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Breast Cancer, It's All About Perspective


An optimistic attitude can prove effective in battling a cancer diagnosis, no matter who you are.

In a recent interview with Amy Robach, Shannen Doherty shared the news that her breast cancer is now stage 4 — and has been for over a year.

I listened carefully to the interview. I wanted to hear what she was saying, but also what she was not saying. I watched her body language and my heart went out to her. As she wiped away tears, it was easy to see this diagnosis has been a difficult one.

Shannen is a well-known public figure, made popular by her role in the primetime series 90210; but she’s also a normal person just like you and me.

During the interview, when asked why she waited so long to share her news with the public, Ms. Doherty explained the wait was due to personal reasons. She mentioned when people learn someone has stage 4 cancer, they’re treated as dead men walking. Her statement may have shocked some but will more than likely resound with others who’ve shared the same news with family or friends. Those people understand the special kid glove treatment Ms. Doherty is speaking about. After all, stage 4 is the last stage before death.

While many live with metastatic disease for years after diagnosis, no one is guaranteed that outcome.

There are so many factors that contribute to a long life after a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The variables include countless undeterminable factors such as family history, age at diagnosis, lifestyle, and treatment options.

Shannen’s positive attitude was inspirational. Though dealing with a recurrence, she still wants to be a beacon of light to others. She still wants to be open about her diagnosis and treatment. She wants to be able to have honest conversations with others.

In the interview, Ms. Doherty offered a profound statement.

“Our life doesn’t end the minute we get that diagnosis; we still have some living to do.” In my humble opinion, no greater words could have been spoken to those of us with cancer.

Perspective can play a key role in survivorship. With a positive attitude, those with cancer find optimism helpful for maneuvering through difficult and challenging situations.

In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, a positive attitude is beneficial as stated: “An important finding in recent studies is that dispositional optimism during the earlier phase of the cancer trajectory is a strong predictor of long-term positive outcomes in patients with cancer.”

Though Ms. Doherty’s been dealing with breast cancer since March of 2015, her optimism is still apparent and is hopefully an inspiration to us all.

When celebrities share their cancer stories, its easy for others to rally around them and offer support but what happens to the every day person fighting his/her own cancer battle? Some may find they fight alone. If optimism can aid in the fight, shouldn’t we choose to add it to our arsenal of defenses? And if the power of positivity can add even one minute or one day to our lifespan, shouldn’t we want that? I think most of us would echo a resounding yes.

We wish the very best to Ms. Doherty as she begins this next phase of treatment. And hopefully she’ll know her positive attitude has already affected some of us for the better.

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