Thinking About Emotions and Things Related to Cancer

Suffering most emotions more deeply than others seem to endure tends to drain one’s energy. I say that without knowing, of course, how deeply others experience emotions. I base my assessment on observations and assumptions. I did say “seem.” But from my vantage point, comparing what I feel to what others “seem” to feel, my experience of emotions appears enhanced. Not enhanced as in superior; enhanced as in elevated. That’s true, especially, of the emotions I consider negative. Anger. Fear. Sadness. Shame. Disgust. Indignation.

Simply experiencing those emotions at an elevated level may not be what drains energy. Rather, attempting to conceal them or moderate their display so that their strength more closely mirrors “normal” may sap energy. On the one hand, it’s distasteful that one might feel compelled to reign in the full extent of the expression of his natural emotions. On the other, though, because their intensity is so much greater than “normal,” I fully understand how upsetting their display might be to the average person.

All of this assumes, of course, that my core thesis is correct: that I feel emotions more deeply than most. It’s entirely possible that my emotions are no more intense than others’. It’s possible that others are better able to contain theirs or that my judgment about either my emotions or others’ emotions or both are erroneous.

What does it matter? I mean, does it? Is the relative intensity of my emotions in comparison to others’ of any consequence? Probably not. Except in my own mind. Yet I always feel embarrassed when my emotions visibly bubble to the surface in the form of tears. But wait! What emotion is that? Is it sadness that causes tears to flow when hearing or watching a touching scene in a film? Or is it something else? Hmm. I really don’t know.

Not that it would make a difference to the future direction of the universe, but I’d like to somehow measure my “emotionality” along a variety of dimensions and compare my measurements to others. I wonder if such a measure exists? I’m sure one must exist. Assuming it does, I wonder whether tests of its validity and reliability would convince me of its practical utility. Practical. Another “hmm.” Of what practical value would such a measure be…to me? Would I use it to help restrain my overt-the-top emotions? Would it be a valuable training tool?

This entire train of thought arose from a dream I had last night. I was in another city, sitting at a table on a sidewalk of an alfresco area of a bar. A woman I haven’t seen in many years walked by and I called out to her. I was surprised and excited to see her. The look on her face indicated she did not feel the same. She seemed annoyed that I had called to her. That response upset me so much that my eyes began to tear up. That annoyed her even more. She said “I don’t need this crap!” She spun around and strode away.

It was that dream that made me wonder why I felt so deeply hurt by her snub. It was as if my entire day, perhaps the full week and a month following, had been smothered in a dark cloud so depressing I would find it impossible to escape. Why? I have no idea. But I felt a slam to my emotional well-being that threatened to ruin my sense that my place in the world was all right.


I am concerned about my chemo port. It feels different than it did up until a couple of days ago. When I touch the area around the port, I feel sharp edges and odd configurations under my skin. And I feel a very mild, but constant, pain in the area around it. I called yesterday and spoke to a nurse, who suggested it probably was fine. But, she said, if I’m still bothered by in a day or two, I should feel free to call and make an appointment and one of the nurses in the doctor’s office will check it out. I suspect it won’t be any different in a day or two, so I’ll have it checked out. The only thing that she thinks “might” have happened, she said, is that it flipped. Whatever that means. But, if there’s no redness, if I have no fever, if it’s not “oozing,” I shouldn’t worry. Okay. But I’ll still have it checked.

My fatigue, I assume from my third chemo treatment, last week, is far greater than with the first two. I’ve been beat for days. Almost no energy. My wife thinks the chemo is “catching up with me.” And she suggests treatment number four, two weeks hence, will be even more draining. Ugh.

My esophagitis remains, perhaps as bad as ever, though maybe it has improved a tad. Sometimes, when I swallow a sip of water I feel like I’m attempting to down a hot coal. Other times, it’s not bad. But when it’s bad, it’s pretty damn awful. I sure hope my esophagus heals very soon. I want my life to be more normal again. Soon.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Thinking About Emotions and Things Related to Cancer

  1. bev wigney says:

    I’m glad that my words can be of some help to you. I know this is a difficult time — only those who have been through cancer treatments or equivalent medical treatments can really understand how tiring and emotional it all is. <3

  2. Bev, I am so grateful for your down-to-earth, practical perspectives and advice! Just reading your words, and knowing your history with the disease and its treatment, means more than you can possibly know. Thank you!

  3. bev wigney says:

    I am pretty sure your esophagus will begin to feel noticeably better fairly soon. As for the port, do get it checked out. They can move. My mom had her chest port actually come out during a dialysis treatment — and yes, they can get turned. Yours isn’t the same as hers — hers did get flipped over and that loosened it. Anyhow, good to have someone look at it. Regarding emotions, I think there is such a broad range of what we can feel, and what triggers our emotions. I sometimes wonder if I am losing mine — I think I’ve put up a pretty high wall to protect myself. I am definitely not as emotionally sensitive as I used to be — and that’s not necessarily a good thing. One thing that you might also find is that just the meds for treatments will mess with your emotions. Don became so emotional any time he was taking steroids before a chemo treatment, or after they infused steroids as protection on the day of a treatment, that he would have many days of being very emotional — and he was never one to express sadness until that time. I remember it getting so bad that any sad story on the news, or watching the James Herriot “All Creatures Great And Small” BBC episodes could bring on a tsunami of tears to the point that I wasn’t sure if he should watch it anymore. Anyhow, I’ll be glad when you’re finished the last of the chemo treatments and do some recuperation so that your energy levels begin to recover. A couple of friends who had advanced BC and did a lot of chemo have told me they just went to treatments and then slept in their recliner chairs almost all the rest of the time. Both are widowed women and I have no idea how they managed to pull off the regimens. However, both of them have bopped back — it took a few months, but they are both pretty damned energetic women again. Carry on, sir!

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