Emotions: A Side Effect of Cancer


A few weeks ago, former vice president Joe Biden was on The View. During his interview he spoke with Meghan McCain, whose father, Senator John McCain, is currently battling a glioblastoma diagnosis. Joe Biden’s son died of a glioblastoma. She began to speak about her father and began to cry. As Meghan apologized for becoming emotional, Biden switched seats to be closer to her, comforted her by holding her hand and told her, “There is hope.”

Meghan’s response to speaking about her dad’s illness is not uncommon, it is normal. As I watched the interview, I felt sorry that she was apologizing for her reaction. She was doing nothing wrong, only feeling the many emotions that can surround a cancer diagnosis. And then I realized that the week before I had also apologized for crying in a doctor’s office about a family member’s diagnosis. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a need to apologize or to be embarrassed for showing these emotions.

A cancer diagnosis, a bad imaging test result, watching a loved one in pain, etc…all of these situations can cause an emotional response, whether you are the patient, the care giver, the loved one or the health care provider. What we can do as the bystander is offer a hand, a tissue, a listening ear or words of encouragement. What you decide to do will depend on your relation to the situation and your relationship with the person who needs the support. Providing support in that moment can help immensely and make an incredibly positive impact on that person or persons.

A cancer journey is full of ups and downs both physically and emotionally. There are a variety of resources to help you with the emotional battle you may endure. Support groups, family members, friends, loved ones, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, clergy, and so on are available to listen and provide you with tools to help ease this burden. You should ask your provider for resources. And don’t ever forget, feeling these emotions is normal and a healthy way of coping. You may apologize, but at the same time you don’t have to. You are a human being and are dealing in the best way you know how to.