Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Positive Attitude

So, today's post might be a bit ranty. I apologize in advance, but I just have to let this out. It's come up a few times recently - both in comments people have said to me {but, I'm grateful to report that the comments were few} and in talking to other cancer patients, so I just feel like it needs to be said. Because it's important to those of who are struggling - with anything by the way, not just cancer - that people can acknowledge and agree with what I'm about to say.

A positive attitude will NOT cure cancer. It will not make a sick person healthy. It will not raise white blood counts or red blood counts. It does not make tumors shrink.

That's not to say I don't see how a positive attitude is helpful. It certainly can be. However, it is absolutely NOT helpful at all when the person with the positive attitude is completely faking it because s/he feels pressure from the people around him/her to be "happy." It is draining to fake it. It is tiring to fake it.

It also needs to be said, just because I do not have a huge smile plastered on my face, that doesn't mean I do not have a positive attitude. I can have a generally positive attitude, but still have a bad day. The two feelings can be co-existent. Some days suck. Some days I have pain. Some days I'm over-whelmed by what is going on. And so? I might not be smiling. I might even be crying. But that doesn't mean I have a negative attitude. It just means I'm acknowledging my feelings. And that? Is okay in my book.

It also needs to be said, that if I'm being realistic about my cancer? That doesn't mean I don't have a positive attitude. My cancer can come back. That is a reality. It's why oncologists do not call you cured. Because while they may not be able to detect cancer, small cells could still be in my body, waiting to grow. Me acknowledging that? Doesn't mean I don't have a positive attitude. The truth is for some time to come, maybe even forever, in the back of my head will be the thought my cancer can come back. This doesn't mean I've given up on life and refuse to live it. It doesn't mean I'm being negative. I can acknowledge the realities of my health and still have a positive attitude.

It also needs to be said, that if at any time I lose my positive attitude, for whatever reason? That's okay too. I've been what feels like to hell and back. I might not be oh-so positive about it all the time. I might have some very negative feelings. And that's okay. I realize it might be harder for those around me. I get it, negativity can be hard to be around at times. But I, and I think every person really, need to honor my feelings, my experiences, my emotions. And it won't cause my cancer to come back. It won't delay the healing my body needs to do. Might it get in the way of my emotional healing? It might. But you know what, so will faking a positive attitude that doesn't really exist.

Now, I've been really blessed. I am embraced and loved and surrounded by people who let me be exactly who I am - whether it's the smiling happy Brandie, or the sad, crying Brandie. I'm so amazingly blessed by this. I do not feel pressured to fake anything.

But, a few times, by well-meaning folks I'm sure {but who are essentially strangers} have made comments. Or told me to just be happy. That if I just had a better attitude, I'd heal faster. I've also been told about how they knew someone who smiled through all of her treatment, and never got sick or had side effects and was so happy and upbeat and I should try to be like her. (And I've had other breast cancer patients share stories about how they were told that even by their close friends and family. And how hurtful it can be, especially from people close to you.) But no. Being happy won't fix this. Having a better attitude won't heal my body. And I should NOT try to be someone else. Because I am already me.

Now, I know, I know, these things are often said in love. And are meant with good intentions. I do understand that. But I also think that there needs to be understanding that these comments are in fact not helpful to every person. And throwing them around casually, as if being happy or positive, is the solution to the problem is not helpful. This is not say you can't talk about being happy, or talk about people you know who did in fact smile all the way through treatment. I might get jealous hearing about that person but I don't mind the sharing, as long as it doesn't come with an ending that says "be like her!" or "be like him!"

Because I know from experience from all the wonderful people in my life, when you let the person you are talking to just be who they are and not give them expectations to live up to, it will make your bond with them better. They will remember how good it felt to be with you. They will appreciate the fact that you are listening to them, through the good and the bad.


  1. well, if that's ever me that says something like that - you just tell me to STFU. :)

  2. I love this post. The whole positive attitude expectation is one of my biggest pet peeves. This does not mean I am a negative person!! Thanks for writing this. I'll have to share it. Here's a post I wrote about a year ago on this topic in case you're interested.


  3. Just let me tell you a positive attitude does not cure anything! I have done nothing the last 2 days (what could be more positive than that?) and i still have the flu and feel like $#!+! Besides, the only person you should listen to is your Mother!! ;)

    I love you very much!
    Mother "F"

  4. Katie E9:47 PM

    Well said Brandie.

    It always drove me especially crazy when people who had never had cancer said 'stay positive'. It's like they feel like they need to say something and they think that by saying the word 'positive' it somehow helps heal or cure us. Instead, it just infuriated me every time.

    This was not too 'venty' at all, you have great points!

  5. You be how you need to be, honey. We're here for you for support, not to tell you how to feel.

  6. Just be you. It's okay to complain and feel absolutely overwhelmed. I don't know anyone who can remain positive at all times.

    I'm sure even Tony Robbins has his moments.

  7. You know you can always count on me... I'm the one who will rant right along side you...and sooner or later we WILL find something to laugh about.... And if that takes DAYS...we can't rant for days.... I'm with ya. Never forget that. I cherish you!

  8. Anonymous4:37 PM

    My acupuncturist told me that there have been studies that show cancer patients had better outcomes if they were authentic with their negative feelings than those who put on a happy face and suppressed their negative energy.

    I'm halfway through radiation and chemo for anal cancer and had been trying to stay positive at all times and not give in to the anxiety and anger.

    Now I realize how important it is to release those feelings in a way that is not harmful to my family & friends. I plan on writing in my journal, making art and dancing.

    I wish you the best on your journey to recovery.

  9. You know what they say about opinions right?


Seeing your comments makes me smile! Thank you so much =)