Thank you. Your letters and emails expressing your prayers, good wishes and concern for my recovery are overwhelming. I always do everything I can to answer each correspondence, so if you haven’t yet received a reply, you will. Thank you for your care and concern. It strengthens and encourages me.
After expressing encouragement, the most asked question is, “How can you remain so positive while facing so much?” It’s a question I have been asked most of my adult life.
The answer is simple but not easy.
I remain strong and positive because of my chosen optimism. I say chosen because it is a choice. I could crumble under the weight of stage 4 stomach cancer and mentally give into it and my body will quickly do the same. Or I can expect the best outcome and fight with my medical team to extend my life and overcome the odds.
It is a choice I’ve made. Like I said, “simple but not easy.”
It’s simplistic to say I choose to be optimistic when you look at the data. Fewer than 5% of the people afflicted with stomach cancer live five years. It’s easier to give in and say I have a 95% chance of dying, rather than making the harder assumption, that I’ll be one of the 5% to live beyond five years. I must sell and convince myself I’m a “five percenter!”
If I just look at the data and take it at face value, I’d begin believing I have no responsibility for my health. The numbers already tell me what will happen. The data insinuates there is no patient impact on who lives and dies. I know that’s not true and understand the choices I make about my health do have a profound impact.
I am not powerless in this fight.
One of the important aspects I’ve learned about surviving stomach cancer is my overall health, so I make a list and carry it with me as a reminder of all the positives I have going for me in my battle:
• I don’t smoke and have never smoked or used tobacco in any way.
• I’m not overweight.
• I am not a diabetic.
• I don’t have any other health problem.
• I walk and keep moving.
OK. That all works in my favor. What else?
Almost every doctor or medical professional will tell you that the attitude and outlook of the patient plays an important role in treatment and recovery. I believe I will be a survivor.
The next question is always, “How can just believing help? If I believe I will survive, my mind and body conspire together to make it so.
Think logically about this: If I believe I can survive, I wake up in the morning and get my body moving. I go about my daily business believing I’ll still be here in five years and plan accordingly. My mind believes and my body responds.
Of course, I realize, as I always say, there are some medical realities that optimism may not overcome. No person lives forever. There is always an end of life here on earth, but numerous studies prove that optimistic people live longer, happier, and more successful lives than pessimistic people do.
So, a long answer to your question of how I can remain positive under the weight of a negative diagnosis. It is a simple answer but not easy in execution. It all begins with the choice to live and not die.
A charming young lady, 91 years young, wrote to me this week saying, “I was born a pessimist and I rely on you and your column to keep me going.”
She was born a pessimist? Now she can be a “born again” optimist! In the ninth decade of her life, she’s reading this column and using it to change her mindset. You are never too old — it is never too late to join us! As I always say, it begins with a choice. Make the decision to change your life and become more optimistic. You really can do it.
Imagine what our nation and world would be like if the majority chose optimism. Optimists don’t riot, loot, or destroy property. A nation of optimists would not act this way, but that’s a subject for next week.
For me, I choose to live, and in addition to longer life, optimistic people are happier, healthier, and more productive than others.
Why would you choose otherwise?
Gary W. Moore is a freelance columnist, speaker, and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com.
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