The topic of maintaining a positive attitude during cancer treatment (and beyond) is one that comes up time and time again in Cancer Land. In fact, it comes up everywhere. Society seems obsessed with positivity sometimes, or so it seems to me. But in Cancer Land there is this ongoing theme that no matter what, a cancer patient should always try to remain positive. Why this is, I do not know. I don’t mean to harp on this topic, but…
Recently I’ve been thinking about this again probably due to my recent cancerversary (hate that term, but what the heck do I call it?) and because it’s always one of my hot-button topics.
I do not believe always aiming to maintain a positive attitude should necessarily be the gold standard for how to “properly” do cancer. That’s a lot of pressure. And no, I am not opposed to trying to feel positive when you’re up to it, but when you’re not I say, let the tears flow. Or whatever. It’s the notion of insisting a particular emotion be felt and the presumption that positivity is always better that drive me nuts and likewise the perception that if you’re not feeling positive, well then, you’re being negative.
Why not just encourage genuineness?
And it’s pretty darn clear that having a positive attitude does not mean a person will survive cancer longer. If this were true, cancer patients would likely be some of the most determined smilers on the planet.
But what exactly does telling a cancer patient to always remain positive, mean anyway?
And how exactly should a cancer patient (or anyone for that matter) go about doing this?
It’s all rather mystifying to me.
Of course, I don’t really believe anyone actually expects a cancer patient to ALWAYS remain positive, at least I hope not. But there does seem to be a general societal expectation that well, if you’re not giving off positive vibes, maybe you should rethink how you’re “doing” cancer or maybe even your life in general.
I cannot figure out why everything, even the super shitty stuff that happens to most of us, needs to be twisted around, reshaped and turned into a positive. Shitty stuff is just that, shitty stuff. (I might have to get going on that, “Ten Shitty Things Cancer Taught Me” post!)
But again, what does, just stay positive, even mean?
I decided it might be more about suggesting that cancer patients keep quiet about how they’re really feeling/doing.
Perhaps when people say, just stay positive, they really mean…
It might be better to keep your cancer truths under raps; no one really needs to know your truths, do they?
It makes me uncomfortable to hear all those gory details.
It’s too hard to be around you if you’re not upbeat.
I can’t handle this if you’re not positive.
You should be over this by now, shouldn’t you?
And as for the other part of this discussion, helpful suggestions offered as to how a cancer patient is supposed to go about staying positive seem to be lacking. Advice without ideas for implementation might not be that helpful here either.
Regardless, how does a cancer patient just stay positive when, in fact, she might really feel like hell and be scared to death?
So what might be a better, simpler, less burdensome and far more helpful “gold standard” for most cancer patients to hear and to aim for?
Be real. Be you. It’s enough.
Because having cancer, and navigating survivorship, are both hard enough. No one should feel pressured to smile her/his way through either one.
Do you ever feel pressured to smile your way through everything, even cancer (and/or survivorship)?
What do you think is sometimes really meant when it’s suggested to above all else, just stay positive?
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