I got an email last night from a cancer patient. She asked that I not use her name. So I’ll call her Mia. She wanted me to pose a question to you:
“The day I received my fourth diagnosis, I called my mother on the phone balling, crying. I could barely talk. ‘How f***ing strong do I have to be? Four times. Four f***ing times,’ was all I could say. I was in shock for days. I live in a neighborhood with a lot of alcoholism. After many years of not drinking (because I wanted my children to know they have a choice to not drink), I was at a friend’s house and grabbed a beer. Later that same night I drank more in a bar. Driving home from the bar I got stopped by the cops. I got a DUI.
“Months after my surgeries and treatments the charges were reduced. I’m in remission again. Now I have to contend with all my mistakes. I honestly have no idea what happened to me. It was something that my ‘healthy’ self would not have done. How many others out there reach their breaking point and throw their hands in the air and just say ‘f*** it’ and have a moment of insanity or self-destructive behavior?”
Mia’s not alone. In Everything Changes, I write about Wafa’a, a young adult lymphoma patient who cut herself as a teenager and began again after recurrence. Wafa’a said, “When I get a cancer diagnosis, I feel sadness, frustration, anger, loneliness, and really violent, like I want to break something and freak out. Some people get anger out externally but I want to take it out on myself.”
I too understand the need to explode from cancer’s intensity. A few times I’ve craved dragging hard on a cigarette but just could not go there. The day after I received test results showing a rare variation in my cell type, I chucked a dozen eggs against my shower walls while screaming and crying. It was satisfyingly messy and violent, but safe. (I now think shower drains should come with disposals for shells.)
Like Mia, have you ever had a breaking point of insanity or self-destructive behavior? Have you found any safe and healthy ways to let your violent anger out?