As an oncology nurse I can tell you that it is very important. Your dad might interpret her despair as a sign that she knows more about his condition than he does. She has to get her head into the situation and understand how her behavior is impacting him. It might be time for "tough love." You have to let her know that while you understand her sadness and fear, this has to be about your dad, not her. Positivity goes a long way in helping construct a positive surgical outcome. She may want to speak with her clergy or someone who can address her psycho-social needs. As a caregiver, her role is to support him and negativity yields no support. Good luck, Carm RN.
Pancreatic Cancer Questions
How important is positivity?
Asked by Marybm on Saturday, March 23, 2013
How important is positivity?
I try to stay positive for my dad. I think no one can be positive when everyone around is negative. But my step mom, all she does is cry. And talk about how my dad is ready to give up. How he cant take it anymore. It makes me mad. Because she is the person he is around the most. And I see him, and now I feel like he cries more and more. And I hate it. I don't know what to do. He is having surgery next week. I need him to be strong, and believe he will come out of it alive. Because I need him too. But how can he when she is constantly worried that he wont? I don't know what to do. Do I do nothing? Do I talk to her? Do I talk to him? I just don't know if it even matters, but I think it does. But I don't really know.
19 Answers from the Community
I have been through cancer 3 times. I have always been a high believer in the power of a positive attitude. I never sat around and said Ohh why me, I'll never make it. I from the very first minute said, OK lets' do this, what do we need to do to beat this, and got on with it. When a person is around someone a lot, their attitude will start to mimic that of the person they are around.
I would say to speak up, and when you see him just be bubbly and positive and tell him he can do it, he has to step up and be strong. speak positive, and get her off to the side and explain that she needs to keep those feelings to herself. If she wants to be negative nanny, that's fine, but do it somewhere else. She needs to stop speaking for him and stop being negative.
Some people will tell you that a positive attitude isn't important and will not help heal. You cannot prove to me that it doesn't help though. I'll go with the positive attitude everytime.
I hope you can get the whole mood of everyone turned around.
Hi. I'm Aliza, a BC patient and a Medical Librarian (retired). I offer information, referrals and research for folks on this site and elsewhere. I don't offer medical advice (because it's against Librarian's code of ethics -it's practicing Medicine sans license (usually considered in bad taste and illegal...;))
Back to your question, a positive attitude is essential. I can recommend/refer you to a few things that I think will help you and your family.
CancerCare-get in touch with them asap. They offer counseling for Cancer patients and their caregivers. It's not like typical "therapy". They don't care about your issues re your "toilet training" and they don't "blame your mother"...;) Their aim is to help deal with the angst common to all Cancer patients and their caregivers.
1 - "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Though it's been a while since I read it, it's a classic.
2 - "Anatomy of an Illness" by Norman Cousins. Though nor entirely medically correct (studies have been done), Mr. Cousins seemed to have considerably improved his condition by checking out of a hospital, into a hotel and watching funny movies (The Marx Brothers, I believe).
3 - "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor who evolved a new (at the time) form of psychotherapy called "Logotherapy". The Nazis had wiped out his entire family in the camps, but Dr. Frankl was amazing in that he realized he had one thing that the Nazis couldn't take away from him and those were his thoughts, and beliefs and the memories of those dear to him. Frankl was eventually released from the camps, again practiced in Vienna as both a psychiatrist and neurologist and even remarried and had another child. He received 29 honorary doctorates for his writings on "Logotherapy".
This is an excellent time, if your family belongs to a religious community, for you to contact their Clergyperson (it's a bit tough now with Passover starting at sundown on Monday evening [rabbis will be out of commission for until Wednesday, if they're Reform and Thursday if they're Conservative/Orthodox]) and Easter as well. Ministers. rabbis, priests all have that personal touch that can be very soothing to those in crisis and can also help to make referrals if necessary as well as to offer prayers for the sick. Sometimes churches and synagogues also have "sunshine committees" where folks visit sick people at home or in the hospital, take them on errands, etc.
I don't know if your Dad has any kind of a lodge membership - Elks, Lions, Knights of Columbus or Pythias, Masons, etc. But if you can contact his chapter, his brethren from these groups may be very caring about calling and visiting.
Re your mom- it would seem to be a good idea for her to get out of the house now and again (if she perceives you can be in charge without her). If she has girlfriends she can have lunch with, shop with, go to the movies with, play mah jong with, etc. that would be great.
Distraction is a good thing right now - For Everyone! In any form that all of you enjoy. Movies, DVDs, bookgroups, etc.
I'd also recommend that you click on the purple box on the right side of this page for some personalized resources recommended by The ACS.
I'm happy to answer any other questions you may have or give any other ideas-I usually have lots of them. I've been a Librarian for over 20 years, so feel free to message me here or email me offsite.
Best of luck to you and your family,
"If you see someone crying, don't just do something. Stand there." ~Anonymous
I'm going to offer a different opinion than the others here. As a cancer patient, what I need when I'm upset is to be heard. I want people to listen to me and validate my feelings, not tell me my feelings are "wrong" and should be fixed. No one will believe everything will be OK just because you tell them it will be. You need him to be strong? No. You need to understand he's human and he's terrified right now. Don't talk. Just listen (to both of them if you are able but especially to your father.) He needs to come to terms with what he's feeling before he can begin to turn his anger/fear into resolve, on his own, not because he's been told he has to do so.
That depends on how you define it. There is a difference between having a positive attitude and being unrealistic about the circumstances. Insisting things are going to be fine when they are not simple adds to the stress (your own and those around you). As you say, your step mom is the person who is around him the most and therefore, is the person who is closest to the reality of the situation. Cut her some slack. She is hurting too and being angry at her for something that is not anyone's fault isn't going to help you or your dad. I get that you are scared of losing your dad and the impact that will have on your life. IMO, what "positivity" means is being able to put aside your own fears of what his illness is doing to you and be able to focus on what it is doing to him and what his wishes are.
Nobody knows for sure what a cancer patient's future will bring. But many of us have learned you should make the most of every minute we have on earth. To me, this means you should try to make things pleasant with your dad NOW. I would go nuts if everyone around me was crying all of the time--what a miserable existence that would be! Instead, seems like your stepmom (and you) should concentrate on making your dad comfortable, nurtured and LOVED.
Granted, he is entitled to his own emotions, but his despair just might turn to determination when he realizes how cherished he is to both you and your stepmom. I'll be sending positive thoughts your way and good luck with trying this approach.
My name is Russ and I am a 12 year pancreatic cancer survivor. YES positivity is very important. Over the 12 years I have communicated and suppported many people with cancer...mostly pancreatic cancer. How old is your father? What type of surgery did he have if any? Is he still going through treatments? What type of treatments? Nobody can tell you how you should feel. Don't deprive yourself of whatever your feelings are...if you are angry about having cancer then be angry...it's okay! If you are sad about having cancer then be sad and cry...it's okay! The key is to not dwell on those negative feelings...in time you will realize that you need to use all of the energy from these feelings to use on your recovery process. Cry as many times as you wish, get the emotions out and move on. I cried many times in the beginning, but I looked at those moments as emotional cleansings. Surround your father with positive people, and not negative people all the time. I don't know what your father's physical being is right now, but I made it a point to get out of the house every day. Don't stay home...get out of the house. It is too easy to talk yourself into a state of depression if you stay home every day. I was a mall-walker for a good time, and then I had lunch in the food court every day. The two of them can have lunch together at the mall, but get them out every day!!! Tell your father not to give up hope...because hope is the last candle fluttering in the darkness while all the others have gone out. I am 68 and as a result of my pancreatic cancer, I have taken up painting buildings / landscapes, I have taken up golf, and play twice a week weather permitting. Reading is something that I didn't do until I got home from the hospital 12 years ago. I read strictly non-fiction, because I like to think and deal with reality. Two individuals, (one until as of late, Lance Armstrong), I promised myself that I would read his book when I got out of the hospital. I haven't stopped reading since, although I now have mixed emotions about Lance Armstrong. He lived a big fat lie for oh so long! The other person that I think highly of is Michael J. Fox, and his book Lucky Man. Michael J. Fox says that if you told him that he would not have Parkinson's Disease, but he would have to give up the last 10 years of his life...hw wouldn't do it...because he says that this disease has put my life on whole new path than it was before. He has no regrets for either.
Mary...if you would like to communicate with me outside of WhatNext...ask them to send me your email address. I will look forward to hearing from you directly, and nothing would give me more pleasure than communicating with you and your father.
I had to stay away from negative people going through treatment! Positivity helps you move forward . Carm is correct, she has to get it together. She is scared, and needs to take care of herself so she can help your Dad. We as patients need to stay positive so we can move forward with our treatments. This is what I needed and was thankful to receive. Wishing you all the very best
There is no proof that positive attitude improves survival in fact there were clinical trials that prove it does not. Google search "Most common cancer myths" On the other hand if a positive attitude helps someone beat cancer then thats the ticket for them..But its not a given and no one should be forced to think otherwise.
I know your hurting but so is your father. In order to support him you need to leave your own needs behind. Support is about giving the other person what they need not what you need. its not always easy to do but its important.
Please consider respecting his right to react any way he needs to respond to HIS journey. Now is the time to listen. To acknowledge, to touch, to hold and to love.
In the bible the term Agape is described as God's love..It means always wanting the best for the other person...Not ourselves but the other persons needs come first. whatever they are.
Let you Father know he can be himself with you..how ever he is feeling you will support him and love him no matter what. You are there to listen and help in any way you can.
I agree with those who say, accept him where he is in his journey and allow him his feelings. My husband has been diagnosed with lung cancer. I want him to fight -- and, he is fighting -- but I have let him know that it's not about what I want. I can take this journey with him -- but not for him. Together we have experienced moments of profound love in both crying and laughing together since his diagnosis. Listen to him, love him, let him cry in your arms -- then wipe his tears (and yours) and tell him, again, how much you love him.
Maybe I am just confused as to what my dad wants. He does not say negative things like he is ready to give up to me, my step mom says these things. He has made me promise not to cry. He hates crying. I feel like he is not crying for himself, he is crying for her. For awhile, I thought that it helped him because he didn't have to focus on himself, he could just focus on her. But this past week, we were at the hospital, they were going to do surgery to try to remove the tumor. But they ran into some fluid that they wanted to test, so they decided to wait to go further until the results came back. He was released from the hospital, he had three small incisions in his stomach and he was out of it because they gave him anesthesia for the full surgery. When we got back to the hotel, my dad was sitting on the sofa. My three year old sister was jumping all over him. My seven year old brother was in the bedroom crying, alone. And my step mom was in the other room crying, and her two best friends were in there talking to her. I think is when I really got mad. My dad was alone, the kids were alone. But my step mom had all the attention because she was crying. My dad asked my older brother to get my little sister away from him. And I went in to check on my seven year old brother. I was trying to get him to stop crying, I told him the doctors just wanted to wait until everything was perfect before they did the surgery. And he cried and said "Not even Johns Hopkins can save my daddy." It broke my heart and made me mad at my step because all she does is cry when people (her kids and my dad) need her to be strong. In that moment other people were more important but she couldn't get past her negativity. We have to do this all over again this upcoming week, and I am worried. A couple of you said, that it is not about me. And I know that. I don't say any of this stuff to anyone especially my dad. I don't want him to stress anymore than he already is. I do anything and everything that he wants me to do. He says don't cry. I walk out of the room if I have to let a few tears slip. I don't say anything to my step mom because all he wants is for us to get along if anything happens to him. I guess I feel like all the negativity has got to be stressing him out. How much more of that can he handle? Why not try to be positive?
Marybm - I feel like I want to chime in on this discussion. I'm not sure what type of cancer your Dad has, but I don't suppose it matters all that much in terms of your question. Let me respond from my personal perspective of a relatively newly diagnosed pancreatic patient (who had the Whipple surgery at Johns Hopkins about 11 months ago). From the moment of my diagnosis (and I was alone in an emergency room at the time), I resolved to remain as positive and strong as I possibly could. I knew that this would be crucial for my own well-being, but would also serve as both an example and roadmap for my family and friends: if I could be positive, then so should they. This has worked rather well for all of us. Yes, there have been many, many ups and downs, and even now, I'm facing yet unknown results from a biopsy taken last Wednesday that may reveal spreading of the cancer to my bones. And yes, I am scared and concerned, but still I can't help feeling that remaining positive is the only way to go (for me, anyway). It may not heal me, but does make me feel better - and this I think is crucially important.
I can certainly understand your Mom's fears and sadness, but also agree with other respondants that this must be about your Dad now and he needs all the positive energy you all can muster and send his way. I would talk with her about remaining strong and positive, especially when she's around your Dad (not in a Pollyanna sense, but presenting the perspective of there's hope and let's confront this thing with all we've got!). Not only will this approach help him, you, and the other kids, but it will make her feel better as well and it will help her to make a tangible contribution to improving her husband's situation. And no matter what happens in the future, how one deals with life's problems and challenges tends to define us as a person. None of us may survive our illnesses, but I'm not about to give up enjoying life - to the fullest extent I can ..... JMS
As the wife of a pancreatic cancer patient and a clinical sociaL worker, I have done a lot of reading on this topic. While it was previously though that cancer patients with the most positive outlook had the best outcome, more recent research has shown that a positive attitude--tempered with a realistic perspective--have the best outcome.
When a person is given a diagnosis with a serious prognosis, it is normal and necessary for the person to grieve what they've lost. The same is true for their loved ones. You mother is grieving the loss of her secure vision for the future with her husband, the loss of life as she knew it, etc., etc. She rally needs to do this and needs you to support her through the process.
At the same time, if she continues to cry uncontrollably, the are things that can help. When my husband was first diagnosed, my doctor prescribed lorazepam because I couldn't quit crying. It helped me calm down enough to be a support to my husband and even get some sleep. There are lots of other things that can help relieve anxiety and depression on a longer turn.
My prayers are with all three of you....that you can support one another through this crisis and that your Dad achieves the best possible outcome.
What if you made it your job to keep the younger kids away from the situation? Have them visit your Dad on a schedule when the step Mom is not there. This can be your portion of the journey.
If a positive attitude could cure cancer, or even improve its outcome then I guess all of the children who have cancer have it because of their bad or negative attittude. We know thats not true but its the message behind that statement and beleif.
The problem with this thinking is that it suggestes we all have something to do with our cancer. It suggests we could have PREVENTED our cancer with the right attitude which creates guilt. It suggests that if we have a cancer return then we have done something wrong.
i have had people say to me that they don't give money to cancer reserch because they beleive people can cure themselves with the right attitude. Instead they give to AIDS and Heart disease.
This myth is harmful to all of us fighting the beast. And to have these expecttions placed on anyone fighting cancer is in my opinion not right and even cruel.I would be grateful to see the data that says otherwise. Oh plenty of books written about attitude and beating cancer but its simply opinion and a money maker.
Even the said "recent" information..I would like to see the data if possible.
If your step mom needs the drama and attention to handle her feelings then thats what she needs. Try and remove yourself when she does this so you can remian strong and calm. Now is not the time to try and work on the family dynamics. Please rise above that and focus on your young siblings. They need your help. They need protection..not the adults...These young siblings need tender loving care right now..
Read about shock and PTSD with children because they need an eye kept on them. Perhpas talk witht heir teachers to keep their eyes open for any changes in school. I might consider having them seek some counceling. This would be a very positive thing you could do for your Father..Take over this project and then let him know you are on top of their care. Tell him you only want them seeing him when he is up for it and in a good frame of mind. Please don't allow the kids to be in the middle of tension, grief and anger.
You cannot change people especially during trama and grief. Make sure to get some distance to re charge and refresh yourself. make sure to pamaper yourself too and forgive..forgive and forgive again. We are all seriously broken people. None of us perfect.
In the past 6 months that I have dealt with my cancer I have met so many people that have tools me about their experiences. Yes, positive attitude does help but it also has to come from those that are around us. My sister is a former childrens oncologist nurse. When she found out about my small cell lung cancer she was convinced I was going to die. I didn't want to hear that and I didn't want pity. The journey has many ups and downs, just like life. Yes I fought depression and still battle with bouts of anxiety. The doctor prescribed medication that helped. Is that for everyone, maybe not, but sometimes it can get you over that one big hump that you can't seem to climb over.
Looks like you have a lot of good suggestions - difficult time to try to stay positive during this time. Make sure you get a time-out for yourself! About your siblings and you....if you need to cry, do it and let them do it too. A thought....Your Dad's illness may make your siblings feel unwanted/loved especially if he isn't feeling well. They need to understand it isn't them! Please look into getting some of the support mentioned throughout responses. Not an easy time. Love and hugs coming your way.
I understand you are in a difficult situation but I think Carm has the right idea. You have to speak to your step mom and get her on board. She needs to understand that she is contributing to the problem more than she is helping. She is not the primary sufferer here.
Don't let her keep you from your father either. Tell him that you are coming to see him and when at the end of each visit so there is an expectation of you being there.
By all means take her aside and explain to her that the best thing that she can possibly do for him is to stay positive. I know this is an upsetting situation for her but negativity does not help. He is going into surgery thinking the worst and that needs to change and it starts with her. She needs to offer encouragement and love not tears because they don't help. He needs to know that he is strong and can get through this because he has a loving family that needs him so he has to fight. I know she wants to be there for him but if her attitude doesn't change then maybe she shouldn't see him until after the surgery. She is letting fear guide her and that has to stop now. Try and see if you can talk to his doctor and maybe get him/her to talk to your step-mother. Maybe if she hears it from the doctor she'll change her attitude. Take care.