In the United Kingdom, around 900 people every day are diagnosed with cancer, meaning that on average 75 people experience a life changing medical diagnosis each hour. This can be extremely difficult and can have a huge emotional impact, resulting in shock, fear and disbelief. Equally, there may be a sense of resentment and anger at the diagnosis, and a feeling of a lack of control and understanding.
Despite its increasingly successful treatment – with survival rates doubling in the last forty years- the word ‘cancer’ still creates a tremendous amount of fear. These negative connotations ensure that ‘cancer’ has become the true ‘c’ word of our time. Understandably, when faced with a diagnosis there are many challenges to overcome, both in a medical and a psychological manner. Undergoing treatment can be daunting, particularly due to some of the possible side effects. Hair loss and hair thinning can be an upsetting consequence of treatment, and many people find it to be one of the biggest anxieties surrounding cancer. It is important to remember, however, that whilst many of these side effects may be upsetting and inconvenient, they are unlikely to pose any sort of long term threat to one’s health. Despite this, these anxieties are still very real and normal, and the worry about one’s mortality is a common experience. The idea of living after cancer is often forgotten, and the immediate thoughts tend to be of death and negativity.
Cancer receives a huge amount of media attention, and it is often expressed in relatively catastrophic and disempowering terms, giving the very idea of cancer, and the word itself even more power. Much of the media dictates that tea, broccoli, or even getting your nails done, can and will give you cancer, and often that these very same activities can cure it too. This hysteria and spread of myths only serve to catastrophise and sensationalise the idea of cancer, reinforcing stress and worry for those diagnosed, rather than introducing an empowered and balanced outlook. These conflicting ideas as to what can cause or cure cancer can also enhance the idea of confusion, rather than looking at facts and rationality, creating a more dramatic and negative perspective than is necessary. It is important to try to stay positive throughout the process, and largely the media attention received by cancer makes this endeavour all the more difficult.
James recently undertook the Thrive Programme to teach him the skills to successfully stop himself smoking but after completing the programme was then diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Yet the skills he learned from the programme have ensured that despite the diagnosis he remained positive and calm and he is still fully Thriving!
The Thrive Programme taught James to take control of his thinking, to be positive rather than to sit brooding on his diagnosis, and to truly make the most of the time he has left. By taking ownership of his thoughts about cancer and allowing himself to feel powerful and relaxed about his future rather than dwelling on what could have been, James is an example of how the Thrive Programme can teach us to handle any situation and to make the most of every day, whatever life throws at us.