Coping With Anger
- Amy Dowden, known for starring on BBC One’s “Strictly Come Dancing,” says that her feelings of “anger” have prevented her from accepting her stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis.
- Although Dowden completed her chemo therapy treatments earlier this month, her next step is to get an MRI to determine whether more surgery is needed in her fight against cancer.
- Struggling mentally looks different for everyone; some people may begin to experience intense and uncharacteristic feelings of anger. Psychiatrist Dr. William Breitbart explains that some patients become angry when they feel like they will not be able to achieve certain life goals.
- Part of getting over this anger has to deal with acceptance. Some people may benefit from traditional talk therapy or medication, while others may find more solace in different outlets like exercise or mindfulness.
Dowden spoke of her overwhelming emotions in Women’s Health UK most recent magazine issue, which is now on sale. She even posed confidently with a bald head on the December issue’s cover.Read More
Speaking to Women’s Health UK, Dowden said she was “angry” after receiving a cancer diagnosis at such a young age, along with a health condition that left her hospitalized on various occasions.View this post on Instagram
She explained, “I looked after myself, I’ve exercised well, haven’t smoked…I do get angry. I just think I’ve been dealt a difficult one.
“I think it’ll take a while to accept. It took me a long time to accept my Crohn’s. Until I’m back dancing and back to my normal self, I don’t think I will accept it.”
Dowden ultimately admitted she doesn’t want to be treated differently amid her cancer battle.
“I just want to be treated as normal,” Dowden said. “When I’m walking outside and I’ve got my headscarf on, I don’t want looks of sympathy. Just ask how I am. I will answer you.”
View this post on Instagram
Dowden also took to her Instagram story this week to reveal she’s had yet another health scare, “another blood clot” on her lung, noting she’s now taking “blood filling injections,” someting she’s also not too happy about.
She’s set to have a followup scan in a few weeks, and although she feels “lucky” that the blood clot has not traveled to her heart, she admits to feeling “frustrated.”
Helping You With Mental Health Resources
- Mental Health: Coping With Feelings of Anger
- Mental Health: Understanding the Three Wellsprings of Vitality
- How to Be Realistically Optimistic: Coping With Mental Health Long-Term
- How to Handle the Emotional Toll of Caring for a Loved One With Cancer: Prioritizing Your Mental Health
- 5 Powerful Lessons From Alex Trebek’s Cancer Journey– Working Through Depression & The Power of Purpose
- Genetic Testing Can Match Those Living With Anxiety, Depression & More With Proper Medication
- Responding to Stress: How to Cope With Complex & Changing Emotions
“I’ve just been really frustrated. I had lots planned this week, voice over, just getting my life back, and it just seems to be, like with my foot, as soon as I get it back something comes,” Dowden said, pointing out how it’s been three weeks since she’s finished chemo.
She’s also feeling upset about how her hair hasn’t been growing back as quickly as she’s hoped for, but she understand she needs to wait for the chemo medicine to get out of her system, something she was informed takes about six weeks.
“But in good news, Women’s Health magazine, that was a dream job, and that came out this week. I shot that a couple of weeks ago and it was such a lovely day,” she said of the interview and photoshoot she had with the magazine.
“My twin sister, she came along, someone did my makeup, and the whole team were there. Honestly, that’s been a bucket list of mine for many years and I’m so glad I braved it and went bald. That cheered me up when I was in hospital.”
Alongside a followup post on Dowden’s Instagram story this week, the dance star shared a before and after photo from two days apart, writing, “The difference! Two days apart! But the reality for so many. Have wanted to be honest throughout this journey!
“It sucks and everyday can be so different! Learning to take every day as it comes! It’s not easy and everyday I want my old life back!”
Thankfully, Dowden has had her loving husband Ben Jones supporting her along her breast cancer journey and ongoing health issues. And although she wont be on this season of “Strictly Come Dancing,” due to her broken foot, she has revealed watching the show has “been a great help.”
“I’m my fellow professionals’ biggest cheerleader. I know people are like, ‘Yeah, yeah…’ but we’re the best of friends,” she explained to Women’s Health UK.
“Honestly, not a day goes by without Dianne [Buswell] checking in on me; Carlos [Gu]; Katya [Jones]… production have gone above and beyond to make me part of the series as well. To have no part in it would have been soul-destroying. And not good for me mentally, whatsoever. I don’t know what I would have done, I’ll be honest with you.”
As for her husband, she added, “He’s been through so much with me with my Crohn’s but I guess, like, nothing will ever break us now.”
Amy Dowden’s Cancer Journey
Amy Dowden’s breast cancer journey began this past April when she discovered the “first lump” just before she was set to go on a honeymoon with her husband.
“I was originally going to have a lumpectomy, radiotherapy, and hormone treatment,” Dowden said during a Coppafeel Instagram chat.
“Then, after my MRI, they found another tumor so then it changed into a mastectomy, and then, after my mastectomy, unfortunately, they found even more tumors,” Dowden added leading to a stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis. During stage 3, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
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Dowden was told she needed to undergo chemotherapy to begin cancer treatment which made her “scared,” but she bravely moved forward with treatment. Her oncologist reassured her, “With chemo [she’s] got a really good chance of a cure,” BBC reported.
Since she had to focus on her health, Dowden didn’t participate in this season’s “Strictly Dancing” series. Despite not being able to dance in person, she remained in contact with her team.
We’re delighted to see how much the beloved dancer has improved, especially since her sepsis infection. However, she had also dealt with an emotional stage of her cancer journey, which is hair loss.
The Importance of Mental Health: Coping With Emotions
When a stressful life event occurs, people may react with a range of different (and quickly changing) emotions, just as Amy Dowden has experienced throughout her cancer journey. This is completely normal.
“The way people respond is very variable,” Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik tells SurvivorNet. “Very much consistent with how they respond to stresses and challenges in their life in general.”
In this video, Dr. Plutchik is speaking mostly about how people react after a cancer diagnosis which can be a huge range of emotions from fear to anger to determination. However, the conclusion remains the same no matter what stressor someone may be dealing with: your emotions are valid and seeking mental health help may look different for every person.
“People have a range of emotions when they’re diagnosed with cancer,” Dr. Plutchik explains. “And they can include fear, anger … and these emotions tend to be fluid. They can recede and return based on where someone is in the process. Going through a cancer diagnosis is just the beginning of a complicated, complicated process.”
Dr. Plutchik explains that the patient, or person going through the stressful event, should accept that emotions will be fluid. You may feel fine one day and then feel a massive wave of stress the next. It’s also important for those you look to for support whether that’s a therapist, friends and family, or both to understand the fluidity of stress-related emotions.
If a stressful event is affecting how you think and feel, it may be time to seek some sort of mental health treatment. This could mean traditional talk therapy, medication, changing lifestyle habits (like exercise and diet), seeking out a support group, or many other approaches.
Coping With Feelings of Anger
Struggling mentally does not look the same for everyone. Some people may be very high-functioning, while others show clear signs that indicate depression. Sometimes, perhaps after a particularly stressful life event, people may begin feeling anger that seems irrational or uncharacteristic.
Dr. William Breitbart, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet that when he sees patients dealing with some sort of life-changing or even life-threatening challenge, such as a cancer diagnosis, they may turn to anger as a way to cope.
“One gets angry because one hasn’t quite achieved and fulfilled the tasks that they set out for their lives and the responsibilities that they’ve committed to fulfill,” Dr. Breitbart explains. Treatment may involve speaking with a professional and trying to come up with ways to achieve those goals. However, Dr. Breitbart notes that guiding these patients to accept their own vulnerability is also crucial.
“The last resort of relieving existential guilt is this act of being able to forgive yourself for being a human being that is vulnerable and susceptible to not being able to fulfill their full potential. So, it’s forgiveness ultimately,” he says.
For some people, there may even be a sense of shame or guilt involved in seeking mental health treatment in the first place. However, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and it is important to realize you are not alone. In fact, the CDC reports that according to a 2020 survey, more than 20% of American adults said they sought out mental health treatment over the past year. Among those people, 16.5% said they had taken some sort of medication for their mental health and 10.1% said they had received counseling or therapy.
Reaching out for help is never something to be embarrassed about.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Is there an outlet for me if I am experiencing anger or frustration?
- Should I consider seeing a mental health professional?
- Can you recommend a therapist based on my personal needs?
- What other healthy coping mechanisms might I consider?
Coping With Hair Loss from Cancer Treatment
Hair loss can be an emotional stage of anyone’s cancer journey. SurvivorNet has tips and resources for anyone facing this side effect and struggling to manage it.
“For cancer patients losing one’s hair can be unbelievably stressful. To start with, the dread of losing one’s hair can lead to, some sleepless nights and feelings of anxiety,” Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist and author, told SurvivorNet.
WATCH: Hair Loss During Chemo
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. It usually begins about three to four weeks after beginning chemotherapy and continues throughout treatment. It happens because this treatment targets quickly dividing cells throughout the body. That includes cancer cells, but also hair cells.
Radiation is another treatment that can lead to hair loss if the hair is in the path of the tumor being treated. Radiation for a brain tumor, for example, may cause hair loss on the head.
“If you do lose hair, it will regrow several weeks or months after treatment,” radiation oncologist at GensisCare Dr. James Taylor told SurvivorNet. “Fortunately, for most patients, hair loss is not a concern when having radiation therapy.”
Most patients can expect regrowth around four to six weeks after they complete treatment. However, it is possible when your hair grows back you may notice some changes in its color and texture.
Dr. Boardman suggests connecting with others who are experiencing cancer treatment like yours and asking them for first-hand advice.
“Talk to people who have been through it, get their advice, voice your concerns to your caregiver, and see what they can do,” Dr. Boardman added.
If losing your hair is a concern for you ahead of cancer treatment, know you have options like wigs, hats, wraps, and more. Dowden wore a cold cap during the infusions she had to help protect her hair follicles. With scalp-cooling devices, they were approved by the FDA in recent years first in breast cancer and then in several other cancers.
Dr. Julia Nangia, a medical oncologist at Baylor College of Medicine and a lead author on one of the major studies of the device, says 50% of women were able to keep their hair after four rounds of chemotherapy, and added:
“Without the devices, 100% of patients lost their hair.”
There have been some questions of safety when it comes to scalp-cooling, but Dr. Nangia says that when given to people who have solid tumors (like breast, ovarian, colon, and lung cancer) the devices are safe.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff