“I got the death sentence!” Harry sank heavily into his favourite chair by the fire. His face was white and drawn as if indeed he’d had a deadly serious eyeballing contest with the Grim Reaper… and lost. Harry’s death sentence was as irreversible as the diagnosis of lung cancer being the inoperable primary, and liver and lymph system stalking closely behind as secondaries. I never witnessed this tragic day but heard it in sorrowful detail from his wife, my ‘other’ mother, sometime later.
Throughout his relatively short battle, he fought to reverse the diagnosis. Unfortunately, his attitude swung constantly from one potential cure to another. As he embraced each one, his hopes were impossibly ‘high’, at first believing changes for the better really were happening. No matter how slim, every possibility was tried and then rejected when it didn’t make major differences to his pain and physical deterioration within a few weeks. Each and every time he plunged emotionally to the depths, returning rapidly to his base belief in that ‘death sentence’ – until the next apparent miracle cure was found on his never-ending quest.
Inevitably, he died. And when the immediate pain of his loss quietened somewhat, his family questioned how much his attitude could have affected the speed and severity of his disease. They examined attitude and illness and its effects on longevity and severity of the disease. Could it – would it – have been altered by a less desperate mental and emotional grasping to stop the terrible nightmare that lingered on, day after day?
Much respected research has shown positive or negative thoughts of those dealing with chronic illness CAN indeed impact recovery. Strong negative emotions create avoidance, denial, depression, anxiety – and severely hinder the body from fighting back. But those who feel the slightest control over their illness are less distressed, able to adopt and stick to more positive coping strategies. Given the chance and options, all degrees of illness can be managed more successfully. In rare cases, enough true positivity has proven to stem, even reverse the toll of the ‘good health thief’.
Other equally respected researchers loudly disagree, but even in the midst of their nay-saying, admissions are made that cancer most certainly affects the mental health of its victims. The question then is – can it, in turn, be significantly managed and coped with better with ‘mental health care and emotional support’. Surely there’s no place like home for this to begin – with the person’s own attitude.
I think of the times any one of us has been home, sick, left alone to wallow miserably in our unhealthy state. But should the phone ring, or the doorbell – and a friend or relative we care about be there, we are capable of an impressive, if temporary, appearance of coping far better than we truly are. Is it adrenalin? Pride? A wish to not spend precious time together with a loved one miserably? Later, we’re probably exhausted from the pretense… and yet, are we not feeling more cheerful and more than somewhat improved, at least in our heart of hearts? In our mindset?
Maybe the experts who insist unequivocally that the quantity of Life is not altered in the least by mind control, are right. Perhaps there is nothing known to Man able to stop that relentless march towards the ‘death sentence’ Harry was convinced awaited. But they could be wrong. Researchers into all manner of things from time immemorial have been mistaken in their most unshakeable beliefs.
Let us all hope and pray the research into Cancer we, One Million Project writers, donate our words to, will uncover the answers to this and so many other questions sitting on the tip of that iceberg, melting quickly into the 90% laying below the surface and exposing the truth of this Life-thief.
OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.
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