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Comprehensive Cancer Center
Our Lady of Mercy Healthcare System

Have Attitude: Will Survive


(Copyrighted by Alice Shane. May not be reprinted without permission.)

What’s on your mind matters, says Dr. David Spiegel, a noted psychiatrist affiliated with Stanford University, who pioneered studies in the relationship between cancer survival and emotional expression and coping skills.

Medical treatment, in fact, works better when combined with the management of emotional distress, Dr. Siegel recently reported the American Medical Association.

So how can you maximize your chances of recovery? Stand up and fight back, medical experts say. Here are ten guerrilla tactics to start. Ultimately, you’ll come up with your own “bag of tricks” to help you survive.

1. Choose to be a tiger, not a milquetoast. “Rolling over” and “taking it” isn’t a smart strategy for cancer patients. Get street-smart about your illness: ask questions, learn about your disease, options, side effects and prognosis. This is your chance to think and act like a warrior or a CEO.

2. The “C” word: “Cancer” is only a word. It’s no longer taboo to say it or have it. Just as smallpox, TB and polio, once dreaded ailments, were spoken about in whispers and now have a neutral meaning, the word, “cancer,” too, is out in the open and speakable. Refuse to be timid about using the word or talking about it.

3. Regard cancer as a temporary detour in your life. Set long-term goals, plan your future. Making a conscious decision to live a long, productive life will enhance your recovery and make you feel strong.

4. Reduce fear and emotional stress by keeping a journal. Scientific studies show that pouring your heart out in a journal about past and current traumas can influence recovery. Write on!

5. Avoid self-recrimination: Whether or not your illness is linked to high-risk behavior, aim your artillery at the disease, not at yourself. Kicking yourself only leads to guilt, anguish and depression. Maximize your chances of recovery with a “gung ho” attitude.

6. Now’s the Time to Diversify: Your illness is only a part of your life. Reserve places and spaces for fun, work, learning, love, experimenting with new behaviors and attitudes, trying new things. If your entire life becomes your illness, it means you’ve surrendered to it.

7. Bad Hair Days: Never Relinquish Hope: Cancer isn’t for sissies: You may have bad days, doubt and discouragement. But there’s a flip side: hope and faith will make you feel better, help you to see brighter days on the horizon.

8. Lighten Up: If you don’t have a sense of humor, develop one. A sense of humor will speed up your recovery by lightening your heart. Watch funny movies, collect a repertoire of great jokes, learn to see the humorous side of life.

9. Be a beacon of light to others: Throw away any “poor me” attitudes and wake up to the fact that loved ones and fellow Cancerites also need comfort, reassurance and hope. By bestowing faith upon others, you’ll become more optimistic and hopeful yourself.

10. Prayer and Meditation: Belief in a Power greater than yourself can work wonders. You don’t have to do it all yourself!