Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Anger and Prostate Cancer

There are many places anger may appear in the journey from the diagnosis of prostate cancer to make an appearance. Your history in dealing with anger will have a significant influence in the way in which you'll make your anger known to others. We'll start at the beginning of the journey with prostate cancer. Before we begin it's important to know that every individual is unique. It's quite  possible that you were not angry during your journey and may find it difficult to relate this blog to your experience with prostate cancer.

Many people experience angry after receiving the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Anger is often a response to frustration or when things don't go the way we hoped or expected. Few people expect to get cancer. It's an undesirable life changing event. Anger can occur when we lose something that's valuable to us. Our good health is one of those valued possessions we take for granted until it's lost.

If you are a person of faith you may find yourself angry at God for allowing cancer to become part of your life. It's possible you'll become angry with your Doctor because you expected s/he would tell you the best way to treat your cancer. Instead it's highly likely they will present you with treatment alternatives and you find out it'up to you to make a what could be a life and death decision about a disease you know nothing about.

At some point in the journey you may find yourself angry with your healthy friends, relatives, and/or partner.
As you face losses as a result of your diagnosis of cancer it's natural to compare what's going on in your life vs what's going on in theirs. Envy of others health or good fortune and lead to anger.

The majority of those in the healthcare field who work with cancer patients have experienced angry cancer patients who've lash out at them.

If you've decided to treat your prostate cancer with surgery there are many more places for anger to appear. I was angry about the lack adequate pain control the first night after surgery as well as on the drive home.
I was angry that much of the hype about surgery wasn't true. I couldn't go home after a 1 day stay, I needed to say another day. I was angry when the catheter was removed and I couldn't get the hang of living in diapers. Leaking through my clothing multiple times a day was humiliating to me.

Expectations after double nerve sparing surgery are high. Many men find themselves angry about coping with erectile dysfunction. Most men are lead to believe their sex lives will return to pre-surgery levels within 18 months.  The reality very few men return to their pre-surgical erectile abilities.  ED frequently lasts significantly longer than 18 months. Many men find sex less pleasurable as a result of losing the familiar and pleasurable sensation of ejaculation which surgery takes away.  The loss of ability and pleasure associated with sex often leads me into a state of depression. Men who get depressed often become angry. In other words in men, anger may be a symptom of depression.

Another place for anger to appear is when we receive our post surgical pathology report. Our goal for choosing surgery was to cure our cancer by having our prostate removed. Many men receive the news that their cancer has spread outside their prostate. This means additional treatment is required.  Receiving bad news about your cancer can result your feeling both fear and anger.

Sadly, anger leaks out to other places. This emotional is often directed at the safest targets which unfortunately happen to be the most important people in our lives, our spouse and our children. We may be unaware this is happening, while the people living with you  feel like they are walking on egg shells.

I tend to think of anger as I do an alarm clock. When the buzzer goes off it's time to pay attention. Here's where your history with anger comes into play. My father dealt with his anger by yelling. That's where and how I learned to deal with anger. I yell. It's taken me decades to learn that yelling when I'm angry does much more damage than it does good.

Anger can be used constructively or destructively. The next blog will examine the constructive and destructive ways to use anger along the journey of coping with prostate cancer.  How do you deal with anger? What do you hope to accomplish as you express your anger? How does your anger impact your most important relationships?