When we are diagnosed with cancer and going through our treatment, most of us get a lot of support from our family, friends and extended community. The majority of this is positive and vitally important to our wellbeing as we traverse the unfamiliar landscape of cancer.
One of the down sides of being supported and encouraged by our friends and family is the pressure it puts on us to go through our cancer treatment as the “perfect patient”. We often feel like we don’t want to “disappoint” anyone by voicing our true feelings about our experiences and how we are tolerating our treatment. When asked how we are doing, it’s not unusual to tell people that we are fine and not express the true reality of what it has been like for us. We get very invested in wanting to live up to our own expectations of handling all of it easily and well and not wanting to concern the people around us.
So, what do we do with all of those feelings we have? It is really important that we be able to express them outwardly and not just hold them inside. Sometimes, we go into a quiet place and cry. Often, the shower is a place where we can release our emotions. There is something about the water and knowing we are alone that is a perfect combination of privacy that enables the letdown of all that we hold inside.
Another way of externalizing our emotions is keeping a journal. I’m not a journal writer, but during my cancer journey, I had a journal that I used to write down everything that was going on for me, both medically and emotionally. It really helped to write things down and then close the book and go on.
No matter how you do it, it is really important to be honest with yourself about what you are thinking and feeling without having to be concerned that it may upset the people in our lives that are invested in our health and happiness. Being honest with ourselves is vital to our healing.