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A Different Kind of Optimism

As many of you may know, one of my biggest cancer “pet peeves” (nice pun since today’s post centers around my pets) is the positive attitude thing. You know the one. The one that implies if you just stay positive enough, you can beat cancer.

Umm, no, obviously this is not true, but still the subtle message is out there, unintended or not.

This does not mean I am a pessimist or a negative person. I’m neither. As I keep saying, I think of myself as a realist.

But what does this have to do with today’s post?

Just for fun, and OK maybe to brag just a little about my dogs, today I’m sharing an article I wrote (about optimism no less!) that was recently published in Animal Wellness Magazine.

I’m mentioning the positive attitude thing because if you choose to read the article, you will notice that under the photo it says, “Sophie and Elsie help the author maintain a positive attitude.”


When I read that, of course it rubbed me the wrong way… I know, I know. I’m too sensitive, but I can’t help it.

I only inserted one teeny-weeny sentence about my cancer in the article (it was even in parentheses) and lo and behold, the editor made the leap to the positive attitude thing…

Go figure.

So just a head’s up, those particular words were the editor’s words, not mine. Editors always have the last say. I would have said something slightly different…

Oh well.

Below is the link if you’d like to read about “optimism of a different kind.” If you do, I hope you enjoy the article as much as I enjoyed writing and sharing it.


Do you have a special pet?

Has your pet helped you cope with cancer, or any difficult situation?

(Am I too sensitive?)

Reprinted with permission of Animal Wellness Magazine. @2009,

24 thoughts to “A Different Kind of Optimism”

  1. I love the article you wrote. 🙂 I’d never really thought about the no fuss attitude that dogs have before…and now I have, I’ve come to the conclusion that it might just be why I like them so much. Unfortunately I’m not a dog owner, but there have been dogs in the family in the past, and they’ve all been helpful to me in dealing with loss and grief, just by their being in my life.

    1. Casey, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. You’re right, the presence of dogs (or cats) alone is comforting during any tough time we face. They don’t even have to do anything. I think there’s a lesson in that for all of us when we try to help someone who’s grieving. Sometimes our presence is enough too.

  2. I am a cat lover. I never recall a time in my life when I didn’t have one. Except a year before I became ill, my lovely boy with the most beautiful blue eyes died at the age of 18. I was broken hearted swore I would never have pets again. I have had other pets as well dogs, birds, a Tarantula named “Gladys” she was unique quite friendly Often she would sit on my arm never bit…During Chemo one of the nurses announced she had a cat that she needed to get rid of because she had a small dog that wasn’t keen on the cat. Me in my , “if no one else I’ll take her moments”. A month later a knock came to my door there is my Chemo nurse standing there cat in hand my son took her and she ran hid from sight. The nurse said thanks gave me her dish kitty litter and she was gone. I suspect no one liked the cat. Her name “Miss Lucy” Very proper kitty, snooty aloof, She stayed afraid I would say for more than a year until she warmed up realized there wasn’t a dog to hurt her. You touched her she would snap at you pick her up she’d bite you. Only in the last few months she suddenly decided she likes you. She stays by me follows me lays on my feet expecting a head rub with your toes, Stop she will talk wanting more. She is all black very long hair , constantly needs to be brushed. She has turned out to be such a wonderful loving pet. I can’t imagine not having her or what could have become of her. She was going to be put down if no one wanted her. I think we both helped each other. Lucy not replacing Smudge, she was exactly what I needed chemo was rough having something else to focus on helped especially after losing my brother weeks before. And Lucy being totally pampered and being spoiled… Who can complain
    Love Alli xx

    1. Alli, Lucy sounds like a wonderful companion, as was your “lovely boy.” It’s nice you took Lucy in and that it worked out. At the time I wrote this article, we didn’t have Ninja, our cat, yet. She was a foster cat, too, in need of a home. I never really considered myself much of a cat person until she came along. Now I know what all the “cat people” (like you!) are talking about! Not sure about a tarantula though! Thanks for sharing, Alli.

  3. Of course the editor grabbed the one word about cancer and made a big deal about it. I can be a person who has cancer and doesn’t need to bring it up in every sentence. Congrats on your article. My cat is the one who was my chemo buddy.

    1. Caroline, Thank you. And yes, I would have preferred the caption under the photo to say something else. Oh well. I’m glad you had a kitty to help you get through chemo. Do you still have him/her?

  4. Nancy, Well you know how much my dog helped me with my cancer journey/odyssey/ordeal! And if it makes you feel any better about the editor pulling out that one “cancer” thread, the opposite is happening with my book. To my great joy, although it is clearly a memoir of Seamus the Famous (beagle) and me both surviving cancer, the dog is far and above the star of the book and the publicity. He even got the cover. Focus was on the dog and the relationships, not the cancer. Smart, smart editor. 😉 Oh, and I think of myself as a pessimist and yet everyone kept telling me what a great “positive attitude” I had when going through cancer treatment. It kind of made me laugh.

    1. Teresa, It’s funny you think/thought of yourself as a pessimist, yet others kept telling you how positive you were. No one really knows how we’re really feeling or coping do they? I think it’s great Seamus is taking stage front and center. He’s one special beagle, but then I don’t need to tell you that! I look forward to reading your book. Is it out now?

  5. “Too sensitive”? As a writer, and one who has written extensively about what Jimmie Holland, MD, calls the “tyranny of positive thinking” (also as one who has been labeled “too sensitive”), no way are you too sensitive! Living in the moment, fully enjoying your dogs and the examples they set and joy they exhibit is nothing like having a “positive attitude”. So there!

    You know I have dogs. Bean is a 13 yo terrier mix, about 30 pounds, looks like a pinto bean. And Penny is a Chihuahua mix, colored just like Bean (a coincidence) who I found at a shelter almost two years ago when she was 8. They are lifesavers, maybe literally. Their love, loyalty, and seeming empathy when I am in pain, physical or emotionally, is a Godsend and blessing, a lifeline.

    Thank you for your wonderful article and congrats on having it published! I loved reading it and seeing you, Sophie, and Elsie.

    1. Lori, Your comments made me smile. Your dogs sound adorable. Pets are such blessings aren’t they? Thanks for the congrats too, Lori, and for telling me I’m not too sensitive! You always “get it.”

  6. Nancy, you are not sensitive. By no means! I’m also a realist, but not everyone likes that flavor of personality. Too bad, I say. Positive attitude just doesn’t cut it for me.

    Congrats on the article! That’s fantastic. As to pets, my husband has both our dogs now. I miss them, but they are too big to live in my apartment. When I want pet therapy I go to my friend’s house. She has two adorable cats that purr on when I pet them. Their purrs spur me on and keep me going. Thanks for the great post! xxx

    1. Jan, Thanks so much. I bet you do miss your dogs. I’m sorry you had to leave them. I’m glad you get to borrow your friend’s cats for a little pet therapy from time to time.

  7. Nancy, what a great philosophy you have. You made me laugh out loud with the “am I too sensitive” comment. Sensitive, shmensitive – keep owning your gut responses. Thank you for being you.

    Pets are a wonderful gift during stressful days – they take us out of ourselves and connect us with another. My boy, Monty, is old, deaf, blind and grumpy, but the thing he seems to love most still is being able to curl up on the floor near someone he loves. Connections go both ways.

    1. Cyn, Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad this post gave you a laugh. Pets do exactly what you said, take us out of ourselves…it’s nice to have another living being to focus on and also to have them focus on us. Sometimes a non-human can really fill this role nicely. Your boy Monty sounds wonderful. Pets become even more special as they get older don’t they? And you’re right, the connections go both ways.

  8. I can’t wait to read your article, Nancy! Yes, one of my pet peeves is the think positively attitude. Can’t stand that. I do think a positive attitude is important, but I don’t think a person lives or dies based on positive outlook.

    As far as your dogs are concerned, all I can say is awwwww….

    My cat helped me through chemo and cheered me up when I cried. She is so wonderful.

    1. Beth, We didn’t have our cat, Ninja, yet when I wrote the article. She’s a real snuggler, so she would have been a great chemo companion too. Pets are great for helping us cope with whatever life throws our way. I’m glad you have such a wonderful cat. Thanks for commenting and I hope you like the article.

  9. There’ll be driftwood powder to burn on logs
    And a shaggy rug for a couple of dogs,
    Boreas, winner of prize and cup,
    And Mickey, a lovable gutter-pup.
    Thoroughbreds, both of them, right from the start,
    One by breeding, the other by heart.
    There are times when only a dog will do
    For a friend . . . when you’re beaten, sick and blue
    And the world’s all wrong, for he won’t care
    If you break and cry, or grouch and swear,
    For he’ll let you know as he licks your hands
    That he’s downright sorry . . . and understands.

    From The Vagabond’s house by Don Blanding

    God Bless

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