Being told you have skin cancer turns your world upside down. You are faced with your mortality and worry about all the things you still have undone in this life. You worry about your spouse, your children and whether you will be around to see all the wonders life still has to give. Your days are filled with fear, anger, sadness and regret. It is hard to feel thankful.
Research shows that gratitude is good for your health. It improves your outlook, your emotional well-being. It makes you more satisfied with your life and with those around you. It can protect you from depression and loneliness. It boosts your immune system and lowers blood pressure. Gratitude can make difficult situations a little easier.
Some people find that a diagnosis of cancer is a “wake up” call. It makes them take stock of their life and decide what is important. It makes them shift their priorities and spend more time doing what they enjoy, including spending time with family and friends. Dana Jennings, a survivor of prostate cancer, writes, “we forget to be grateful. But, if we let our cancers consume our spirits in addition to our bodies, we risk forgetting who we truly are, of contracting a kind of Alzheimer’s of the soul.” Gratitude, he says, “is an antidote to the dark voice of illness that whispers to us, that insists that all we have become is our disease.” Dana makes an effort to be grateful for the important parts of his life, his wife, his child, the expert medical team who brought him through treatment. But he also makes sure to appreciate the little things each day…his favorite song on the radio, a glass of iced-tea, the sound of his dog lapping up water, a tuna sub sandwich.
Take time each day to think about what you are grateful for. Be thankful for each good day you have, that your treatment has ended. Be grateful that you have loving people in your life to help with your medical care. Be grateful that you have a place to live, food to eat. Be grateful for your doctor and other medical professionals who took care of you. But also pay attention to the less important details of your life; the sunny day, the smell of coffee, the taste of your favorite food. Take time to savor each experience. Being grateful can change your perspective and help you continue fighting.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have some difficult days. There are days you won’t feel good, days you are angry or scared. While it is important to take time to be thankful, don’t try to hide your feelings or pretend you are fine when you aren’t. It is important to reach out to others, talk about how you are feeling and discuss any discomfort with your doctor. Being positive, upbeat and thankful has it’s benefits, but it can also be detrimental if you don’t deal with the symptoms of cancer or deny that you are feeling down.
Published On: November 18, 2014