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emotional breakdown is ok

bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

Ever since i found out i have stage 4 colon cancer my emotions have been all over the place.  I come to terms with the posability of dying at an early age (im only 31) and leaving my wife to be a widow at a young age as well. But then there are times that i dont think that i can handle this anymore and break down and cry for what seems to be no real reason that i can think of at the time. later when i think about it i feel that i am not as strong as i need to be and i put so much pressure on my self to be able to do what i used to do before i got this awefull cancer and it seems all so overwhelming at times it is even hard to talk about without getting misty eyed.  i dont really know why i am writing this down but it seems like i needed to get this off my chest.  i love my wife but i find it hard to share with her all my thoughts about what is going on because i am not sure that she would get it and i dont want to make her sad.  for example we where going to bed and i was having one of my off days were everything looked a little more dark than normal and i was thinking about my cancer and what the future holds for me and i was wondering if i would have to be on chemo for the rest of my life.  i told my wife this and i also told her that i was not sure if i could handle being on chemo the rest of my life because it makes me feel so bad at times.  after hearing this she begain to cry for a long period of time and i was not sure if telling her was the correct decision or not.  i know that as a husband i need to be supportive and strong for my wife but i also need to be able to talk with her about what i am feeling, was it wrong to tell her, or should i keep things from her that i know will make her sad?  I guess this is all part of the process of having such a devistating disease.  i also know that it is ok to cry (because my wife said it was ok) but for some reason i feel more emotional than i used to, is this part of cancer, or part of growing older, or is this part of having my heart softened to be able to care for people on a deeper level than i have been able to before?  i dont know, i guess i have more questions and am uncertain about the future because i seem to be going from one topic to another, short attention span today i guess.  i hope this makes sense to at least one person out there.


Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3366
Joined: Jan 2010

You are experiencing normal human emotions which are amplified by not only disease but treatment.

As far as how much to talk to your dear wife about your feelings.  You and she need to discuss the subject.  You don't want to make that decision for her.  Yes, what you say about how you feel may make her very sad and bring on her tears, but keeping things from her may bring on the "mad" and feelings of being excluded, un-needed and unwanted.  Find out from her what she thinks she can take emotionally, and always know that you can bring that and any thing else here to us.

Not many of us give any real thought to our own mortality until it is forced upon us by the diagnosis, yet our time on earth can end in a second from some other cause.  Let this knowledge inspire you to make the most you can of each day, tell those you care for how much often, and treat yourself and them well.  Don't let it all be negative thinking about what you may not get to do or experience.

Give yourself time to grieve, but try setting limits..."x" times a day, "x" minutes, etc.  Don't let cancer steal more from you.

All this is easy to write or say but harder to execute, but with practice you can do it. 

Wishing you more sunshine than clouds.


Marie who loves kitties


Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

I think everything you are feeling is perfectly normal. I don't cry anymore unless it is cancer related. I cried when I was first diagnosed but my mom died one week after my first surgery and just 14 days after diagnosis. I loved her dearly but didn't cry then, at the funeral or since which is still a little troubling to me. The only othe times I have cried is when I faced a major setback or when I heard either an uplifting or sad cancer story.

I have the same problems dealing with my wife. I am afraid to tell her too much about my thoughts and emotions because it will just upset her too much. Sometimes I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I don't want her to suffer mentally just because I struggle with it mentally on a nearly 24/7 basis.

I have been at this for nearly 8 years. I am in my third remission however the thing that scares me most about another recurrence is not surgery or even death but it is doing more chemo.

PM me if you want to talk about this or whatever some more.


bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

Hi Jeff, i dont want to struggle with these thoughts and feelings and i feel so unprepared for everything that is happening to me, almost usless at times.  is there anything particular that helps you out?


Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

Being proactive through diet exercise and constanly researching new treatments proceedures clinical test results and trials.

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 5422
Joined: Jan 2013

As a woman, I tend to cry allot, plus the chemo has pushed me into menopause, so hormones are contributing to it.

I talk openly to my husband. I've told him that if I get a reocurrance of the cancer (I'm still going through chemo, with raditioation and chemo in June), I don't know if I could take another round of this. That I might just want to let nature take its course. He is fine with my decicion. So calm. So accepting. It makes me feel that somehow he doesn't care, but of course I konw different. 

Its OK to cry. My darkest moments are in bed a night. 

Men and women handle things quite differently at times, and its going to be terribly emotial for your wife, knowing that she may lose you, just thinking that she may lose you, wether its to cancer or a car wreck or being blown up by some terrorist. 

I agree with the above post, that you should talk to her and ask her just how much she wants to be privy to your innermost thoughts and fears.  

You are young, and I hope that that will play a major part in your recovery. 


AnnLouise's picture
Posts: 276
Joined: Mar 2013

All your emotions are normal...but sometimes it is hard to recognize it because we all have a new normal. The unknown can make you emotional and magnify your feelings. You are strong, very strong....look at what you have accomplished, cancer related and non cancer related. Always know you can talk to us because we definitely understand. You are young and strong and have so much to live for...thinking of you ~ Ann

i have a son named Zach...love that name!

Posts: 1607
Joined: Aug 2012

Hi Zach..I've been wondering how you are doing. My husband rarely wants to talk...but every once in awhile i will catch him holding the baby with tears running down his face. Its really hard for me to see...but at the same time i know that hes not just burying all his feelings. He tells everyone that he makes cancer the smallest part of his life and refuses to give it anymore attention than he needs to....he went to a chinese med doc last week and the doctor said he can say all that as muxh as he wants but hes not fooling his body and that he can tell for the exam that he is stressed and borderline depressed. I dont share my fears with him either as i feel guilty making him worry about me. I feel so anxious sometimes i can hardly breathe.
Im sorry you are dealing with this at such an early age...its just not fair. You should try to let it out however you can...here...counseling...a support group...whatever works.

I think it was definately ok that you told her what you did. Shs just didnt know what to do with the info. Shes hurting because shes afraid and also because she doesnt want to see you hurting. Safe to say all of us...patient or spouse..or loved one is just terrified most of the time.

Hang in there Zach...my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Posts: 1170
Joined: Sep 2012

Hi Zach,

My iPad wants to call you Zachary. Well, that makes two of us that are having a bad day today. You as the patient and me as a caregiver. I'm not sure why I am having a bad day. Nothing in particular is going wrong. It's a nice warm day. Sun is shining. I'm scared and sad about my husbands cancer and am just having trouble keeping it all together. But I do know that my husband will not know about this. I have gotten very good at hiding these emotions from him. A few times I have slipped and started crying in front of him. He finds it quite upsetting. I try to keep it to a minimum. His attitude is a lot like Jen's husband. Can't be bothered wasting his time on cancer. Deals with appointments and behaves responsibly etc. Just doesn't want to give it more focus than he has to. He appears to deal really well. I really admire his attitude. I do know that he has his moments. He seems to be more emotional when he's not feeling well. Makes sense. It's easy to forget cancer and have a positive attitude when you're feeling well. Its harder to forget when you feel like crap. I can tell that an upcoming scan is on his mind. I guess both of us are guilty about holding in emotions because we don't want to bring the other person down. For myself I find it to be exhausting when I hold in these feelings. Just writing this now makes me feel better. Like Jen, I worry about Steve holding in all his emotions. It's too bad you two are dealing with something so heavy right off the bat, in your marriage. I really cant offer much advise. Not sure what the best way is to handle these emotions. Posting here more Often may help. It sure helps me. I hope things improve for you.


bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

It is funny your iPad corrected my name, because that is actually my full name Zachary, you even spelled in correctly :) I am sorry that you are having a bad day.  it did make me feel better writing down all my thoughts and getting them off of my chest, so i am gald that it helped you as well.  I like you and many others strugle with what to tell your spouse for fear of hurting them emotionally or being afraid that they just wouldnt understand, or even not wanting to be a burden on them.  I was talking with a good friend of mine and he made a point of saying that sharing the burdon of what i (we) am going though helps build stronger relationships, not just with your spouse but with friends as well.  I do NOT like to be the center of attention in any format, so sharing with people can be a challenge for me because i am more of a listener and get joy out of being that person that my friends can come and talk to about what they are going through.  After thinking about this i realize that i am holding back the joy/ trust in my friends because i am not sharing with them.  I realize that this may seem kind of weird but at the same time knowing that they are able to share my burden and that they still love me right were i am at is a good feeling.  i still strugle with this, as you can tell from my first post.


wawaju04976's picture
Posts: 316
Joined: Dec 2012

It's hard when you really don't have control. I keep a notebook and have it broken into different treatments (surgeries, chemos, radiations, alternatives, etc.). When I come upon something that is new or has worked for others, I write it down. Right now I'm doing well; I just finished my 10th tx. I had a pet scan yesterday and will get the results in two weeks at my next appt. I keep the notebook so I have options. You might find that helpful. I am older than you (47) and my children are grown up. I find now I worry about my children's health, unfortunately my son (24 years old) has become very hypercondriatic (sp). He has had test after test (part of me is glad, cuz I know he doesn't have anything). But I hate seeing him so stressed. His doctor has written down everything he has been tested for. She told him that when he starts having these thoughts/symptoms, check the notebook and see that it has already been tested for. As I told him I worried from my early twenties about things I didn't have. I never worried about having stage 4 colon cancer. So, like I told him, my worries were for nought, and then I get the big Cahoona!!! Anyway, keep that notebook. It gives you a lottle bit of control. Aslo, remember that being stage four is not a death sentence. They do so much now that they didn't do ten years ago. Keep the faith and positive thoughts. I know it's hard...


bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

Hi Judy, thanks for the reminder. i have thought about keeping a journal not just for treatment but about everything that is going on in my life.  I will just have to do it now!


annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2573
Joined: Oct 2011

It's just wrong that you have to go through this at such a young age. And your poor wife must be just terrified too. I think you have to be able to share your feelings with someone, and I'm sure your wife needs to share her feelings as well. I wonder if you have access to a support group? Here in Seattle we have cancer lifeline, which has a bunch of different groups, for both patients and caregivers. Maybe there's something similar in your neck of the woods. Your doctor's office would probably know of something.  And of course you can always talk to us...you know of all people we understand at least some of what you're going through. Sending strength and love your way. AA

bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

Hey ann, you do realize that we are in the same "neck of the woods" :)  i only live about 20-30 min away from Seattle (redmond), just found that funny :)  thanks for the info i will have to look into that

annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2573
Joined: Oct 2011

I now remember that I already knew this.  It may have been 2 years since I last had chemo, but I swear I still have chemo brain.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it for the rest of my life.  AA (aka Dummy)

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

It all sounds normal to me. I just watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning where a woman wrote a book that deals with people having regrets because they never got to tell people they love how much they love them or people who influenced them at an early age, how great their influence was.

Last summer my in-laws were involved in a tragic car accident that ultimately took their lives. They were supposed to visit us the next day, it didn't happen. I'm sure that when they left their house that morning they had no idea what awaited them just as the driver of the other car had no idea what awaited him. Later that day, an accident happened that ended lives and greatly changed others. 

My point is that while most of us here have cancer or are caregivers or survivors, there's nothing to say cancer will ultimately kill us. What we do have is a wake up call to our mortality. That's just one thing about cancer.

Another is that while our spouses are often the most important people in our lives, sometimes I've found that I need to talk to someone who's not so close to me or someone who can just listen and possible help me to understand what I'm going through. This forum serves that need at times. I also started seeing a therapist not long after I was DX over 9 years ago. It's helped me tremendously.

I'm going out on a limb here but something tells me that you're religious :-) Have you spoken to your clergy-person at all about this? It might be something to consider or possibly even seeing a therapist. It's done wonders for me...

As far as the "chemo for life" thing goes...I've been on chemo over 9 years. The past 6 or so have been with a more targeted type (Erbitux & Irinotecan) and while there have certainly been side effects, I've worked throughout all of this. I cook, I clean, I'm active as a father and as a husband. Do I get tired of the grind? You betcha! But overall the quality of my life is good to very good. Tomorrow I'm starting a different treatment (targeted radiation on the one remaining lymph node that's cancerous - 3 times with 20 minute sessions) that may possibly give me a nice break from all treatment.

Things have seemed to become available for me right when I needed them. Call it whatever you want to call it, I call it luck and also being hooked up with a great team at Sloan Kettering...

My point(s) are that:

  • no one expects you to be stoic and not feel certain feelings
  • there's nothing wrong with needed to speak with someone who's somewhat removed from your situation but can offer productive feedback and support
  • we shouldn't expect our spouses to be able to deal with everything but we also don't want to shut them out either 
  • none of know what might happen when we leave the house each day
  • chemo for life is a viable/doable option.
  • new treatments become available all the time

I hope that I've offered some suggestions that can be of some help for you.


Posts: 1170
Joined: Sep 2012

Hi Phil. Nice post. Read it to Steve who found it to be helpful. Just wanted to say how how good you look in these past two pictures. (first pics I've seen of you). I find it unbelievable that you've done so much Ironotecan and look that healthy. How great that your cocktail is so effective against your cancer and yet doesn't seem to take too great a toll on your overall health. I think you're one of the "luckier" ones here. Your chemo works for you long term and you haven't had to deal with the emotional roller coaster of wondering if your NED. Although, I do hope that your current course of treatment gets you that chemo break.


YoVita's picture
Posts: 590
Joined: Mar 2010

I hope your new targeted treatment gives you that well-deserved break.

tachilders's picture
Posts: 313
Joined: Jun 2012

I'm on my phone posting from Germany so this won't be as long a post as I would like it to be. What you are feeling is perfectly normal and probably all of us on here with cancer have had these emotions and feelings. I am older than you (46) but along with a wife I have 6 kids from 5-15 years old. I get very emotional when I think about them likely having to grow up without a dad at some point. In all honesty most of us with stage 4 will be lucky to live 5 years. That is just the stats on this horrible disease. What that means to me is that I have to make every day a little more special for me and my family. I freaking HATE that this disease is likely going to take my kids dad from them but I can't control that. All I can control is how I live the time I have left and my goal is to be the best dad and husband I can be for that time. I can't even type this without crying. The only positive that has come from this is that it has made me take a hard look at myself and to try and be a better person to everyone. I plan to fight with everything I have but I will also try to go out with dignity. If I can make one persons life better by the way I live what time I have left I will have accomplished something worthwhile. Staring your own mortality in the face isn't an easy task my friend. Best of luck to you and I am so sorry that you have this disease. My oldest son is 10 and his name is Zachary. 

annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2573
Joined: Oct 2011

you are not the only one crying.  This thread had made me so sad, and so angry.  Cancer is such a thief and I hate what this stupid disease steals from all of us, especially those of us who are dealing with advanced disease (not to minimize the cancer experience of other stages, by any means, but metastatic illness has its own special challenges).  Trying to live each day well, and taking comfort in our ability to love, and be loved, by others, seems to me to be the only way to face the journey.  AA

Posts: 1607
Joined: Aug 2012

I'm with you Ann - I hate this.  I envy the way Phil can deal and think about this.   I just can't find anything good about it and I wish I could.  

Posts: 199
Joined: Nov 2012

I have been out of chemo since last September but all of last year, I cried a lot.  I think the chemo drugs also affect your emotions.  I tried to be strong when I talked with my parents who live in a different state and couldn't be with me.  Every time I called them, I had to take deep breaths so I wouldn't break down.  I broke down a few times and felt bad that I upset them.  They wanted to help me but couldn't.  I used to call them about three times a week but during chemo, I talked with them about once every two weeks.  It was torture because I missed them so much but I knew I would be crying my eyes out if I talked to them.

My boyfriend got used to it.  He travels for his job and I only saw him every other week.  I cried a lot when he was around.  Poor guy.  He told me to cry because I needed to release the emotions.  One day I was a mess and told him to stay away from me.  Then I told him who I wanted at my funeral.  Of course that upset him but he let me cry it out.  It is okay to cry.

HUGs to you.


Coloncancerblows's picture
Posts: 296
Joined: Feb 2013

It's okay to cry.  I cry after every chemo session when I'm feeling terrible.  Sometimes, out of the middle of nowhere, I cry and don't know why.  A commercial on TV set me off or just anything.  I was on the treadmill once for 30 minutes and cried the whole time.  It's okay.  We will all get through this!!!

barbebarb's picture
Posts: 464
Joined: Oct 2011

Zach -
We all cry. You are not alone.
The expectation is be positive, etc., etc., but this insidious
disease makes us wonder what next.
I think its important to share to get it off your chest even if there are no answers.

Maxiecat's picture
Posts: 544
Joined: Jul 2012

I have some of the same feelings as well.  I am a mom to 2 wonderful kids.  I get very emotional and sad when I think about the very real possibility that I might not be here when they graduate from high school or college, when they get married, when they have babies of their own.  I took a trip with my Dd to New York City this past weekend with her girl scout troop.  It was very difficult being with 8 other moms and their girls..knowing that this disease is stealing precious time...  most days I have no one to talk to about how I am feeling.  I don't want to burden my husband with a lot of it... He's a guy... He's a fixer of problems.  Give him a task to do and he can fix it...this he can't fix.  Don't get me wrong, we talk about it sometimes but I know he is already stressed out with his job and being the sole bread winner then having to worry about me being ill.  When I talk to my parents they don't understand what I am going through...they just want to hear the good news.  Neither of them have ever had to deal with a serious illness like this.  The only person that I know personally who understands what we are dealing with emotionally is my husband's step-mom...she was dx with ovarian cancer 6 months before my diagnosis.  I do talk to her, but she is at a different place in her life...her kids are grown and are all married with families.


marbleotis's picture
Posts: 714
Joined: Mar 2012

Sometimes getting upset is good.......what I mean is I used the emotions to stay focused and up to date on treatments.  Cancer takes alot from us but also gives.  I have an appreciation for things I did not before,  Little things or annoying people/relatives no longer bother me.    We received this odd "gift" to see our own mortality.  It lets you look at your life in a different way.

I am so sorry you are so young,  you are a few years older than my eldest daughter. 

Stay involved with your Drs, ask alot of questions, eat healthy and exercise.  Enjoy each and every day.

If you have a bad day, just let it happen,  sometimes you need to cry and move on.

Keep talking with your wife.  You will weather this together!

bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

thanks for the thoughts and all the good advice from everyone!  I agree that receiving this "gift" of being able to see our own mortality can be helpful for me at times to not sweat the little things in life, but to make the bigger things count. 


db8ne1's picture
Posts: 142
Joined: Feb 2013




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My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife.  I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis.  Everyone’s emotions and reactions are different.  Be assured that what you are feeling is entirely normal.  You are not alone!

Unlike some, I haven’t been anxious, worried, or cried once since my diagnosis – but I’m also NOT young and my children are grown and independent.  I’ve been married for 32 years (I was a child bride of 18!) but I can’t imagine that my demise would take too much of a toll on my spouse. So, I don't have that concern. We don’t spend a lot of time discussing my condition or the future.  We have very different communications styles.  (Frankly, he doesn’t). So…I can’t be much help there.  However, if you have always had open communication with your wife, she may feel sad and shut out if you stop now.  I have seen others mention counseling with a pastor or therapist as a suggestion.  You may want to do that.  It’s not good for either one of you to keep things bottled up if you feel the need to vent or share.  I think it may just add more anxiety – which is probably the last thing you need right now.

My favorite quote has always been, “On a long enough timeline, the survivability rate of everyone drops to zero”.  My beloved father’s was, “I’m gonna live ‘till I die” – and he did!  Also, I have a very strong faith which has provided me with a peace that goes beyond all understanding.  I know for a fact that this peace does NOT come from ME – as I have always been a control freak!  Once I got the cancer diagnosis – I realized that I really had no control at all.  I know this was a life lesson for me. Oh, I can pick my doctors and my treatments, etc.  But in the end, I really have less control than I think I do.  That’s just my perspective – and I’m OK with that.  You have to do some soul searching to see what works for you.

That said, I’ve done a LOT of research (the control freak in me…) and I’ve read many blogs – this one included.  There are many Stage IV’s that have been NED for years.  There are many Stage IV’s that have lived years and years after their initial diagnosis using various treatments.  The medical field constantly comes up with more types of drugs and treatments.  It’s a work in progress.  So, be encouraged!

Another thing that you may want to keep in mind is that this disease – as well as your therapies – will affect how you feel.  Many find relief with anti-depresssants. You may want to speak with your doctors about that, as well, if it can help.

Best wishes.  Let me know if there is anything I can pray for you specifically!


pbec's picture
Posts: 5
Joined: Feb 2013

Wow. This is right were I am feeling this week. I was diagnosed at stage 3c 11 months ago. After six months of chemo was told the cancer had spread and is now stage 4. I thought I would hold it together like I did when I was first diagnosed, but finding out it is stage 4 made it hard to "control" my emotions. Reading your words makes me realize I don't need to control myself to be positive and it is okay to feel sad too. I'm only 48 and also question how I can take this chemo for the rest of my life. I want to enjoy my time with my wife and kid and now see the chemo and avastin and neupogen and ... Just all getting in the way of what I enjoy. I don't have an answer, but I can say thanks for sharing how you feel as it makes me feel less alone about how I've been feeling this week. 

bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

Hey Pbec, i am truly sorry that your diagnosis has changed to stage 4, that just plain old sucks! I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in how you feel, i think that there are many people out there that are feeling this way.  I agree with you that all of these chemo drugs definitly get in the way of what i enjoy, but i have to keep doing the things that i enjoy otherwise i find that i can easily get depressed and not want to do anything.  Like you i dont have the answers but i do get a lot of good advice from people on here :)


YoVita's picture
Posts: 590
Joined: Mar 2010

Zach, I bet your post made sense to all of us.  Thank you for posting.  It obviously has helped others and I hope it helped you.  You got some great advice from others so I won't add to it.  Just wanted to say how impressed I am with how you've been handling your new life at such a young age.  My best wishes to you and your wife, Vita

bigman4christ's picture
Posts: 87
Joined: Oct 2012

Hi Vita, thanks for the encouragment, i hope it helped others because it was nice to get that off of my chest and all of my frustrations to just vent to others that would understand were i was coming from.  I dont know how well i am handeling it but i am trying and that is what counts :)


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