The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 3, 2013

Cancer As a Non-Tragedy: How Far Can a Positive Attitude Go?



Throughout her life, small pleasures have struck her as marvelous. A sandwich nicely prepared is a cause for rapture. In a field of weeds and rubbish she will see, and rejoice in the miracle of, the lone flower.

"Death holds no terror for me," she always says.

Fear and anxiety are adaptive traits to some degree, and the perpetually sunny disposition may not invariably offer an actuarial advantage. I worry that her rose-colored glasses are blinders. But her attitude makes the process easier on everyone else. That's a form of caregiving. It's a gift from the sick person to those who worry about her.

I called her from Washington after her first round of chemotherapy.

"It was a nonevent!" she reported. "It lasted awhile and I got hungry, so afterward we went to Wendy's and I had a baked potato. It was delicious!"

Chemotherapy, in time, will surely beat her up, and she'll lose her hair, and her melodious singsong voice, her trademark feature, may weaken. But will she ever feel sorry for herself? I don't think she'd know how.

As an analytical person, science-oriented, I find it hard to ignore the medical realities here, but my mother in her congenital sunniness is strangely persuasive. And so I have no choice but to believe her: She's not old, and she's not sick.

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