The Importance of Encouraging Words


be positive Image Credit: Good Search

When you were diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, what was your reaction? Did you let your shock, anger, fear just come out in the office? Or did it hit you later? And, when it did hit, what was it like? Some people sit and cry. Some have a surge of fear or anger well up. Others turn analytical, turning their focus within.

Did you ever express your emotions as a knee jerk reaction in the exam room, only to be told by someone on the medical team, “Be positive.” That’s great advice, but I also think it depends when and where that advice is given. If you’re in the exam room and have just been diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, I think, “Be positive” is a cop-out for staff. They deal with the words all day, everyday—for cancer in someone else’s body. Even if it’s a re-diagnosis, it’s new information to you. If you’re the one who found the bump on your body, there’s still that phase where you don’t know if it’s cancer or not. There’s that waiting period. Blood test, biopsy, and maybe a scan or two.  I know it’s a matter of semantics, but hearing, “I’m sorry. Stay focused on the good” or “I know this is hard. Keep positive” has a better ring to it than, “Be  positive.”As if being positive will magically change the bump from malignant to benign over night.

For me, the doctor’s office is the place where I vent. I expect that to be the safe place for my complaints about side effects, and the place for me to ask tons of questions that have popped up since my last visit, or while hearing a new diagnosis. Being told to, “Be positive” at this point doesn’t help me. When I’m at home, I listen to hypnotherapy, beautiful music, and comedy. I walk the beach, or read New Thought books. I meditate. I pray. I surround myself with like-minded people, who will affirm good. I’ve just begun to travel again. I’m working a bit, too. My book is with an editor now. Being told, “Be positive” from a nurse as she hands me the doctor’s urgent orders for four tests, allows me to witness someone who’s uncomfortable with the moment. Ha! That makes two of us. . .

Like most people, I claim to be a positive person. For over thirty years, I’ve been steeped in New Thought (positive, practical spirituality). When I go dark, it feels very foreign to me. Even in really tough times, I can bring myself back to the Light, to break up the downward pull. Sometimes it means I come back to the Light 100 times a day. Like the Chinese proverb: Fall down seven times. Get up eight. It’s not about denying the dark side. It’s about denying the dark side, power.

It’s okay to be present with the diagnosis given you—but then you must decide how you walk this path. There will be moments you trip and fall. Your thoughts may go dark, you may hurt physically and emotionally. Tend to your wounds—then get up. Find the good in the situation. Find the good in life; in humanity.

If you hear, “Be positive” it’s because people want you to experience happiness. Cancer cannot take that away. (Well, okay, it can—but that’s because we drift off with it, giving cancer and it’s side effects the power to claim our life while we are still living.)

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6 thoughts on “The Importance of Encouraging Words

  1. I found out about my cancer while I was on my death bed. My Doctor never said Be Positive but he did say it was curable. And everyone kept telling me to fight. So I did. But being positive is a choice I had to make. I realized being bitter was not going to change the diagnosis or help the situation.

    • Yes. We’re always at choice. Positive, or negative – which side of the coin. (And it may get flipped over once in a while;) I do find it interesting, that people say “fight” cancer, cancer is a “war” —and be positive.

  2. I’m learning to work with my words. Instead of the ‘ifs’ I’m trying to use ‘whens’. It’s helpful. Words are so important, and a doctor who has a knack for them is certainly a gift. I like your reframe of the ‘be positive’ expression. ~Catherine

    • Hooray for replacing “if” to “when”! I laughed at your comment re: doctors with knack for words. The most recent, “a sub-muscular shot” (meaning a shot in the rear-end!) :0

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