against the “tyranny of positive thinking”


“It is…widely believed that, once you have a cancer a positive attitude and a good mental state positively will affect the outcome of the disease…”

“Blaming the patient helps those who do not have the disease feel safe, and perhaps superior. If we can identify something the patient has done, or chooses to do, then maybe, the reasoning goes, then we will not get that cancer if we are careful. Hence our desire to find things in patients’ lives that set them apart from healthy people.

…It may make us feel better at the expense of the patient but it simply isn’t a reflection of the the truth.”

Excerpts from “Cancer Is A Word, Not A Sentence” by Dr. Robert Buckman.

I listened to the tail end of a talk by Dr. Buckman on the CBC the other evening. It was called “Humour As A Coping Strategy or Laughter, The Second Best Medicine.” His point was that, while humour absolutely does help us cope, it doesn’t cure is or as he said, “Medicine is the best medicine.”

I wish I had a transcript (updated to add that the podcast will be available on December 29th. Really worth checking out. I really enjoyed the part I heard and, ironically, found it to be very positive).

Laughter, love, friendship and a positive attitude can definitely help us cope with having cancer. Medicine, however, remains “the best medicine.”

*This post is for my friend S., who coined that brilliant phrase.

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.


4 Responses to against the “tyranny of positive thinking”

  1. sprucehillfarm says:

    I love your shirt!

  2. lorri s. says:

    Great post! So true, so true!

  3. francesbarrie says:

    Yes, you are right. Sometimes we are made to feel guilty when we don’t have a positive attitude all the time. And sometimes the positive attitude is to make everyone else feel better. I have found that a lot — I have spent a lot of time making others feel OK about my cancer. It can be exhausting.

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