I recently presented at the Cancer Support Community, MA South Shore, on a topic that is rarely talked about during the cancer journey: Gratitude. While it’s understandable that there is absolutely nothing to be thankful for when you or someone you know has cancer, there are ways to use this virtue to help you feel more victorious.
In the presentation, I shared a story about my mother’s cancer journey with breast cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer. A journey that never crossed her mind before because she had no family history of such cancers and had always made healthy choices in what she ate and did. My mother is still the healthiest person I know despite the cancers that she had.
Gratitude is the Secret Sauce to Resilience
2013 was the year that my mother celebrated being breast cancer free for 5 years, only to find out two months later that she had endometrial and lung cancer. Needless to say, 2013 and 2014 were the most difficult years of my mother’s life. Despite the fact that she remained strong in front of everyone, this was the period in her life that tested her spirituality and optimism. The only consistent practice besides prayer that she did to feel better was to be grateful for her many micro-moments of progress towards being cured; she said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. It was like breathing to her. She looked for any signs of progress—big or small—celebrated them, appreciated them. In other words, she mindfully used gratitude to feel better. Dr. Les Kertay was right when he said that, “The secret sauce to resilience is gratitude.” My mother uses the practice of gratitude as a way of feeling healthy and happy every single moment.
The Good Things during the Bad Times
My mother made her goals practical and simple. For many months they were: to feel good enough to move without anyone’s help, to sleep without bone pain, to taste her food, and to have her hair grow back so that she can look like a woman again in front of us (especially my father). It wasn’t until that time that I saw the power of gratitude fueling someone’s resilience and ability to feel good during bad times. Normalcy was what she strived for and not perfection.
How to Turn Your “Grrrr” Moments into “Grateful” Micro Moments
Not everyone is like my mother, who can find the good even during the tough times. She said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. While it was as easy as breathing to her, the great news is that anyone can learn gratitude. It’s a skill that requires repetition and a routine. According to researchers, the best way to cultivate a positive habit is to practice, practice, practice!
Here’s how to get started:
- Days – Try it for 7 days. If you find you like this practice continue for 2-3 more weeks
- Decide- What time will you be doing it? Pick a daily routine to practice gratitude.
- Document- Write your gratitude down on a pad of paper.
- Deed- Do a good deed and pass on your good and grateful vibe.
Try it and see how you like it. If you or someone you know are a cancer survivor or caregiver and need coaching on practical and proven ways to increase levels of optimism and resilience, contact Debbie Lyn at firstname.lastname@example.org
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