Attitude is key.

Cancer is an ugly monster, and chemotherapy and radiation are it's twin brothers.  Surgery sucks.  The emotional toll that accompanies a cancer diagnosis is devastating, not only for the patient, but equally so for family members and friends.  I have done a lot of reading since my diagnosis 5 months ago, and I have yet to come across a single person who has felt that cancer was a positive addition to their life.  Certainly, many cancer survivors believe that a positive by product of the cancer process is a whole new perspective on who and what is really important in life.  Cancer will help you sort out the things that are important, from the things that aren't.  But I don't recall anyone indicating that they felt the cancer itself was a positive, in any way, shape or form.  It is, in short, simply a disease that threatens to take your very life.

The initial cancer diagnosis triggers an emotional roller coaster ride of epic proportions.  I know because I have been there.  Back in June, when I was told that I had a rare and very aggressive form of Lymphoma, classified as stage 4, with a 5 year survival rate of 20 to 30%, I can safely say I went into emotional shock.  Over the next several days my mind went wild.  Would I even be alive this Christmas?  How will Holly and the kids deal with my death?  Not the type of thoughts that generally occupy your consciousness.  But they are thoughts that will be present in every cancer patient's mind.  Fortunately, the process of mental adjustment and coping does not stop there.

Over the days and weeks that follow, more information becomes available from various sources, most importantly from medical professionals, that allows things to be put into a better perspective.  A more realistic, and less emotional assessment begins to evolve. That assessment may not be what the patient and family was hoping for, and wanting to hear, but it is a more considered and less emotional set of facts that will form the basis for future decisions and actions.  Every instance of cancer is different, and how it will impact the patient's body will vary from person to person.  So there is certainly no one-size-fits-all answer that will work for everyone.  That is where each individual, whether the patient, the family, or a friend, must work out their own unique method of coping with the situation.

I generally tend to be an upbeat, positive outlook kind of guy.  I am not fond of some of the bumps and bruises that this life can send my way from time to time.  But I can usually just pick myself up, dust myself off, and move on.  I am a big believer that your present circumstances don't determine where you can go, but they merely determine where you will start.  I don't control my circumstances, but I do control how I react to them.  This is where I feel the cancer patient needs to focus most of their thoughts and energies.  My initial reaction to my diagnosis was fear.  But then I got mad.  This damn monster was not going to rob me of my life.  I was going to fight this unwelcome and unwanted invader with every fiber of my being.  I might not win, but I wasn't going down without a fight.

I remembered something said by Lance Armstrong, the cyclist and cancer survivor, after he emerged from his battle with both testicular and brain cancer - "Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever."  And I more recently read an article, where the author was discussing the prospect of quitting during times of discouragement or slow progress.  She said "It's all about knowing when it's time to quit, and when you're just quitting."  Oh yes, there may come a point when it is time to quit, and recognizing that point in time is important.  But until that point in time, you can't quit fighting.  Because quitting lasts forever.

Winston Churchill was the famous British politician and statesman, and was the UK's Prime Minister during World War II.  His steadfast refusal to consider defeat, surrender, or a compromise peace, helped inspire the British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the War.  He was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people.  On one such occasion, he said
"If you're going through hell, keep going."

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