Recently, I was surprised to hear one of tv’s talking heads say that a positive attitude didn’t appear to have any effect on the survival rate of cancer patients. I checked around and he wasn’t fibbing. The conclusion was based on a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the results are to appear in the December issue of the American Cancer Society journal Cancer.
Initially I thought, “well that sucks.” Then I read further and was surprised to find that many doctors were relieved by the study’s findings, none more so than Dr. Jimmie Holland, a psychiatrist who wrote the book The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty.
Dr. Holland coined the term “the tyranny of positive thinking” to describe the approach of those who preach the mind-over-cancer mantra. She believes it puts tremendous pressure and unreasonable expectations on people struggling with this disease. She thinks no one should believe they’re dying because they weren’t being positive enough.
Now that makes perfect sense to me.
Dr. Holland believes there certainly are benefits to staying positive during treatment. It’s just that positive thinking alone doesn’t appear to extend a cancer patient’s life.
That makes sense to me too.
I worry that too many people, like me initially, won’t read or listen past the headline - Upbeat Attitude No Match For Cancer* - and succumb to negativity and depression if they or a loved one are stricken with a terminal illness.
Certainly, negativity and depression are way stations on the road towards acceptance but I’d sure try to keep my visits brief at the former and hurry towards the latter. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating a rush to accept a death sentence but rather a rush to accept that what will be, will be. Once you’ve accepted where you’re at - accepted that some things are just beyond your power to affect - peace descends, time slows down and suddenly everywhere you look there’s a rose to stop beside and smell.
Naturally, treatment is focused on the body but the mind and spirit need tending as well. They’ve all got a stake in the outcome. Do what needs doing for all the parts of you that are ailing.
And I'm convinced having a positive outlook on life, whether that life is measured in weeks or years, is part of a good, overall health package.
What I think it boils down to is this: If given a few months to live, would it be better to spend them depressed or optimistic?
I can’t imagine a lengthy debate.
I wouldn’t want to go to sleep every night fearful it may be my last.
I’d rather open my eyes in the morning and be pleasantly surprised I was still here.
Simplistic perhaps but complicated makes me dizzy.
*Probably made that up.
Other Stuff I
There have been significant changes in my life this year which I'll detail eventually. Not the least of them was inheriting Benny, the Jack Russell Terror. Suddenly, at 56 years of age, I had a toddler in the house again - a toddler that could run like the wind - while chewing shoes.
I’ve had to carve out at least a couple of hours a day to deal with him. Walks are mornings and evenings and many of you know that most of the time we explore the territory across the road from my house. It’s a field/woods combination that borders a creek that runs through my town. Recently, a paved walking/biking path was built that intersected and paralleled the ones created over the years by fishermen and kids taking shortcuts to school.
I’ve found that nearly every day something happens on one or both of our walks - small things usually - but things of interest to me and perhaps some others; things that arouse a sense of wonder or that might add bits of lore to the collection rattling around in my cranial attic.
I’ve found myself wanting to write about them but didn’t think all that many of you would be interested in reading it. So that leaves me considering starting another blog, among other possibilities. Which leaves me wondering where the time is going to come from - which means I need to consider making even more changes.
Which makes me want to lie down.
Other Stuff II
A week or so ago I saw a singer on the David Letterman show who knocked my socks off. I haven’t been able to get her song out of my head since. Thanks to YouTube I can share her performance with you folks.
I showed both sons and they were less than enthusiastic.
But what do kids know anyway?
She reminds me of an old-style chanteuse. She’s got a wicked set of pipes, a fine band and, I think, talent oozing from every pore. Her name is Nicole Atkins and I think she could become a Very Big Star.
Am I alone on this one?
You can check her out by clicking here.
Other Stuff III
I rarely plug another blog and I know there’s going to be some eye-rolling from the peanut gallery when I plug this one....
But if you’re a parent, or may become one - or enjoy kids, or were one yourself - check out Hilary’s recent post at The Smitten Image.
It’s warm and amusing and as a bonus, you’ll see some spiffy pics.