Coping with cancer. / reflections



Glass half empty….or half full?

  With Michael in hospital,  and spending nights alone, ….. no more TV dramas about murders, or serial killers  for me,   I stick to documentaries or comedy.

So the other  night I watched a very interesting documentary The truth about personality

The presenter Michael Mosley is a self confessed pessimist and negative thinker.  He wanted to explore  why he is the way he is and the latest research on the effects of his negativity.  He also wanted to find out if he could change his thinking and cure his long history of  insomnia caused by worry.

My ears pricked up when I heard Mr  Mosley showing  some evidence that a positive attitude can prolong life.  Mainly from a longitudinal study, started in 1975 of over 1000 residents of an Ohio town.  The study found that people who viewed ageing positively lived on average seven and a half years longer.

Now I have mentioned before that I am a pessimist.    I see a situation, imagine the worst case scenario, so I can deal with it and “be ready”.    I tend to think in negative terms,  always   anticipating  what could go wrong.

  To be fair some of this is professional training as in my work  I always have to be on the watch and be  prepared for a sudden disaster.

My dear husband on the other hand is optimistic to a fault, always believing “things will sort themselves out”.

 His default setting is denial, things just  aren’t  happening and he never has a contingency plan.  In our present situation   (cancer and more cancer)  his strategy has seemed to be more  successful and less stressful than mine,  as he takes each day as it comes with what appears to be a calm and philosophical attitude.

In the TV programme, a psychologist  tried to retrain Mr Mosleys  outlook by asking him to  look at pictures of several faces and picking out the happy one amongst them every day.   Thus getting into the habit of finding a positive spin on a situation.

When I called in to see Michael the morning after the TV programme,  he told me that he will probably be in hospital till next Tuesday or Wednesday, six or seven nights……and his reaction to this?  ….. Well every night clocks up a £30 payment from my private health insurance ,  to cover “expenses”  which  he will put it  towards Christmas in Paris!

So all day I have been practising finding a positive spin on things.

1.   My enforced solo living,  I could see as a opportunity to dance around the house naked to ABBA, leaving the bathroom door open,   having the remote control to myself and the peace of not having the racing commentary all  the time.

2.  The cancer has certainly given us a sense of closeness and sharpened our focus of what is important in life.

3.  My job brings supportive colleagues, my lovely boss gave me yesterday as time owing so I don’t lose pay or holidays.

4.  Hopefully I can be helpful to people by documenting my experiences on this blog.

and so on and so on……

When I stopped to see Michael later in the evening.  Far from lying on his hospital bed all afternoon planning his funeral,   like I would have been doing ,   he had been recalling funny episodes from his life; like the time his barber father invented a cure for dandruff,  which unknown to his father  turned green after 24 hours   and his customers were all walking around with green heads!

I continued to practise  finding  the positive side to daily life and you know,…… I found it is not that difficult to make a concious effort to  find good things in every little  situation and my view seemed to change form dark to light, almost as if somebody had opened the curtains!…. I suppose it’s what’s called” waking up and smelling the coffee!”

I then decided to write this blog post.  But I did a bit of research first.

 Then, to my chagrin,  I discovered that, contrary to what Mr Mosely says,  all the research shows a positive attitude does not seem to have much effect on the outcome of cancer or life expectancy  and a whole raft of stuff about this subject.


However, I have enjoyed this little exercise to find good things  about the day, it makes me feel happier.  So, I guess,  if you are going to have  a difficult time,  it is a much better way to look at the world through pink glasses  than with the former brown gloomy  spectacles I  was  viewing the world through  before.

Such a simple principle.

However, I was relieved that my sometimes negative view was not doing Michael any harm or compromising his survival, because occasionally it’s quite normal and  a relief to have a “wobble”.

However this morning, when a man in the market queue, shouted horrible abuse at me because I unknowingly  did not let him through,  after my initial shock at his rudeness,    I  found myself calmly  thinking  ” I am so glad it is not me who is so angry with the world”!….the exercise  seems to be working.

Maybe one day I will be a raging optimist?

Joy to the world!

Love Denise

Two years ago today I was having one of my most memorable solo trips  in Krakow Poland.



  1. Love the story about Michael’s father! And I think it’s good that Michael is planning to have Christmas in Paris again, it gives him something positive to focus on when he must really be quite scared. You see so many stories about people with cancer who have a positive attitude to dealing with their illness, and although I know there is no proof that this helps to prolong life I’m sure it has to be better than purely negative emotions. Equally, it must be very hard for you so it’s good to hear that you are feeling happier from finding the good in what is happening.

    When my lovely mum was ill with cancer she used to say she had so much to be grateful for and was looking forward to more of the same for however long she had left. Like Michael she was of the “what will be will be” frame of mind and it definitely helped my father to cope.

    Take good care of yourself and continue to think positive! Positive thoughts coming their way to you both from me and David. Love Janet x


  2. Hi Janet, yes, I don’t know how long this will last but today I certainly feel whatever the outcome you might as well enjoy the journey.

    In the past Michaels optimistic, what will be will be attitude has driven me mad, because he never plans anything properly, but in this situation it seems to be the best approach.

    Suddenly I think, why waste time worrying, life is too short!

    Love Denise


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