Anger, fear, frustration and resentment
Feeling angry, frightened, frustrated and resentful are all normal reactions for people undergoing prostate cancer treatment. Anger is also linked to other negative emotions, or may be a response to them – you may be feeling hurt, frightened, or disappointed.
Men – young and old – have said that they feel angry, frustrated and resentful when:
- They have to care for other family members while they themselves are experiencing prostate cancer
- They are worried about the extra responsibilities they have to fit in, such as medical and specialist appointments
- They feel other family members do not pull their weight
- Friends don’t make contact
- Prostate cancer has interrupted their plans for the future
- They feel they are not being listened to by health professionals
- They can’t get the treatment they want immediately
- They don’t know what decision to make about treatment
- They are worried about their careers and financial commitments.
“Exploding” may only increase anger levels and aggression. Holding your anger inside can be just as bad because it has been linked to anxiety and depression. Anger should be expressed in a controlled way, such as by simply naming it – ‘I feel angry’ – and then starting to look at some of the things that might be making you angry. You may also be able to learn strategies to deal with these emotions. Some ideas are:
- Recognise the situations that make you angry and make a list of them. If you know what makes you angry you may be able to avoid some situations, or do something different when they happen.
- Notice the warning signs of anger in your body (tense jaw, faster heartbeat, feeling hot, shaking, and feeling out of control).
- Take time out. Step outside the room and go for a walk.
- Try relaxation techniques like controlled breathing.
- Talk to your general practitioner (GP) or a qualified counsellor about ways to manage your feelings.
- Talk to others who have experienced similar challenges that are part of a support group.
Having prostate cancer can be frightening. Men with prostate cancer have said they have felt afraid of:
- Being left alone
- Being responsible for other people
- Dealing with new people and situations
- Not knowing what to do
- Dealing with the prospect of failing health
- Being faced with the possibility that they might die
- Never being able to have children
- The uncertainty of what will happen next.
Often learning more about prostate cancer helps you feel more in control. You can also focus on things that you can control. It is common for people diagnosed with a cancer to worry that it is life threatening. It is normal to struggle with these types of emotions but if your feelings become too much, talk with a member of your healthcare team about resources to help you cope.
Uncertainty about the future may result if you:
- Have to put plans on hold. For example, you may not be able to plan due to appointments or treatments. Try to remain flexible and accept that plans you do make may change, and that’s okay.
- Are afraid about cancer treatments, their possible side effects and whether treatment will work. Learning more about the treatment itself may help. It is also important to keep in mind that treatments do not work the same for each person. Knowing what your options are may help to reduce these fears.
- Are worried that the cancer will come back. You may be worried about every new symptom. Speak to your doctor regularly if you are concerned about your health at all. Talking to a social worker or psychologist may also teach you strategies for dealing with this uncertainty.
Feelings of uncertainty can also sometimes feed other emotions such as anxiety, fear or sadness. They can also affect your physical health and interrupt your sleep patterns or appetite. If you feel you would like to talk to someone, contact a counsellor or social worker at the hospital or your GP. They may know of a support group in your area or will be able to recommend where to go for help.
Feeling guilty is one of the most common emotions that men report feeling. You may feel guilty about:
- Not doing as good a job as normal at your work
- Feeling angry and/or resentful
- Wanting a break from everything you need to do
- Changes in your body such as erectile problems or continence issues
- Being embarrassed because you need to be looked after.
You may be able to learn some ways to manage your guilt:
- Recognise it and say it out loud (“I feel guilty for …”)
- Look for the causes of guilt
- Ask for help: talk to a trusted friend, family member, your doctor or counsellor
- Do not use the words “SHOULD” or “MUST”: they just make you feel guiltier!
You may still feel as though no one really understands what you are going through. Often family and friends may not contact you as often – perhaps they think that you are too busy or some people just do not know how to talk to you about prostate cancer. You may feel too busy to socialise and take time out for yourself.
To help deal with these feelings of loneliness and isolation, you could:
- Keep in touch with family and friends more regularly – this can be in person, over the phone, by email or Facebook
- Accept help from others
- Join a local prostate cancer support group so you are around other people who know exactly what you are going through.
There can be a lot of uncertainty around prostate cancer as sometimes there is no clear course of treatment. Throughout your journey with prostate cancer, your needs and concerns may change. Changing moods and emotions may also add to, or cause, more stress. You may also have to adjust to changes in your lifestyle, find that you need to make choices about how much work you can do, or have concerns about your sex life or fertility.
Symptoms of stress may include trouble sleeping, headaches, heart problems and emotional signs such as feeling tired, unwell or oversensitive. If high stress levels continue for a long time, you may experience exhaustion and burnout.
Some strategies that may help you deal with stress include:
- Exercise regularly (even if it is just a walk around the block)
- Learn meditation and other relaxation techniques
- Do something you find relaxing (listening to music, reading a book)
- Talk to someone (join a support group, or talk to a psychologist or social worker)
- Rest and try to get enough sleep
- Eat proper meals that are nutritious (see diagram opposite)
- Limit alcohol and other drugs
- Take time out
- Speak to your GP about ways to manage your stress levels.
Image reproduced with permission of the National Health and Medical Research CouncilWellbeing
There will also be times in your prostate cancer journey where you realise how satisfying life is. Sometimes people become clearer about what is important in their lives. Personal friendships and priorities are easier to address. Many men report they enjoy the time they spend with people close to them and learn to appreciate the good things in life. Some men become involved with volunteer work or give back to their local community. Others may realise their own inner strength.