The Power of Positivity

Everyone has advice. We’re all full of it. When people find out I have cancer, they’re apt to offer me their sage recommendation. “My Aunt Sallie ate peanut butter every day and beat cancer.” Or, “If you drink National Park water blessed by sacred buffalo, you’re gonna beat this.” Sarcasm here. The point is, I’ve heard it all – not to the extent I used as examples – but plenty of people have offered me their advice on how I can beat cancer. I’m here to tell you, if there was a cure, the secret would be out, and cancer would be obliterated! Kapow!

I remember when I was first diagnosed, I researched everything under the sun to see what could help me, and you know what, there’s a bunch of malarkey out there. Say what? The internet has unfounded information. No, it can’t be!

Anyway, that type of researching stopped, because it was fruitless. We, each of us, is unique, and what may help one person won’t help another, and some of the suggestions out there are ridiculous notions offered by some troll sitting in his basement trying to make a buck.

So, I changed my focus to how can I help myself while battling this pesky creature. The answer for me is to stay optimistic and positive. I do this by exercising (only when I feel like it, because gosh some days are hard), posting gratitude messages daily on social media (Let’s be honest, isn’t it a relief to see an uplifting message because social media is a cesspool of negativity?), and I surround myself (not in the physical sense – thank you very much, Covid-19) with positive people who are uplifting. At times, that means pulling a Godfather and blocking telephone numbers and negative people on social media because they are spreading bad energy my way. (Yeah, like telling me to enjoy my life while I can, or telling me how bad I look – you know, those kind of sweet nothings.).

I’ll admit, it’s hard to stay positive sometimes. Hey, I’m human; I have my moments when I mope. I allow myself some time to wallow, then I pull myself up by my bootstraps and greet the day with gratitude. I know if I spend too much time focusing on the bad, I won’t ever get out of that slump. I know at one point when I was feeling less than grateful, I was resentful that unhealthy people who abuse their bodies seemed to live long lives, then I slapped myself silly for thinking that way because that is a negative way to think. That’s like asking, “Why me?” And, cancer doesn’t pick and choose people like kids at recess. It just happens – sometimes randomly, sometimes because of genetics. And how we deal with the c-word illustrates our character.

Every single time I visit the Cancer Center (my new second home), I smile (under my mask) at everyone and greet people with pep in my voice and extend them loving kindness because I feel an instant bond with my fellow cancer peeps. Some of them return the smile,  while others are too immersed in their resentment of their diagnosis to recognize that they have an opportunity to greet a stranger (me) with a smile and make their own day brighter as well as mine. And I feel sorry for the curmudgeons because they are missing a moment to feel happiness. They’re like the guy at infusion who talked about how awful radiation is. Geez, I could write an essay on how crappy chemo is, but what purpose would that serve? And, how does that mentally help me face the next round? It doesn’t. Complaining never did anyone any good. So, each time I have infusion, I tell myself, I’m getting medicine to help me, and I’m going to be waited on hand and foot by caring nurses and have an opportunity to read and watch TV without interruption. I actually call it my Spa Day. (It’s a good mental game play on words).

But, alas, this should be a rule for all of us – not just us cancer peeps. We, all of us, should look at a situation and seek the good within the bad. Everyone faces challenges. I like to think of heroes of mine who overcame obstacles: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John McCain, my own father… All of them had the heart of a warrior.

If you have cancer, know that it’s okay to give yourself time to grieve, but then move on from that and focus on what blessings you have in your life. And, if that’s a challenge, start small. Find one good thing in your life. There’s always something. For example, you have electricity – that’s something to be grateful for! You’ll find that each day you seek the goodness, it reveals itself to you and causes you to focus more on the silver linings instead of what is broken.

So, today, I write imploring you to think of one thing you are grateful for. I am willing to bet you will find plenty. Life, itself, is a blessing. And, you, whether you know it or not, are a blessing to someone.