This week is Anger Awareness Week, and our editorial assistant Amy-Louise has been speaking to some of our volunteer reviewers about the anger they have experienced as a result of being affected by cancer. In this blog, we also talk about coping with anger and how you could help a loved one with their anger.

Our reviewer Joyce spoke about how she felt angry after her treatment for mouth cancer, having been left unable to eat foods with a normal texture. For Liz, anger took her by surprise. She felt angry at the thought of having to wear a prosthesis after her diagnosis of breast cancer. Kemi found herself frustrated at not being able to do things she used to with ease.

Alexandra didn’t recognise herself when she noticed that she was losing her temper more frequently. After attending a psycho-educational workshop for women with gynaecological cancers, she felt comforted to know that she wasn’t the only person who felt this way.

This image shows a quote from Alexandra, one of our volunteer reviewers, which reads: ‘Prior to my diagnosis and treatment I’d prided myself on a calm, rational approach to life. But since cancer, I lose my temper, usually with myself and have to walk away, sometimes literally, from situations that could become confrontational. I hate feeling like this and don’t recognise the person I’ve become. I’d not recognised it was anger I was feeling. I was inclined to blame the other person or the situation’

Feeling angry is a normal reaction if you have been affected by cancer. You might feel angry because:

  • cancer has affected your relationships, family life, finances or your ability to work
  • you have had to go through treatment and cope with side effects
  • you feel powerless to help a relative or friend
  • you think that people around you don’t understand how you feel.

There are many other reasons that you might feel angry, and it is natural to feel this way. But it is important to be able to express anger rather than trying to ignore it.

How can I manage my anger?

  • Take back control. Anger can be a very powerful emotion, and you may find you are able to use it in a more positive way. Starting a hobby or signing up to something new can help with this. Or you might decide to find new ways to help you relax and reduce stress, such as mindfulness meditation, complementary therapies or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Talk about how you feel. When you are feeling angry, it can help to acknowledge this and talk about it with someone you trust. The person you talk to might be a partner, close friend, family member or spiritual advisor. Support groups and workshops might also be useful. Your anger may end up being directed at different people. If people around you are upset by this, try to explain that you are angry about your situation, and not them.

This image shows a quote from Liz, one of our volunteer reviewers, which reads: ‘After finishing treatment, I struggled with getting used to my new body and with feelings of anger. Joining a breast cancer forum, and finding others had these feelings, helped immeasurably’.

  • Write your feelings down. If you find it difficult to talk about your feelings, writing about them can help. Writing a diary or a blog might be useful. Keeping a log of how you feel, such as the example tool below, can help you record things that have made you angry and things that have had a positive impact on your day. Our Online Community can also give you an environment to express yourself.

This image shows a table that can be used to log how you’re feeling. The first column is titled ‘How I’m feeling today’, with an example answer being ‘I’m feeling angry’. The second is titled ‘What makes this feeling worse’, with an example answer of ‘Sitting on my own and thinking’. The third is titled ‘What makes this feeling better’, with an example answer of ‘Going out for a long walk’.

How can I help someone who is angry?
If you have a family member or friend with cancer, there may be times when their frustration or anger with the situation is directed at you. They might be angry about the cancer, but this can be hard to put into words. So they may take out their feelings on those closest to them. This can be difficult, especially when you are also trying to cope with your own feelings.

Try not to take anger personally. Your relative or friend may be upset because of the cancer, not at you. It is best not to respond angrily. Instead, try and find a time when you are both calm to talk about it. Our booklet Talking with someone who has cancer has tips for how to respond to anger.

Where can I find information and support?
We have a range of booklets and audiobooks about the emotional effects of cancer, whether you have cancer or are a friend or relative of someone with cancer. We also have information to support people affected by bereavement.

This image is of the front covers of four booklets we produce which could help someone affected by angry thoughts and feelings. The booklets are Your feelings after cancer treatment, How are you feeling? The emotional effects of cancer, Coping when someone close to you has cancer, and After someone dies, coping with bereavement.
You can call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00, or you could visit our Online Community to share your experiences and talk to other people affected by cancer.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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