Thursday, December 11, 2008

against "the tyranny of positive thinking"*

"It is...widely believed that, once you have a cancer a positive attitude and a good mental state positively will affect the outcome of the disease..."

"Blaming the patient helps those who do not have the disease feel safe, and perhaps superior. If we can identify something the patient has done, or chooses to do, then maybe, the reasoning goes, then we will not get that cancer if we are careful. Hence our desire to find things in patients' lives that set them apart from healthy people.

...It may make us feel better at the expense of the patient but it simply isn't a reflection of the the truth."

Excerpts from "Cancer Is A Word, Not A Sentence" by Dr. Robert Buckman.

I listened to the tail end of a talk by Dr. Buckman on the CBC the other evening. It was called "Humour As A Coping Strategy or Laughter, The Second Best Medicine." His point was that, while humour absolutely does help us cope, it doesn't cure is or as he said, "Medicine is the best medicine."

I wish I had a transcript (updated to add that the podcast will be available on December 29th. Really worth checking out. I really enjoyed the part I heard and, ironically, found it to be very positive).

Laughter, love, friendship and a positive attitude can definitely help us cope with having cancer. Medicine, however, remains "the best medicine."

*This post is for my friend S., who coined that brilliant phrase.

Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer.


justenjoyhim said...

Wonderful, tremendous post.

I appreciate people who tell me that my positive attitude had something to do with the cancer being gone. I'm uncomfortable, however, with the idea that my supposed positive attitude was the whole reason behind it.

For one thing, what does that say about those who don't survive? The unspoken assumption is that it's then their fault -- ???? NO.

The medicine really helped me, and I do happen to believe in the power of prayer, but that's just me. However, I believe in that as many people praying, not just me and me alone having this power.

Anyways, thanks for bringing this up.

nonlineargirl said...

I am so with you. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to just have a positive attitude and I'd get pregnant, I could buy a bus ticket and drive away from those people.

I am a believe in the power of negative thinking - prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

Rebe said...

Once I started laughing at my cancer, it made it much easier to deal with. Sometimes you have to joke about things that are bad. It's like cheesecake, bad for you, but it tastes oh-so-good...

Cancer sucks, but it can be pretty funny!

Rumela said...

positive thingking indeed makes problems a lot easier as it chages our outlook towards a thing or a disease. It can surely make a difference for good and help you enjoy the bliss of life.