Cultivating Hope When You Have Cancer
The Oxford Dictionary defines hope as “to entertain expectations of something desired.”
When you receive a cancer diagnosis, hope implies possessing a will to live or expecting a positive outcome.
Research shows that the opposite of hope – hopelessness – had a significant effect on the human response to illness. A lack of optimism in the form of hopelessness has been shown to predict poorer survival among breast cancer patients. This might be true for any disease.
Many people have faced serious illnesses and were not overwhelmed by them. Although they became ill, they did not give up. Even with a negative outcome, hope can allow you to experience many positive things along your journey – many of which you would never have entertained before you became ill.
A cancer diagnosis is a reminder that we are mortal. Some cancer patients respond to their diagnosis as a wake-up call or reminder that life is short and to make the most of it. These people might experience deep joy and precious moments and express their love to those who matter most.
We have all heard stories or even known some of these courageous people who became very ill yet expressed feelings of being fortunate. In the face of a cancer diagnosis, they can take stock of their resources and find hope and strength.
Cancer patients, their families, and caregivers are often told to hope for the best but brace for the worst. It is sometimes hard to walk the line between hope and despair. But, it is possible to hope for a cure, remission, status quo, a good day, or the ability to enjoy life for as long as possible.
For some people, this sense of optimism and hope is in their nature. They have always dealt with adversity with a “can-do” attitude, and cancer may be no different.
For others, it can be more challenging to muster up the courage and strength needed to face cancer with hope. Feeling hopeful might be something they must learn about and practice to allow them to reap the rewards hope can provide.
Can You Become More Hopeful?
There are some things you can try to maximize hope in your life. If hope or strength is hard for you to muster naturally, consider exploring some of the following suggestions.
Sharing: You might learn that talking to others can encourage you to be more hopeful. Surround yourself with positive thinkers if you can. Your health care team, friends, and loved ones can help you feel hopeful by providing necessary emotional and physical support. Sharing your story with other cancer patients and survivors can also lead to surprisingly strong feelings of optimism and hope.
Planning events: Having events on your calendar can give you a sense of hope by forcing you to look forward. The anticipation of attending a family gathering, a wedding, a concert, or even a walk in the park can give you feelings of purpose and hope.
Finding faith: Many cancer patients find hope in their faith. If you affiliate with a specific religion, you might benefit from speaking with a faith-based leader or joining a faith-based support group. Others find that seeking non-denominational spirituality or philosophy alone or in groups can help them feel hope during their journey.
Is Hope the Same as Denial?
No. Having hope does not mean you are in denial. Denial avoids reality. Hope is a way of coping with reality. Having hope means you understand the gravity of your situation but are still looking forward to some positive outcomes – whatever they may be.
Hope can change as your cancer journey progresses. What starts as hope for a cure may not always be realistic. You might hope for an easy round of treatment or the ability to attend a wedding. You might hope to say something important to an old friend or enjoy your favorite food. However, as your feelings change, finding hope can help you and your family derive meaning and positivity along your cancer journey.
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