The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.
“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
- Virginia Satir
Dealing with cancer can often be daunting, discouraging, and exhausting. Cancer affects your body, but it affects your emotions and feelings too. To face your diagnosis with a positive attitude and with optimism especially during the holidays, is truly a road less travelled.
"Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. it means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections."
Holidays can be stressful, but they are also one of the biggest opportunities to take a moment to pause and collect your thoughts as well as spend quality time with loved ones. While it can be difficult to feel positive during cancer treatment, it is possible to remain realistic about the negative impacts of a cancer diagnosis and still find perspective and gratitude. Often, people think that gratitude is ignoring any difficulties they are facing and only focusing on the positive. But in reality, practicing gratitude gives people the strength to accept whatever their current challenges are while still finding joy throughout their struggle.
However, that does not mean that you have to act ‘positive’ at all times. In fact, it is important for you to express the entire gamut of emotions that accompany you on your cancer journey - anger, sadness, guilt, and even despair. These emotions are just as normal as the others and must be acknowledged by your near and dear ones. An uncertain future and a difficult past are both parts of a cancer diagnosis and treatment but a joyful present, especially during the holidays, can change your outlook and help you approach your treatment with renewed vigour and hope.
There is a type of optimism called ‘dispositional optimism’ that refers to the generalized positive expectation that good things rather than bad things will happen in the future.
A dispositional optimist focuses on things to be glad and grateful about. This attitude has been studied in cancer patients and shows that it may be beneficial to overall health related quality of life. Research also shows that there are many benefits to practicing gratitude and higher levels of optimism have been significantly associated with fewer anxious and depressive symptoms, less hopelessness and better quality of life. Cross-sectional studies of cancer survivors have found that optimism is a significant predictor of emotional well-being in breast cancer survivors and in older adult survivors who were more than five years from diagnosis. It is important to note that there is no proof that being positive can alter cancer’s progression, though studies do suggest optimism boosts quality of life and overall mental health that can support your cancer journey.
As the holidays approach, take a moment to see your world in a different light. For one, there are so many reasons to be hopeful, to feel grateful and be encouraged about - the love and support of your family and friends being foremost, the numerous researchers and physicians who are working hard to find new treatments, improved survival data for so many cancers, the fact that you have health insurance and certainly the care of your cancer care team that manages your disease. Find comfort in traditions that you have always followed or start new ones with your loved ones.
“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.” - Orison Swett Marden
Choose to celebrate the holidays, every single day. Let your heart be light and your mind be at peace as the warmth and cheer of the season wash over you. Cancer can wait for a bit.