Approaching a Cancer Diagnosis With Positivity
- A young grandmother thought she was experiencing menopause before she was diagnosed with goblet cell carcinoma, a rare cancer of the appendix.
- While beginning treatment, she decided to make a bucket list and check off as many items from it as she could with the time she has left.
- Positivity and a good outlook can go a long way when facing a cancer diagnosis, according to experts.
- For those who are, understandably, struggling to remain in good spirits, there are plenty of mental health resources available.
Her story serves as a reminder about the importance of speaking up if you know something is wrong with your body, or you begin experiencing new symptoms — because doctors initially didn’t understand what was causing her to experience pain in her abdomen.Read More
Her doctors were initially stumped, thinking she may be suffering from something like endometriosis, a disorder where tissue grows outside of the uterus, often causing serious pain. When she finally got the goblet cell carcinoma diagnosis a month later, she vowed to take a positive approach to treatment — and immediately got to work on a bucket list, making sure she could do everything she wanted to do.
Goblet cell carcinoids of the appendix are extremely rare, affecting only about one person per 2 million. They are defined by a combination of two types of cancer cells — neuroendocrine (carcinoid) and epithelial (adenocarcinoma).
After the diagnosis, Lauder’s doctors predicted that she would only have a year or so to live — though she has now surpassed that estimate by several months. Even while undergoing chemotherapy, she’s vowed to continue checking as many items off her bucket list as possible.
“It was very tough at first,” she said of the chemo. “[It caused] bad side effects including a bleeding nose, fatigue, and chronic cramp in my stomach, but after 14 months, I switched over to chemo tablets which had smaller side effects. It meant I was still able to do things while having treatment — I wasn’t completely wiped out by it, which was good because time was suddenly very precious to me.”
Since she began treatment, Lauder has taken several vacations — to the Bahamas, Menorca, and Mallorca, attended the Glastonbury music festival, and raised thousands for Cancer Research UK by organizing charity events.
Approaching cancer with positivity
It can be extremely difficult to try to maintain a positive outlook while going through cancer treatments — but as Lauder’s case shows, it really can make a difference. Experts also agree that outlook can have a real impact.
“My patients who thrive, even with stage 4 cancer, from the time that they, about a month after they’re diagnosed, I kind of am pretty good at seeing who is going to be OK,” Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous discussion.
Dr. Zuri Murrell explains how positivity can make a difference when facing cancer.
“Now, that doesn’t mean I’m good at saying that the cancer won’t grow, but I’m pretty good at telling what kind of patients are going to still have this attitude and probably going to live the longest, even with bad, bad disease — and those are patients who, they have gratitude in life.”
Coping with complex emotions
However, achieving that positive outlook does not come as naturally for everyone as it did for Lauder. Plenty of people struggle a great deal with mental health after a cancer diagnosis. It’s completely normal to feel scared, lost, or even angry at first — and there are plenty of options available to help people facing cancer deal with these complex emotions, including traditional therapy.
“Shame comes from this sense of vulnerability, right? There’s something wrong with me because I’m human and I’m susceptible to illness, and now I have an illness. Now I have cancer,” Dr. William Breitbart, Chief of the Psychiatry Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet when discussing how cancer patients can learn to accept their vulnerability.
Dr. William Breitbart explains how he helps cancer patients learn to deal with vulnerability.
“What I will often point out to people is that we have the ability to choose how we respond to this vulnerability. We can be ashamed of it, or we can use it to create a sense of empathy. I’m imperfect, and now I understand other people who are imperfect. And so being imperfect can teach you how to love other human beings.”
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What kind of activities must I avoid during cancer treatment?
- Are there mental health resources specifically catered to people in my situation?
- What options beyond traditional therapy do I have?