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, December 16, 2008

Making up for lost time!

I want to share what I read on another woman's cancer blog today....I loved this! This is an excerpt from Jill Cohen's Dancing With Cancer. Jill has been dealing with metastatic breast cancer for 10 years.

Cancer is the only disease I can think of where people say that those of us who've got it must have a positive attitude. Well, there's very little about cancer to be positive about! Having cancer is terrible. No one would choose to have cancer. And those of us who have cancer need to be able to express ourselves. If we feel good, that's fine. But if we feel ill, or the treatments are rough on us, or we're depressed, or we're angry, or you name it -- we need to be able to express those feelings.

When I was diagnosed, so many people thought I needed to "think positive" or "have a positive attitude" to survive. I was certainly in fight mode, but I was not always positive. Many times I felt, though, that I had to put on the expected positive face when I talked to friends and family. They were so sure that my positive attitude was going to save me.

Kind of interesting- some are sure a positive attitude will save us, others feel our tumors are a result of repressed emotions and feeling. Yikes..it's a no win situation!!!

I don't believe either is true.

In the end I think honesty is best. There is no science that indicates a positive attitude is associated with better outcomes. This long term study of cancer patients was published in the journal Cancer in October of 2007:

Emotional well-being doesn't affect cancer outcome

Many of us with cancer sometimes feel depressed, sad, angry and desperate...and under the circumstances those are normal and justified feelings. The person who was the greatest help to me was my best friend...I could call her sobbing about how my life was in a bad place and tell her I was afraid and sad...she understood. She even agreed with me, she'd feel the same if it were her. She never once thought or said I needed to have a positive attitude to beat my cancer.

This was also helpful to me, an excerpt from the chapter "The Tyranny of Positive Thinking" from Jimmie Holland's book "The Human Side of Cancer":

It's dangerous to generalize about attitudes and their impact on cancer without more information. The present-day tyranny of positive thinking sometimes victimizes people. If thinking positively works for you, well and good. If it doesn't, use the coping style that's natural to you and has worked in the past. (I discuss different modes of coping in Chapter 6.) Trying to get you to "put on a happy face," to pretend you are feeling confident when in fact you are feeling tremendously fearful and upset, can have a downside. By feigning confidence and ease about your illness and its treatment, you may cut off help and support from others. You may also be hiding anxious and depressed feelings that could be alleviated if you told your doctor how you really feel. Also, this tyranny of positive thinking can inhibit you from getting the help you may need out of fear of disappointing your loved ones or admitting to a personality some people think is fatal. If you are surrounded by "the positive attitude police'" ask your doctor, clergy, or therapist to call them off, letting them know that this is an important time for you to be honest about your feelings so that you can get all the help you need. (Or give your or friends this chapter to read.)....

It is ironic that many negative, pessimistic people survive cancer, while others who believe positive attitudes will cure it do not. While members of the former group are stunned by their survival, those in the latter group are made to feel guilty or ashamed that they were not "up to" beating an aggressive disease. This is unfair. I do not believe for an instant that people whose cancer progresses have a weaker spirit or character than anyone else.


I think the people I cherish and respect most in my own life are the people who are honest about their lives and their feelings, who are genuine, who seek help when they need to, who don't feel they always have to paint a rosy picture of their lives. We all have down times in our lives and need help and support. We need to be able and unafraid in expressing how we feel and to be able to seek help and comfort.

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