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Guilt, blame and anger

Coping with cancer

This page is about the feelings of guilt, blame and anger you may have if you have cancer. There is information about

 

Guilt and blame

Sometimes, when you’re trying to find out why you have cancer, you may blame yourself, or other people, for your illness. Knowing why something happened can help you feel better.

Many different factors come together to cause a cancer. Often, chance plays a big part and the cancer is not due to anything that you have done. Some people are more likely to develop a cancer because of the genes they inherited at birth. But most cancers are not due to an inherited gene. Cancers start because of a mistake in copying DNA when normal cells are dividing and growing. Several of these mistakes have to happen before a cell becomes cancerous. 

Although some of our unhealthy behaviour can increase the risk of mistakes in our genes, the mistakes can also just happen by chance as our cells divide and grow. Even when people know this they may still wonder if the cancer has been caused by something they did.

Because chance plays its part, and doctors rarely know exactly what has caused a cancer, there's no reason to blame yourself or other people. Even so, sometimes it can be hard to get rid of these feelings. Talking about your feelings does help. There is information about this at the end of this page.

 

Anger

You might find that your illness makes you feel angry with

  • The people close to you
  • The doctors and nurses who are caring for you
  • Your God, if you are religious

It’s normal to feel angry, and there is no need to feel guilty about angry thoughts or moods. But relatives and friends don't always realise that you are angry about your illness. They may think you are angry with them. It may help to

  • Tell them how you feel at a time when you are not feeling quite so angry
  • Ask them to read these pages if talking is difficult

Having cancer can also mean that you feel cross with people who are well. Why should this have happened to you and not to someone else? You may feel

  • Angry
  • Sad
  • Bad tempered

These feelings may crop up from time to time throughout your illness and treatment. Relatives may also be angry that your illness has changed things for them and feel that it has caused trouble in their lives. Often this is not even a conscious thought, but the angry feelings can still be strong.

 

How talking can help

It may help to express your feelings and discuss them openly. Bottling them up can make everyone feel upset and cross.

If you are finding it hard to talk to your family, it may help to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist. We have a list of counselling organisations and information about what counselling is.

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Updated: 4 July 2014