My web site is devoted to medical and treatment information about this rare cancer. My blog is devoted to sharing what has been the more difficult part of the journey for me, the emotional and spiritual road I've traveled as a rare cancer survivor.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

News: Emotional well-being doesn't affect cancer outcome

Emotional well-being doesn't affect cancer outcome. That was the conclusion reached in a study evaluating over 1000 cancer patients and their survival rates over an eight year period. The study was published in the journal Cancer in October of 2007. This is a link to the article:

Emotional well-being doesn't affect cancer outcome>

I have a feeling the research is correct, and I so love the burden that lifts from many of us who have received a cancer diagnosis. It's okay if we aren't always smiling.

Another great article to read is:

The Tyranny of Positive Thinking

from the book "The Human Side of Cancer" by Jimmie C. Holland, M.D., of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

I know many told me I did so well because I was always so positive. They were sure that was why I got through surgery and chemo without incident. They are sure my great attitude is the reason I have been cancer-free since.

I did try to stay positive, at least in public, when I was going through all of that. I made myself smile a lot. I also fought as hard as I could with everything I had in me and available to me for the better part of a year. And in a sense I am still fighting, we can never really let down our guard.

I thought maybe negative thoughts would make cancer cells grow or depress my immune system or in some other way sabotage my likelihood of staying alive, so I was afraid to think negatively. I was afraid to be depressed, I was afraid to be stressed, I was afraid to be anxious. I was afraid to be afraid.

But the truth is, I was sometimes depressed, I cried a lot when no one was looking, I was stressed, and I was afraid. I was terrified a lot of the time, terrified that my cancer might return, that it had returned, that I wouldn't live to raise my kids. I felt I truly understood the meaning of the word anguish before every CT scan. I wrote pages and pages and pages in my journal trying to exorcise those feelings. In private I wasn't so "up". Then I felt guilty for having those negative emotions, didn't I have enough faith? Guilt was added to the list of negative feelings I wasn't supposed to have.

I was not always positive.

Those diagnosed with appendiceal cancer and advanced abdominal cancers especially struggle. They face a huge surgery (hence the MOAS nickname "Mother Of All Surgeries") and its aftermath. And even when the surgery, chemo and recovery are finally over (not the debt, of course) there is the extended period of living in limbo unsure of a future. The endless testing. The insecurity. The horrible statistics inprinted on our brains. There is the picking up of the pieces of our old before-cancer life in the aftermath and the trying to make sense of what's left...employment, school, altered relationships, childcare. There is the coping with the realization that our normal lives before cancer are forever gone.

Yes, we often feel sad, afraid, and depressed, though often we hide how we feel from those who love us as they already have done enough for us. We don't want to burden them also with our struggling emotions, so we go it alone. Especially when they so want us to be positive and strong as they are sure our cancer will return if we can't stay "up".

We need to accept the negative feelings associated with a cancer diagnosis. We don't need to feel guilty or afraid when we have them. They are normal feelings. We are not sabotaging our odds of staying alive when we struggle, we are just being human. And that's okay.

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