Ask Jai – When you want to scream at the world

February 2011

Dear Jai:

What did you do when you wanted to break down or scream at the world, but knew it would only distress your husband?

We found out recently that my husband has inoperable lung cancer and we have an appointment to see the oncologist soon. At this point we don’t know how bad it is, but there seems to be little hope.

Thanks,

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

First, let me assure you that fear is a normal and healthy response to hearing that dreaded phrase, “You have cancer” for either you or a loved one. One can be strong and dedicated to fighting this terrible disease and yet still be terrified. How you deal with powerful emotions, like fear, during this time of incredible stress will be its own trial. So, it’s important to find positive strategies that work for you.

For me, sometimes I was able to talk to my husband about what was worrying me, but sometimes, like you, I didn’t want to upset him. So, I would call, email, or text a close friend to talk to about what was going on that was bothering me. I learned how to text, so I could get instant support when I was in a public area and didn’t want others to hear my conversation. When my fears were very dark or inappropriate to vocalize aloud, I wrote in my journal, which became a safety deposit box for whatever emotion I was feeling. A journal won’t judge you or repeat what you say.

My husband and I also worked with a counselor, who was an excellent resource during our cancer battle. As a trained specialist, our counselor would not only listen to me and hear my concerns, but she could also offer me strategies for dealing with the stress and emotions that were overwhelming me. Many oncologists work with counselors, and cancer centers may have staff counselors they can recommend. These counselors can play a vital role in the patient and caregiver’s mental health. Cancer impacts more than just the patient’s body—the psychological toll of dealing with a life-threatening illness is tremendous and should not be ignored.

Thank you for your question, Barbara. I hope my response was helpful. Good luck to you and your husband.

Jai