Skip to Content

Do We Have to Put a Positive Spin on Everything, Even Cancer?

Do we have to put a positive spin on everything, even cancer?

Do you ever wonder why people try so hard to turn everything that happens into something positive?

Me too.

Maybe it’s human nature to look for the silver linings in everything that happens, including the really crappy stuff. Maybe it’s how we explain why bad things happen.

There has to be a reason for the chaos or the pain doesn’t there? (Umm…no.)

It’s the same with cancer. There has to be a reason that cancer picked you and not the rotten-no-good person who lives down the street. That’s sarcasm. I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, not even my worst enemy. If I had one.

We humans like to analyze the whys and the how comes of whatever it might be that’s going on in our lives or in the lives of those we care about.

There are always answers. There are always reasons for why bad things happen, are there not?

(Again, no!)

Often we hear things like, everything happens for a reason, or you’re never given more than you can handle, or you were chosen for this because you’re strong enough to handle it and so on.

I say, such statements are total BS!

Sometimes, there are no reasons. Sometimes, we are given way more than we can handle (but then, somehow we do) and more often than not, being strong has nothing to do with any of it. Sometimes, things just happen. Sometimes, these things are good and sometimes, they are not.

And when the bad things do happen, putting a positive spin on the experience still doesn’t make it a good experience.

Sure, it’s fine to be positive if that’s how you’re feeling, but this doesn’t mean it’s bad to feel negative. Both are valid human feelings and reactions. You can’t just ignore, or worse, try to stomp out negative thoughts and feelings when they pop up. It isn’t even healthy to try to do so.

So, why does it often seem like there’s only one way to do cancer, especially breast cancer, the just stay positive way?

Do we always have to try to stay positive and attempt to turn bad experiences inside out, or in other words, turn them into something positive?

Do we have to put a positive spin on everything, even cancer?

(I’m just asking…)

Trying to turn cancer (or any bad experience) into a positive thing can be daunting, exhausting and an unnecessary extra burden for even the most noble of cancer patients. It might even be a waste of valuable time and energy.

And just for the record, I an not a negative person. Anyone who knows me would probably agree. I consider myself to be a realist. And in the reality I live in, cancer sucks.

It sometimes seems that if we aren’t walking around feeling positive all the time and talking about all the things cancer has ‘taught’ us, we are being negative.

I don’t accept that. I hate cancer, and I refuse to pretty it up and turn it into something it’s not.

Maybe we should back off from telling cancer patients to just stay positive. Maybe we should back off from trying to turn every bad thing that happens into something positive. Maybe there aren’t necessarily any grand epiphanies after cancer knocks on your door either. Maybe it doesn’t make you a better person. (What??)

And even if the latter were true, why give cancer any credit?

The person did all the work.

We learn and hopefully grow from all our life experiences. Each of us is a conglomerate of the good and the bad stuff that has happened to us. If we’re lucky, we have more of the good kind.

But maybe we don’t need to try so hard to put a positive spin on every single bad experience.

Maybe some bad experiences are just that, bad experiences.

And cancer is one of them.

Do you, or did you, ever feel pressured to ‘just stay positive’?

If yes, how does/did this make you feel? Better, worse, indifferent, angry, frustrated, or how exactly?

Sign up for news from Nancy’s Point here.

Must we put a positive spin on everything, even #cancer? #cancerlanguage #breastcancer #cancersucks

Janet Hiser

Tuesday 7th of May 2019

You hit the nail on the head, Nancy. I find that this is especially true when treatment ends and you are just expected to get back to it, not talk about cancer, and move on. How exactly is that possible when you are having side effects from meds, residual effects from treatment, and you just spent the last year of your life in living hell? If you spent the last year on an extended trip to Paris, would people expect that you wouldn’t talk about it?


Thursday 9th of May 2019

Janet, Your points are spot on. Thank you for sharing them.


Sunday 24th of May 2015


Regarding your comment on May 22nd (directly above):

Who decides whether someone is living in a self imposed negative space, Lynne? On one hand you proclaim

... we need to experience and express whatever emotions we are feeling.

on the other hand, you seem to be banning any 'negative thoughts' simply because you have so far survived:

it’s our choice whether to live in a negative space or a positive space. ...there have been so many blessings that have come along with cancer ...

Do you actually believe that those "blessings" hold true for so many cancer victims (when cancer has become a multimillion$ treatment indu$try) in our current (and historic) predatory economy? I call 'foul' (not saying you were aware of that foul ball, just calling foul on it, in general).

On a personal level, I know I will die of something; so I don't so much mind likely, and ultimately, dying of cancer so much as I mind that the Breast Cancer Indu$try™ is clearly serving the purpose of predatory behavior under the disguise of being [WARRIOR[essa]S!] Blessed with Cancer!™ (not to say that you are actually a part of that profit making industry, Lynne), particularly for those poverty ridden who never live to speak of those ble$$ings because they could not even afford that early diagnosis, let alone that Breast Cancer Treatment™.


Sunday 24th of May 2015

(An added note, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has still left millions: unable to find a doctor willing to treat them under Medicaid, while State Governers increasingly reduce Medicaid reimbursement rates and, even see to it that those qualifiable are not even able to access Medicaid; and living in poverty (The Federal Poverty Levels, which might qualify one for assistance, are stunningly outdated), yet not eligible for any reprieve, whatsoever, from the crippling financial disaster of the Can$er Treatment Indu$try.

I am old enough to remember the days, when the US at least played lip service to those living their daily lives in fear, illness and poverty, LET ALONE LIVING WITH A [possibly much to due with utter regulartory absence regarding Indu$trial TOXINS] STUNNINGLY DEADLY, EXPENSIVE AND HORRIDLY PAINFUL AT THE END DISEASE (painful unless one is stunningly wealthy, and therefore, Beyond the Grasp of "The Law [for the poverty ridden]") without proclaiming those in fear and poverty just need to attain bootstraps which are not attainable, whatsoever.)


Friday 22nd of May 2015

I think it's all about interpretation, perspective, and balance. Whatever our trial, whether cancer or anything else, we need to experience and express whatever emotions we are feeling. It's easier to do that in a safe place with people who can handle it, but that's not always possible. BUT THEN - it's our choice whether to live in a negative space or a positive space. We make a choice to either dwell on the crappy, negative things that are happening to us, or watch for and focus on the good things that happen in the midst of cancer (or whatever other trial you're going through). I was diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer nearly simultaneously. The ovarian cancer is life-threatening, and I've shed lots of tears, faced lots of fears, and dealt with many physical affronts. But there have been so many blessings that have come along with cancer, and I'm definitely a better person and I've learned to live better and love better than ever before. We can't ignore the negative - that's incredibly unhealthy - but we can't ignore the positive, either - also unhealthy. I think how we deal with these challenges can help us affect our culture, which only wants to experience the pretty, happy, positive side of life, which is totally unrealistic. Fight a good fight, ladies and gentlemen. <3


Monday 25th of May 2015

Lynne, You're right we cannot ignore the negative feelings. All feelings are valid. I'm sorry you were diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancers. That's a lot to deal with and then some. There are good things that have come my way since cancer, too, but I don't believe cancer has made me a better person nor do I think that I necessarily live and love better than before. That kind of thinking doesn't work for me; borders too closely on that whole cancer is a gift thinking, but of course, if that's how you feel, that is totally fine. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.


Thursday 14th of May 2015

I think there's a difference between keeping a positive outlook and turning cancer into the type of positive experience that ends up being quotes on pictures of snow capped mountains. With that being said, whatever makes someone feel good...go for it!!! If breast cancer has changed your life for the better...fabulous! For me, finding joy in my every day life, laughing at the hard stuff and throwing the occasional pity party has helped me cope and, I truly believe, tolerate treatment well. I didn't smile through everything. I've run the gamut of emotions. I still do and imagine I will for a very long time to come. I think it's important to be real about what is happening as you live through cancer treatment. I certainly try to keep it real on my blog. I go back and read some things and think, "Oh yeah, that was a rough week." But if I documented that time by creating a false sense of happiness, I wouldn't be honoring my particular journey. I guess my point is, to each her own. (Or his) Do what you have to do to survive. If that's the, "This happened to me because I'm strong enough to handle it" route, great! If it's the "Fuck cancer, fuck my life, why did this happen to me" route, that's great too.


Thursday 14th of May 2015

Carrie, I completely agree, to each her/his own. However, there seems to be such a pervasive tendency in our culture to turn everything into a positive that sometimes it just makes me want to scream because well, cancer sucks. Be real. Be you. Don't feel you have to turn your cancer experience into something it's not. Do what you want with it. That's my main message I guess. Thank you for reading and sharing your insights.


Thursday 14th of May 2015

Great post! Agreed!


Thursday 14th of May 2015

Eileen, Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: