While I don’t believe “thinking positive” is vital to a good cancer outcome, I do believe that negative assumptions affect cancer treatment outcomes.

I know of many who assume prior to cancer therapy that their normal lives will be over while on chemo…they will feel ill, be nauseated, will vomit often, not be able to eat and will be fatigued while on chemo. And bald.

Many also assume their recovery from surgery will be extensive, they will be out of commission for months following surgical intervention. They assume they will have side effects from radiation therapy.

I wonder sometimes if those assumptions become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I personally had a very major cancer surgery. Prior to surgery I was told I would be in ICU post-op and would be hospitalized for at least 12 days. But I didn’t go to ICU post-op as I did well after surgery. I was discharged in 6 days, not 12. I walked 3 miles 8 days after my surgery. I was driving my car in 2 weeks and back to my normal life in three weeks.

I started chemotherapy with no pre-conceived notions of my life being altered, and it wasn’t. I was nauseated only once during my 7 months of chemotherapy, ate well, gained weight and never vomited. I didn’t lose my hair. I drove myself to and from chemo treatments and ran errands on my way home from chemo. I did athletic training while on chemo. Six months after I completed chemo I rode my bicycle 100 miles in one day (I trained for that event while on chemo). I lived a normal life…the few chemo side effects I had were cured with medication once I brought them to the attention of my oncologist. I felt a bit washed out on chemo days, but hey, I’d had days where I felt a bit washed out prior to chemo. They’ve come a long way with chemo, nowadays drugs are given prior to chemo treatments to prevent side-effects.

I had a friend with my same cancer who was in her 70s. She was also discharged from the hospital following her extensive surgery in a week. She was soon after surgery kayaking and hiking and doing the things she loved. My 79 year old aunt is experiencing a breast cancer recurrence, but is living a normal and full life while on chemo, following 39 uneventful radiation treatments.

I know of others who after the same surgery I had spend months recovering. Who don’t resume their lives and interests for the better part of a year.

And I wonder sometimes if expectations play a part in outcomes. If we expect to be ill and disabled, maybe we will be. If we expect prolonged recovery, maybe it will become our reality. It’s not so much that we need to think positive when we enter cancer treatment, maybe it’s more that we go into it open-minded? Maybe our attitude in part determines whether we will be victims or victors?