Updated: Sep 5, 2019
If I got a nickel for every time someone told me to have a good attitude or think positively or it’s all about mindset, well, I’d have a buttload of nickels. I’d have so many nickels I could afford to hire someone to teach me how to do these things that everyone recommends. What I didn’t have was people giving me examples of how to do this. When you are dealing with the very real possibility of dying at a young age, a monumental amount of medical bills, and the fear of lasting side effects, staying positive can seem impossible. At times it almost felt illogical to think positively. As if thinking positively was just living in denial of all the very real problems I was having. Shouldn’t I be focusing my attention on the problems at hand so I can make sure I don’t miss anything? How was thinking positively going to make these things go away? I would think yeah, it’s easy to say think positively when you don’t have these problems. You just don’t understand. But they were right.
Thinking positively doesn’t mean you are living in lala land and denying the negative things in your life, it simply means you are aware of those things but decide to focus on the positive in your life. Whatever you are thinking about and focusing on is what you will see more of. Some call this the law of attraction. Have you ever purchased a vehicle and then you see that car constantly? It’s not supernatural. It’s not as if you bought this car and then everyone started copying you. It’s just that your focus has changed and you are more aware of this certain vehicle. The same thing happens when you begin to focus on being positive. You start to see it everywhere!
Whatever you are focused on is exactly what you will find. It’s easy to believe that we don’t have control of our thoughts or our surroundings. I’m sure you don’t want to think negatively, worrying about all the horrible things that could happen but those fears won’t go away. Trying to not think about something almost always makes it your focus. Becoming more aware and intentional of what we are thinking about can change our entire life experience. There are many different ways to change your mindset. I always recommend meditation to help declutter your mind. Link to Meditation With a clear mind you are able to see things as they truly are and make rational decisions of how you want to deal with them. You are no longer making your decisions based on your emotions or reactions.
I realized that a lot of my problems were caused by the massive amount of stress that I had taken on and never processed. I believe this was one of the biggest contributors to my cancer. Stress can cause many health related issues beyond anxiety, irritability, and incessant worries. Stress can disrupt your sleep, cause digestive issues, weaken your immune system, raise your blood pressure and cause weight gain. My focus became keeping my stress down as much as possible. I had to ask myself a lot of questions. During treatment I always had so much to keep up with and, when I felt strong enough to deal with it, I would over work myself until I was sick and exhausted for the following days. This was so taxing on me I had to come up with a new way of getting things done.
I would make a list of things to do and then prioritize each thing. I would put them in two categories. There are things that needed to be done ASAP and others that I would like to get done. I would look only at the first pile and then decide what I could take care of right then, safely. What could I take care of without exhausting or stressing myself out? Then I would mentally run through the steps to complete each task. I would figure out which days I would be able to take care of those things and add them to my calendar so I didn’t forget. If it was Saturday night and I had to make sure to make a deposit at the bank there was no reason for me to even think about that again until Monday morning. If I wasn’t able to complete it that day and there was nothing I could prepare for I would allow myself to stop stressing about it. I was aware there was nothing more I could do about it and that stressing about it would just make me sick. This rationality allowed me to give up that stress and focus on the tasks at hand. I would only allow myself to finish a couple tasks a day and then I would stop, no matter what.
I also treated things that made me happy as importantly as I did errands I had to take care of. I would make time every day to meditate, do my breathing exercises, be outdoors, move my body, spend time with friends, play with my dogs, or anything that brought me joy. If I were too stressed or overwhelmed or unhappy I knew nothing in my body would work correctly. I wouldn’t sleep as well, I wouldn’t think as clearly, my emotions would be off, my decision-making would be biased and my body wouldn’t heal the same. Everything would get more difficult. This lesson became clearer when I went to a vipassina. (Link to Vipassina) You realize the biggest change you can make in your life is just how you perceive the world around you. The mindset you have when you look at things completely changes the way you see it.
This is where positive thinking comes into play. If I have an issue to deal with my attitude changes what is capable by allowing me to see things I wouldn’t be able to if I was being negative. When I started to really feel the effects of treatment and my body began to get weak and my brain got very foggy I had a big decision to make. It would be completely understandable and acceptable when my physical limitations started to become stronger that I would allow them to take over me and I would become sedentary. That’s actually what my oncologist was recommending. Just rest, give up responsibility, and let other’s do things for you. I knew the limitations I had today would be nothing compared to what I would have to deal with in the upcoming months from continued treatment. Negative thinking would be to say, “I’m doing so bad, look at this mess I’m in! My body is falling apart, my mind is failing me and it’s only going to get worse! Poor me!” That seemed rational. These changes were visible and very real, how could attitude change what was happening to me? How could attitude combat chemotherapy? How could I mentally defeat this monster?
Positive attitude says that any day I wake up is a day I can fight. I have that choice and that ability. Positive attitude doesn’t compare my current abilities with my previous abilities, it simply looks at what I’m still capable of doing and makes the best of it. Ok, maybe I can’t run as fast or as far but I can still move my body and that makes me feel better. Maybe I don’t have the answers immediately but I can still work hard and make my own decisions. Positive thinking says I can’t get out of these upcoming treatments and I can’t completely stop my body from regressing but what I can do is influence it so it doesn’t fall quite as far. I can do things to help strengthen my body and mind so when this is over I don’t have as deep of a hole to climb out of. I have heard jealousy is the thief of joy. This doesn’t just have to be with other people. I was being jealous of the “old me” and it was robbing any chance I had of making my treatment anything but a nightmare.
This was my responsibility to myself. Cancer can leave you feeling completely out of control. I can’t control that I’m sick, that I have to receive chemo, or that I can’t go to work. But what I can control is my attitude and thoughts about it. This is where I regained control! This is where I began to get the ground back under my feet. I decide if this makes me weak, bitter and angry or if it encourages me to make the necessary changes I need to be the absolute best I can be. I can say that today I still have many limitations that I didn’t before but I am happier, healthier and enjoy life more than I did before my diagnosis. I didn’t see surviving as beating cancer if it left me angry and broken after. I beat cancer because I not only rid my body of tumors but also I rid my body of negativity. Cancer broke me down in every way imaginable, but it did not break me. It all started with my attitude and mindset and the belief it will get better. If I can beat this monster, what else am I capable of? This is just the beginning. Cancer has truly been the worst and best thing to ever happen to me and I am at this point today because of attitude.