Positive Attitude and Cancer
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24-05-2012, 11:20 AM
Positive Attitude and Cancer
First time poster. I love the podcast. Best Atheist podcast I think.
I am a sixty year old Atheist and Leukemia patient. If I die, does it mean that my attitude was not positive enough and if I live, does it mean that everyone that is dead was not positive enough? I have always been a glass half full kind of guy but at the same time, very cynical and skeptical about a lot of things. In other words... My attitude is not always that great. I'm sick of the 'positive thinking will cure you' meme. It is the classic blame the victim scenario. I've had a great sixty years so far, so if I die now then so what. Talking flippantly about death or ridiculing religion is considered taboo and negative. It enlivens me. Am I going to die soon?
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24-05-2012, 11:45 AM
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
Welcome aboard Hammer.

Sorry to hear you have leukemia, that's dumb.

So far as positive attitudes having curative effects, I've not heard much in the way of exact science to determine if that is a possibility or not. There were two things I remember reading about once upon a time ago.

One had to do with the positive effects of placebos with patients. The difficult part about this was that the testing was awful and unreliable. The time at which the tests were done there wasn't much knowledge based around how to do large group testing and so many things were not taken into consideration. I can tell you that the results they had signified that a patient who was given the placebo and told that it would help their problems actually did see an increase in healing rate, while another test group that was given the placebo and told it was a new drug and they weren't sure of it's effects, all seemed to get worse. Meanwhile the third group who were given the placebo but told it was a placebo had the same rate of recovery as those who were not given the placebo at all.
Like I said though, the testing was horrendous and the variables were so much that I wouldn't take much away from it.

The other was more recent and had to do with the power of prayer. Again those testing didn't seem to take some things into consideration when running their tests... Not sure why people create tests to find results and don't do their homework...
Anyways, if I remember correctly the results showed that those who were told they were being prayed for actually fared the worst. While the ones told they weren't being prayed for fared the best. I might be wrong as I only read this one in passing when someone on the forum posted a link to it some months back.

What I'm trying to get at is, Positive thinking may or may not help, it seems to have more to do with the person and the circumstances, as well as a lack of skeptic senses. Like spidey sense only more real and less cool. It wouldn't do much for me I don't think as I tend to question everything at least once.

Good luck to you on your journey and I will pray... oh no wait I won't do that. Well, I'll hope you get the best care you can get by some very smart doctors and nurses.

"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments." -Jim Morrison
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24-05-2012, 11:46 AM
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
Hi and welcome to the forums! Glad to have you!

That's a good question you pose. Is there any evidence to support the claim that positive thinking helps you live longer or overcome illness? Any way to measure it?

I've heard the same thing before. But I never really knew if it was verifiable.
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24-05-2012, 11:52 AM
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
I don't know if positive thinking can help cure cancer, but to me the part that counts is the living part. So whether positive thinking staves off death is moot. I say think positive now, since now is when you,re livin! Sounds like you,re a pretty positive guy, so good on ya.

Also, if I ever get the chance, I'll kick cancer directly in the balls for you. Cancer is an asshole.

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24-05-2012, 11:58 AM
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
(24-05-2012 11:20 AM)Hammerdog Wrote:  First time poster. I love the podcast. Best Atheist podcast I think.
I am a sixty year old Atheist and Leukemia patient. If I die, does it mean that my attitude was not positive enough and if I live, does it mean that everyone that is dead was not positive enough? I have always been a glass half full kind of guy but at the same time, very cynical and skeptical about a lot of things. In other words... My attitude is not always that great. I'm sick of the 'positive thinking will cure you' meme. It is the classic blame the victim scenario. I've had a great sixty years so far, so if I die now then so what. Talking flippantly about death or ridiculing religion is considered taboo and negative. It enlivens me. Am I going to die soon?


I understand where you are coming from. My husband, also atheist, successfully battled one cancer to complete recovery, he was better than before when he was done recouping. Then he got a second, unrelated, completely different type of cancer and he could not beat it.

Through both cancers, we each kept the general attitudes we always had - him, the doubter, me, the "can do" person. We made a good team. But even a good team can't always win.

I do think attitude can help, but in the end a physical defect will not heal itself because you feel positive, IMO.

However, with the helping hand of the medical profession, the physical defect may be fixed, and during the course of that a positive attitude seems to speed up healing.

In other words, the cancer won't go away because you have a positive attitude, but, if the medical profession manages to deal with it, a positive attitude can help speed up recovery.

I hope you are getting treatment...you didn't say much about your condition, so I am not sure what else to say.

But if you are at peace with dying, then I see that as a good thing. My husband was at peace with it, and it made it so much easier for the both of us.

As far as people telling you that a better attitude will cure you - it's one of those dumb things people say when they feel they want to help but have no way to do it. It can be so annoying. They mean well, but they end up just aggravating you.

You should hear the inane dribble I had to listen to after my husband passed away. All well meaning people - driving me insane.

Good luck and hope you stick around!

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Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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24-05-2012, 12:06 PM
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
I've read about this, I don't remember the source but I'm sure there are plenty around the internetz.
If I recall correctly, a positive attitude helps the immune system to work better and a negative one makes it worst, but neither heal or kill for themselves, so all that thing about "being positive will heal you" is just a exaggeration of not yet fully understood relation between our brain activity (the attitude in this case) and the rest of our body.

In any case, as hard as it can get, in this kind of situation I think is good to have a positive attitude to enjoy as much as we can, so we can go happy. And by positive I don't mean that "smile at the sun and shit rainbows" crap, the real positive, to face everything with mettle, the good and the bad moments alike.

If "Talking flippantly about death or ridiculing religion" enlivens you then do it!! nobody knows what's ahead, hopefully you'll get better and get to live more time, but if you don't, then make the best exit you can Big Grin

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24-05-2012, 05:43 PM (This post was last modified: 24-05-2012 05:51 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
(24-05-2012 11:20 AM)Hammerdog Wrote:  Am I going to die soon?

Yup. And so am I. And so is everyone else here. "Soon" is a relative temporal term on purpose. Wink

(24-05-2012 11:20 AM)Hammerdog Wrote:  I'm sick of the 'positive thinking will cure you' meme.

I think positive thinking can have a great deal of impact on dealing with and tolerating the treatment for the disease, but doubt it has much impact on the disease itself. Negative thinking, on the other hand, can easily have a great deal of impact on treating the disease (the decision to decline treatment altogether, for example).

Have you put together a "go" bag yet? I've had one for 3 decades now. "Go" bags apparently paradoxically increase lifespan by reminding us that control of the termination of our personal existence is in our own hands, always has been.

Be well Hammerdog for as long as you can and be here for as long as you find it worthwhile.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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24-05-2012, 05:51 PM
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
(24-05-2012 05:43 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Be well Hammerdog for as long as you can and be here for as long as you find it worthwhile.
Sage words from a wise man.

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24-05-2012, 06:38 PM
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
(24-05-2012 05:43 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  
(24-05-2012 11:20 AM)Hammerdog Wrote:  Am I going to die soon?


Yup. And so am I. And so is everyone else here. "Soon" is a relative temporal term on purpose. Wink

(24-05-2012 11:20 AM)Hammerdog Wrote:  I'm sick of the 'positive thinking will cure you' meme.


I think positive thinking can have a great deal of impact on dealing with and tolerating the treatment for the disease, but doubt it has much impact on the disease itself. Negative thinking, on the other hand, can easily have a great deal of impact on treating the disease (the decision to decline treatment altogether, for example).

Have you put together a "go" bag yet? I've had one for 3 decades now. "Go" bags apparently paradoxically increase lifespan by reminding us that control of the termination of our personal existence is in our own hands, always has been.

Be well Hammerdog for as long as you can and be here for as long as you find it worthwhile.


I don't know what other states have this, but Oregon has the "right to die" law and if you have a terminal disease you can go to a doctor and pick up meds for suicide. You can then use them or not.

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24-05-2012, 07:11 PM (This post was last modified: 24-05-2012 09:37 PM by Anjele.)
RE: Positive Attitude and Cancer
Hammerdog...first off...welcome!

Since I saw your topic, I have been thinking about how to respond and I am still not sure I have it quite right.

Anyhoo...I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2009. Boy was I pissed! After a life of bullshit and struggle, I thought that things were finally settling down. My baby was 22 and working for a stable company, daughters long out on their own. Dad had lost his battle with bladder cancer and other complications earlier in the year, and while I was sad he was gone my stress level had dropped to a manageable level. At the age of 52 I was finally in college! Now this....goddammit! Why can't I have some part of my life just be about living and not about surviving? FUCK!

Did I have a positive attitude...not really, I was in fight mode. I was damn angry. I researched everything, made my decisions regarding the appropriate treatment, set my teeth and plunged in. I portrayed a positive attitude to help some of the people in my life deal with it more easily. I am prone to depression so I let the doctors help me with that medically. I seldom cried except due to the unrelenting pain that resulted from nerve damage caused during surgery that went undiagnosed for over a year and is still an issue.

I heard often from people that a positive attitude was so important. I swear my anger did more for me than a positive attitude could have. Things were not all sunshine and butterflies.

So next month I go for my biannual tests with the oncologist. I didn't do chemo as one of the side effects could have been leukemia and that didn't seem like a swell choice. I also passed on radiation. I just let them mutilate me and cut out the cancer and all the breast tissue in both breasts (good thing since afterward they found out it was in both sides not just the one).

Everyone has to follow their own path and make their own decisions when cancer crops up. I went against doctors, family, and friends and am 2-1/2 years out. It hasn't been a pleasure cruise, but it's been okay most of the time.

Don't let people tell you how to feel, how to act, or what to do...

A positive attitude may work for some...I really didn't go that route...hope you are with us a long time!

I'm not anti-social. I'm pro-solitude. Sleepy
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