Depression, grief, and anxiety are common emotions when a person is diagnosed with a terminal cancer. The experience can feel overwhelming and it may be tempting to mentally shut down in order to avoid the pain of reality. But a cancer diagnosis does not have to rob you of your right to a rich, happy, and fulfilling life, even if the prognosis seems bleak.
While there is no evidence that positive thinking alone can cure cancer, maintaining an overall positive attitude can certainly help make the experience more bearable for you and the people you love. Paul Kraus, a 20-year survivor of metastatic malignant mesothelioma, credits his unprecedented survival, in large measure, to a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle.
Kraus is the author of “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient’s Guide”, in which he discusses the value of positivity and the methods he has used to keep his spirits up even when doctors gave him just months to live.
“While diet, vitamins and supplements, juicing and exercise all play a very important role in healing, the power of the mind harnessed through meditation, affirmations and prayer also play a vital role in recovery,” advises Kraus, the world’s longest-living documented mesothelioma survivor. “Empower yourself because hope has physiological effects on the body,” he says.
No cancer patient – in fact, no person – can remain perpetually positive. Fluctuating emotions are part of our mind’s mechanism for processing and dealing with difficult circumstances. But the experience of Kraus and other survivors of terminal cancers suggests that positivity is a worthwhile goal for many reasons. With that in mind, here are five ways that a positive mindset may help you in your fight against terminal cancer.
1 – Staying Positive Keeps You Open to Treatment Alternatives
When cancer patients mentally “shut down” or give in to anger and depression, they are less likely to be open to the potential treatment options. They may stop searching for alternatives or simply give up. Maintaining a positive mindset allows you to stay curious and hopeful about new treatment possibilities and even to weather the inevitable side effects of those treatments with less anxiety.
2 – Positivity May Keep You Out of the Hospital
Researchers with Ohio State University say pessimistic patients who have hematopoietic stem cell transplants (to treat certain blood cancers) had a higher risk for hospital readmission and stayed in the hospital longer than people with better mental health. They were so struck by the apparent link between attitude and hospitalization that they even suggested mental health screenings before the procedure as a way to identify higher-risk patients.
3 – Positive People Have Better Quality of Life
People who maintain a generally positive mental outlook tend to feel better about their prospects in life and are happier, regardless of their circumstances. While your circumstances may not be what you would want them to be, focusing on the positive aspects of your life, such as people who love you or activities you can still enjoy, can improve quality of life, regardless of your life situation.
4 – Positivity Can Lead to Laugher
It does not take a formal research study to know that positive people are more likely to laugh and evidence suggests that laughter may have therapeutic benefits. Among other things, laughter improves oxygen intake, relaxes the muscles, and releases natural painkillers in the brain. Since cancer pain itself can lead to depression, positivity and laughter may literally help breed more positivity.
5 – Positive Mindset Makes Every Moment Count
Every one of us is living on borrowed time, whether or not we are facing a cancer diagnosis. Life is always uncertain. But remaining positive about the many good things in our lives allows us to fully embrace life while we are living it and face the end of life with fewer regrets. Remaining as positive as possible during cancer treatment and beyond can truly make every moment count.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any health condition and is not a replacement for advice, recommendations or treatment by a professional healthcare provider. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to an existing treatment. You should not delay in seeking or disregard medical advice based on information in this article.