It’s Okay to Be Angry: A Cathartic Blog

Posted by Ashley Nelson on November 30, 2022

Ashley NelsonSummer began this year and I had multiple things happen all within two weeks. The air conditioning in my home stopped working during one of the hottest months (think 115 degree weather) and it took almost a week to get fixed. My rent was raised by $150, and I hadn’t budgeted for it. I got Covid, after dodging it for almost two years. And last, but certainly not least, I was diagnosed with stage 2b Triple Negative Breast Cancer. So here I am at the age of 32, with an almost 3-year-old daughter, sweating to death, broke, and fighting sickness and cancer. To say I was angry is an understatement. The anger bubbled on the surface, leaking over into irritation, but never fully into an open emotion. It was so much at once that I went numb and didn’t quite know how I was supposed to feel.

Life was moving for everyone around me, but mine felt like it had become slow motion. I didn’t have time to be angry, cry, or mourn, specifically about my cancer diagnosis. I put on a brave face for my child, my family, and my friends. My family was falling apart around me as they grieved and I felt like I had to be “strong” or “brave” for their sake. When I slipped into crying or being angry, I was met by others telling me “Don’t cry!”, “Don’t be upset!”, “You can’t think negatively!” The times I was scared about the mortality of my diagnosis I couldn’t talk about it because those around me didn’t want to face the reality I was facing. I felt alone. I spent a lot of time in the beginning trying to smile, joke around, and find the silver linings that I’m notorious for finding.

The summer flew by in a crazy storm of appointments, port placement surgery, and the start of chemotherapy. Because of the type of cancer I have, I started chemotherapy first. 16 rounds with three different chemo medications. The first two medications are some of the hardest medications made for cancer and I lost all of my hair after two rounds. The devastation of having to shave my hair is indescribable. I was met with “But it’s just hair!”, “You’re beautiful without it!”, “It grows back.” I was angry that this was part of what I was going through. My hair at one point was all the way down my back and I loved dying it fun colors. It made me, me. And now it was gone. I shaved my hair in front of my daughter, who knew that mom was “sick” but didn’t quite understand why I had to look different.

On top of the physicality of looking different (I ended up losing my eyebrows and most eyelashes too), I deal with the physicality of feeling awful. The first four rounds of chemo were toughest. I was nauseous, in pain, tired and sluggish, and barely able to move out of bed. I had days where I could only watch my daughter play from the couch. I couldn’t dance and jump and run with her like I used to. Because life kept going, I had to get up on days I didn’t feel good and push through. I had my daughter to take care of, work to do, and life to live. I pushed aside emotions and carried on. The people who didn’t know I had cancer probably would never have guessed. I masked how I truly felt. The anger would creep up once my daughter went to bed. I would lay in bed and think. Think and think and think about what was happening to me, how unfair it was, and how I didn’t deserve it. But I never talked about it and instead laid there silently crying, wishing myself to “get over it” as fast as I could. Not allowing myself to feel my feelings led to my family feeding off my irritation. My daughter was acting out behaviorally and in the moments where I felt like the worst mom ever, she was telling me so. I don’t miss the few weeks after my diagnosis where I heard “you’re a bad mom!”

Ashley 2

At my most recent doctor’s appointment, I realized how much I needed to let out. We spoke about surgery and how I will have to make a decision on what type of surgery I get, a lumpectomy versus a mastectomy versus a double mastectomy. After surgery will come radiation. Because of the type of cancer I have I will also have to do hormone therapy to block estrogen and shut down my ovaries for five years after treatment is over. FIVE YEARS. Suddenly, the dreams of having more children dwindled. The idea of my body changing and parts of me being taken away was so much to wrap my brain around. The realization that I wasn’t even close to done beating this, resounding through my thoughts. When I got home from the appointment, I sat in front of my mirror imagining what I would look like after surgery was over. And then, I allowed myself to fully cry. There was no more silence to my tears. The anger had finally boiled over. The sadness allowed to touch the surface. It was truly cathartic to let the emotions out, after months of being “strong”.

I know there will be moments where I may slip back into putting on a “brave face”. But so far, this process has taught me that I can let the emotions flow. I am “strong” even if I’m feeling weak. My journey isn’t over yet, but ever since allowing myself the moment to feel all of the feelings, it has made things easier. I have realized it’s okay to be angry. I’m allowed to have bad days and hard days. Not every single day is bad. In fact, there are days where my daughter makes me laugh so hard I can’t imagine living in a different moment. There are days I feel immense love from my family and friends and realize I’m so blessed. There are days where I’m grateful for my job and coworkers and how everything still feels normal in a time where nothing is. These moments allow me to go through the bad days with a perspective that those silver linings will show again.


Dear Ashley,
We have spoke a few times on the phone when you were filling in for Jesi. You were kind and compassionate. I never would have guessed that you were going through all this. You are amazing to have the emotional band with to be able extend yourself to clients like myself during this time. Please be on the look out for a "snail mail" note from me. I feel more comfortable reaching out to you that way. Warmest regards, Cathy

Posted by Cathy Bianco/Akka

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