Don’t tell me to ‘stay positive’ or I’ll scream

Published: 20 Dec 2018

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, I bet you’ve lost count of the number of times people have told you to ‘stay positive’, when all you want to do is curl up in a ball or vent your anger, frustrations and fears on everyone around you.  No reaction is the wrong one – it’s perfectly normal to feel life’s unfair … why me!  But once you’re over the initial shock you will need to find a way to move forward, keep your strength up and, dare we say it, maintain a positive mental attitude so you’re able to deal with your cancer treatment. 

Studies have shown that thoughts alone can improve vision, fitness, and strength.  Time and time again controlled tests have proved that the placebo effect really does exist. If a person believes they have received a certain treatment or drug, even when they haven’t, in many instances they claim to feel the positive effects. Expectancies and learned associations have been shown to change brain chemistry and circuitry which results in real physiological and cognitive outcomes, such as less fatigue, lower immune system reaction, elevated hormone levels, and reduced anxiety.

Here are a few pointers of things to do and things to avoid, giving yourself the best chance possible of ‘kicking cancer’s arse!’

  1. Surround yourself with positive people 
    You know who they are, the ones that put a smile on your face, only have nice things to say about people, see the good in every situation and lift your spirits when you spend time in their company.  These are the friendships you need right now.  It can be so easy to hide and push people away, but these are the people you should be talking to whenever you’re feeling low, be honest, tell them how you’re feeling, they’re the ones you need to surround yourself with.  
  2. Avoid negative people
    Just as important is avoiding the people that bring you down – the ones who are always moaning and see everything through a prism of misery.  Friends you can avoid, but this can be a little tricky if it’s your mother or another close relative. Have someone in mind you can ask to be your spokesman, who can say "no" for you when you have a hard time saying no. 
  3. Reframe what you’re thinking
    Cognitive reframing is simply changing the way you look at a situation or think about a thought. The situation doesn't change, but you do. In lay terms, it means finding a way of shifting your perspective so that instead of seeing the glass half empty, you can see the glass half full. Rather than “Oh no, I have 8 more chemotherapy sessions to go,” instead reframe to “that’s great, it will all be over by Easter and then I can go on holiday.”  Or when you were diagnosed you thought “my world has ended” reframe to ‘thank goodness they caught it early”.
  4. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but never got around to 
    Take an art class, learn to cook, write a novel, learn how to meditate, go to the theatre, take up astrology, try your hand at photography … whatever your passion.  If you’re struggling to cope with side-effects of your cancer treatment, try something creative at home – you might find it helps to distract your mind.   Or if you’ve lost the confidence to go out, ask a friend to come along for support.
  5. Get out of the house
    It will help your positive mental attitude to get up, get dressed, take a walk and try to get out and see the world.  Whilst it’s important to give your body the rest it needs, vegging in your pj’s in front of the tv with no human company is going to dampen anyone’s spirits.  If you already have negative thoughts whirring around your ahead, home alone is not a good place to be.  So, even if you can’t get out – ask a friend round for a chat, play a game or start a new hobby together.
  6. Nurture your sensual being
    Just because you have cancer doesn’t stop you from being a sensitive sensual being – in both body and mind.  Pamper yourself with a luxurious bubble bath, light a scented candle, play some relaxing music, dim the lights, lie back and enjoy!  Slip into a silk dressing gown (men and women!), climb into a freshly laundered bed, hand your partner a bottle of aromatherapy massage oil and ask for a gentle pampering massage!  If you don’t have a partner, open up an audio book of romantic poems and find ‘She Walks in Beauty’– or have a go at writing your own.
  7. Find your mantra
    Many people have their own mantra to help them through when things get tough and they’re feeling low.  It’s a bit like having your own personal mission statement. Mantras should be a positive empowering aim that will help you to gain focus on goals, such as “You are brave. You are strong. You are fierce. You can do this”. Set an intention for the day or a period of time. Repeat them 3 times a day for at least 30 days – that’s how long it takes to form a habit. Research has found that the use of mantras creates positive and meaningful changes in the brain in the form of neural pathways.  
  8. Stay in the present
    Try to deal with each stage one-day-at-a-time and moment-by-moment. Try the mantra "Right here, right now I am doing the best I can."  Never dwell on how far you have to go, or what you’ve already been through. Keep your consciousness in the present tense to create a zen-like state of calmness and confidence. Accept the current state of your body and the circumstances with pragmatic optimism--staying focused on the task at hand of putting one foot in front of the other and moving closer to the finish line.
  9. Seek professional help
    Never be afraid to ask for professional help if you are feeling particularly low and unable to cope. When your normal coping techniques aren’t working, ask your doctor or medical team to refer you to a therapist or prescribe appropriate medication until you’re feeling better.
  10. Join the Chemotherapy Support Group – your large chemo family
    This is an amazing Facebook group with 1000’s of member who are all undergoing treatment right now.  If you are feeling low, need some advice, want someone to talk to at 3pm in the morning – you will find a group of beautiful and lovely people all willing to offer you as much support as they can from a position of knowing exactly what you’re going through.  And when someone else is in need of your help, you can be there for them too. 
    Click here to join