I got more and more frustrated.I didn’t want to give up and give the job to someone else; I wanted to make it work. And then, suddenly, all I wanted to do was smash the darn thing onto the ground.

Which I did.

The cover exploded on impact and plastic shards sprayed everywhere. I stood frozen in horror and yet felt strangely satisfied. In that split second, I let go of all restraint and expressed exactly what I felt – and I felt anger.  

“Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” William Saroyan

I was good and angry all right – and it wasn’t at that light fixture. I had just gone from healthy to disability and disfigurement.  All I saw when I looked in the mirror was an angry, red cancer scar from hip to hip, a reconstructed mound where my right breast had once been and a missing nipple.

And that was just the physical stuff. Receiving a cancer diagnosis was mind-blowingly frightening. Submitting to painful tests and surgeries overwhelmed my flight or fight impulse. My body image was in the toilet. Emotionally and physically, I was a train wreck.

I was angry about it all; I just didn’t know it until I smashed that light cover to smithereens. After that, two things happened. The first was that I kept running into things that made me angry. Family and friends wanted to get back to “normal” before I was ready. I struggled with loneliness. The technologist who conducted the first mammogram after my surgeries was an insensitive idiot.

The second was that I got help dealing with my cancer anger. Luckily for me, my cancer center offered oncology therapy. My therapist helped me recognize the depth of my anger and reassured me that being angry was entirely normal for cancer patients. She also encouraged me to talk it out - first with her and then with others.

“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle

It wasn’t easy facing my cancer emotions once a week for a year, but the process healed me. I hadn’t even realized how much until a few weeks ago, when I met a young ministerial student as part of The Connection’s Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project.

As a patient educator, I shared that I still have pain most every day from my TRAM flap reconstruction. She seemed genuinely horrified that I was still suffering three years after my surgery and asked me if I was angry about it.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain

My answer caught me off guard, because I had to say that I wasn’t, and that surprised me. Somehow that year of therapy and all those tears immunized me. I’m not a vessel of unresolved anger. I’m sharing my cancer emotions and living my life after cancer with acceptance. 

(I originally posted this piece as a guest blog post on No Boobs About It. To this day, that light fixture is still without its cover. Whenever I look up and see it missing, I'm reminded of my cancer emotions that day and happy to be living life after treatment.)

Survival > Existence,

Related Posts:

Coping with Cancer Anger

5 Tips for Coping with Cancer Anger at Home

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

You Could Be the Lucky Winner of a Pink Time Out in NYC

If you are a breast cancer patient looking to put closure on the end of active treatment and facilitate the transition to life as a survivor, listen up!
I want to share a wonderful opportunity with you to:
  • Have a physical and mental break from all talk, all sights and routines that remind you of breast cancer;
  • Have the opportunity to feel refreshed in mind, body and spirit;
  • Enjoy a much-needed recreate and participate in normalizing activities; and
  • Have the freedom to think about something other than cancer, to begin thinking about what comes next as a survivor.

No Boobs About It, Inc., is a not for profit organization sharing information, resources and support to get you through treatment and on with life. I'm excited to announce their second Pink Time Out this Christmas in New York City!

The lucky winner of this marvelous trip will enjoy her getaway to New York City on the 15th, 16th, and 17th of December. The trip includes a three-day stay at an elegant hotel in the heart of Manhattan, breakfasts and dinners, and tickets to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. (I've seen it twice! It really is spectacular!!)

Any woman, who has completed active treatment (surgery, chemo and /or radiation) between October 1, 2012, and October 31, 2013, is eligible to participate in the lottery drawing for this “Pink Time Out “getaway. Information about the trip will be posted on No Boobs About It on October 1, 2013. Women can enter the lottery beginning on that date. The lottery will close on October 31st. The lottery drawing will be done the next day, November 1, 2013; the winner will be announced the same day.

This trip is funded by the Allen School for Health Sciences of Brooklyn, NY, and its students. You can learn more about this wonderful Pink Time Out in New York City at No Boobs About It. (Thank you! to Jean Campbell of No Boobs About It for sharing this information with me.)

If you're eligible, make sure to enter the lottery and good luck!

Survival > Existence,

Copyright 123RF Photos

It's Almost Here! A Simple Guide to Creating Your Best Life After Cancer

I've been busily working on my first eBook to be published on Kindle Direct Publishing. It's been a great learning experience writing this book, which was inspired by my first free download, "The WhereWeGoNow Manifesto - 20 Intentions for Your Inspired Survivorship."  (If you don't have your free copy yet, get on my mailing list here.)

I always say that "simple doesn't mean easy." We all know it's not easy to thrive after cancer and this book doesn't offer any magic potions. What it does offer are simple ways to rebuild your life after cancer. Most importantly, it also offers you the support of someone who has been where you are, knows what it feels like, and can assure you that you can thrive after cancer.

I'm launching You Can Thrive After Treatment in September and, if you don't have a Kindle, no worries. It's easy to set up a reader on your laptop. Special free offer offered below, so keep reading:  

Excerpt from "You Can Thrive After Treatment"


“A positive attitude is not going to save you. What it's going to do is, every day, between now and the day you die, whether that's a short time from now or a long time from now, that every day, you're going to actually live.” Elizabeth Edwards

Congratulations! You made it to life after cancer! Testing, getting a diagnosis, radiation, chemotherapy, surgeries, recuperation - it’s all behind you. You should be ecstatic, but something is not quite right.

Instead of pure joy and relief, you’re bone tired, lost, lonely, stressed, afraid, abandoned and confused. Your support network is unraveling. You don't see your health professionals on a weekly basis anymore. Your family and friends are desperate to put cancer behind them. You’d love to do that too, but you’re only just beginning to understand the emotional fall-out of living with cancer.

The hard truth is that surviving isn’t easy. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy, I met with a therapist to work through the emotional issues of my survival. I remember an especially painful session in which I confessed that “living is hard too.”

That period was one of the most difficult of my life. It took time, but I hung in there, did the work and slowly discovered 20 secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy beyond cancer. (Yes, I said 20. This eBook is Part I of You Can Thrive After Treatment. You’ll find 10 more secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy beyond cancer in Part II of You Can Thrive After Treatment.)

I suggest you use this book like guide or workbook. Start by reading it through, taking your time – the last thing I want is for you to feel overwhelmed. After you finish the book, go back and focus on the secret or secrets that speak to you. If you’re up for making changes, begin with a few that come easily and build up your confidence from there. 

Let’s start off with a bonus secret: Having a positive attitude doesn’t require over-the-top, Pollyanna optimism. What it requires is basking in the glimmer of hope offered by my 20 secrets. I know You Can Thrive After Treatment because I’m doing it. Now I want to help you get there too. Let’s get started creating your survivorship of inspired healing, wellness and joy now. 

Remember, "You Can Thrive After Treatment" is launching in September on Kindle Direct Publishing. As a special "thank you" to my readers, I'm offering it for FREE the first five days of the launch! If you're already on my mailing list, you'll be the first to know the details. If you're not, get on the list now: 

Survival > Existence,


Because We Know Life is Short

"Time is long but life is short." Stevie Wonder 

Another summer, another year after cancer. Four years ago, I was in the thick of it. Depressed, scared, lonely, stressed, angry and out of my mind tired of it all. That summer, time was definitely long.

Somehow I got through the longest summer of my life. When I finally made it to September, I hit a new emotional low because an entire year had gone by since my initial mammogram and I wasn't yet "over" cancer. (I know they were trying to be helpful, but the people (a doctor and a survivor) who told me cancer will take a year of your life and then it will be "over," did me no favors.)

I think it's exactly when we're experiencing life's losses that we best appreciate that time is long, but life is short. Those days of grieving miscarriages and infertility, the death of our dear friend on 9/11 and cancer were the longest of my life. But, they also taught me how quickly and without warning a life can be extinguished. And, in that loss of life, brought a shattering reality to my own mortality.

Of course, when the fog lifts and the sun starts to shine a little brighter, it's easy to forget the preciousness of each moment. To some extent, that's probably the way it should be. It's just too hard to maintain the heightened awareness that comes from grief and struggle every day of your life. 

Yet, somewhere in our consciousness remains a recognition, a knowledge, that cannot be unlearned. We've lived the worst of times and because we know life is short:  

  • We make each moment count"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching." (Satchel Paige) 
  • We give it our all"Too many people die with their music still in them.” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes) "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me." (Erma Bombeck) 

  • We don't take ourselves too seriously"My life has been one great big joke, a dance that's walked, a song that's spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself." (Maya Angelou) 

  • We try to be kind: "Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind." (Henri Frederic Amiel) 

  • We take risks: "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." (T. S. Eliot) 

  • We take charge"Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties." (Helen Keller) 

  • We celebrate: "The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." (Oprah Winfrey)

Dance, sing, laugh and celebrate because life is short and you deserve to be happy.

Survival > Existence,

Related Posts:

Are You Still Struggling With the Loneliness of Life After Cancer

Coping with Cancer Anger

Running on Empty - Coping with Cancer Stress

Meditation Monday - Being Present with 9/11

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