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This week we've been blessed with many new WWGN members, mostly due to the guest post I wrote for Cure Magazine.
(Right now the iconic Girl Scout song: "Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold," is playing in my head. )
Because not everyone has been here from the very beginning, I though I'd reintroduce a blog post I wrote a while back. This post is about cancer anger and it is the reason I was originally contacted by Cure Magazine and ended up being quoted in an article on anger. It's definitely one of my favorites because it's resonated with so many people:
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.
Read more here.
The more I write and speak with you, the more I value our connection. We get each other. Thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.
Survival > Existence,
Copyright 123RF Photos
Wishing you a week of beautiful Spring sunshine! (and maybe a party or two!!)
Copyright 123RF Photos
You might have noticed the coffee cups in the WhereWeGoNow logo. When I created WWGN, I visualized a safe, cozy place for cancer survivors to come together. I wanted to evoke the feeling of friends sitting around my kitchen table, drinking coffee and talking.
Truth be told, I don't drink coffee.
Of course, it was never actually about coffee. It's about a feeling. The same feeling I had when I met and shared with other breast cancer patients at my cancer center. The same feeling I had in the MovingOn rehabilitative exercise class. The same feeling I get every time I come together with the other women of the Pathways Women's Cancer Teaching Project. The same feeling I have every time I speak to a room full of survivors.
The beverage doesn't create the feeling. The feeling is created by CONNECTION.
I've learned from life (and a bit of therapy) that it's the "disconnect" that causes me the most grief.
When I went through five years of infertility and miscarriages, I had no one to talk to about it besides my husband. We were in it together every step of the way. When one of us was having an especially bad day, the other stepped up. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way when I finished cancer treatment. When he told me "the worst is over" and moved on, I felt abandoned and totally disconnected. There were a few moments I thought it was impossible, but we eventually reconnected when he realized he had to accept me where I was.
The truth about connection is that you can't have it with everyone. I recently celebrated my fifth cancerversary by going out to dinner with my husband. When the waiter took our drinks order, I asked for champagne. My husband touched my arm and told the waiter we were celebrating a "special occasion." Later, after dinner, the waiter returned with a special dessert sporting a lit birthday candle.
Awkward. The waiter very sweetly said he didn't want to pry, but was it my birthday? I hesitated a split second, said "Yes," and accepted his happy birthday wishes with a smile on my face. (The family sitting next to us chimed in with happy birthday wishes too.)
I've written a lot about the importance of telling your truth, sharing your story and connecting with others who "get it." But, we're not in denial when we choose not to share. Not everyone needs to know our truth or our story. The kind of connection I need to emotionally survive does not require public nakedness.
I've learned to focus on connecting with the people I need to connect to - my husband, my family, my friends and you.
Thank you for making WWGN the safe, cozy place I envisioned it to be. Now, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Have you chosen at times to keep your truth to yourself? How do you create connection with others?
Survival > Existence,
Copyright: djapart / 123RF Stock Photo
Why did April 15th become my cancerversary? Why not the day I was diagnosed? Or the day of my second surgery and the end of treatment (except for the taxomifen I continue to take?)
I think April 15th stands out in my mind because it was the day I was forced to show up and fully become a cancer patient and, eventually, a survivor.
For the prior six and a half months, I wasn't even sure I was a breast cancer patient. I didn't have a lump, wasn't rushed into surgery, and had no chemotherapy or radiation. I was free-floating, with no center to my cancer universe.
Finally, I was forced to show up very early in the morning to face what scared me the most: loss, vulnerability, and completely handing my body over to the unknown.
But I also remember the trust, in myself and my doctors, which got me there.
On April 15, 2009, I laid my body down and submitted to a surgery I didn't want. But that was also the day I entered the cocoon of support I found at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ. That day made possible my keynote speech at the recent Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 5th Annual Blood Conference. As I shared at the conference and in my first book, You Can Thrive After Treatment, showing up to be supported is the first and most important simple secret to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy, because it made every other healing step I took possible.
2009 was one of the two worst years of my life. (The other contender is 1984, but that's a story for another day.) As bad as it was, 2009 was also the year I started putting one foot in front of the other to get to today. I see the progress, and the struggles, as I read over the posts I wrote in years two, three and four:
I wish I had written something on year one, but I wasn't up to it then. Just another indicator of how far I've come. The truth is, however, that cancer isn't a straight-line experience. There are bad days, bad years and traumatic experiences which unleash the holy hell of cancer all over again. I've learned that it really is all about putting one foot in front of the other (when possible) and being kind to yourself when you just want to fall in a heap and have a good cry. And I've also learned, from my own experience and that of my friends that, just because I finally hit five years, this whole cancer thing isn't over by a long shot.
Even so, today is a good day. I'm mindful that five years cancer free is something to celebrate and my husband and I will be doing just that during our yearly dinner out (he didn't have time for lunch this year.)
Every day, every year, for the rest of my life. It's okay to be wherever you are and it's all part of healing.
Much love and healing to you,