Though you don't have to be a complete Tigger in the face of life's setbacks, being an Eeyore is a decidedly bad choice. A study recently published in the Cancer Journal (Dec 15, 2008) confirmed that breast cancer patients who participate in intervention sessions focusing on improving mood, coping effectively, and altering health behaviors live longer than patients who do not receive such psychological support.
Wow! Proof that attitude does make a difference!
When we think about the amount of stress endured from the time you get a suspicious mammogram or personally find a breast lump, to when a diagnosis is made and treatment begins, to the end of that treatment, this is clearly a period when it's hard to be optimistic and upbeat.
No one expects you to be thrilled you got diagnosed, but putting breast diagnosis and treatment into perspective is a wise way to meet this challenge. Perspective means being able to confront this putrid turn of affairs as something that's 1) doable and 2) a bump in the road instead of a dead end. Perspective can also help you to see breast cancer as a disease that could happen to anyone—which will help you bite your tongue next time you come down with a sudden case of the Why-Me's?
Authors of the research study in Cancer Journal said they believe calming and comforting psychological interventions may reduce some of the negative immune changes brought on by stress hormones, changes that might promote cancer growth or metastasis.
So, in addition to treating a breast cancer patient with powerful antitumor drugs, it's important to assuage the patient's psychological distress as well. If you know someone undergoing treatment for breast cancer, support her. Take her to lunch; go to a movie that's uplifting and inspirational. Send her a Hallmark card.