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How do I help my parent with cancer stay positive and look on the bright side?

7 answers | Last updated: Jul 05, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have heard that a positive attitude is very important in healing cancer, but my mother, who has lung cancer, is very negative and discouraged. What kinds of things can I say to help her feel more positive?


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Gloria Nelson is a senior oncology social worker at the Montefiore-Einstein Medical Center in Bronx, New York.
95% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

This very issue is why I call the support group I run "Strength Through Laughter" -- because it's so important to find those moments when you can laughor See also:
Cancer and the Single Patient: A Special Need for Help

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feel positive, even if you're laughing through your tears. The most important thing is to never stop hoping. It doesn't help to be dishonest and discount what's happening; when your parent's in pain and suffering, you want to acknowledge that. But you also want to help your mother look for hope whenever she can.

A patient of mine said something the other day that was so positive and helpful that I wrote it down to use again later. This woman, who's very old and sick, said, "They say there's a one-in-300 chance that a person with my diagnosis will get better, but how do I know I'm not that one person?" You just have to think that way when you're going through treatment, because what else are you going to do? Encourage your mother to think of herself as number one and to think about things that make her happy -- even small things, like a vase of flowers on the table.

Another important strategy for helping your mother keep a positive attitude is to empower her to stay away from people who make her feel sad or discouraged. One of our slogans in our group is to stay away from negatives. We laugh about it and say, "Screw anyone who brings us down!" Sometimes people think they're expressing sympathy by telling a cancer patient about their own or another person's illness or sad story, but that's really not helpful at all. Encourage your mom to feel comfortable saying that she doesn't want to hear about other people's sad moments right now. It's okay for either of you to tell people that she needs her strength to go through treatment, and she needs to be protected from things that bring her down.

Finally, celebrate everything -- birthdays, anniversaries, the end of chemo. Nothing's too small to celebrate. None of us ever knows how much time we have left, and this is a great way to make the most of what we have.


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89% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

I have stage IV cancer, and have never been happpier in my life....strange, huh? I am happy because I have a wonderful husband, two great kids, a terrific family, and lovely friends. I have had a great career, and have accomplished all my life goals. Eveyday, I try to something good for someone else, and that makes me feel good. Am I super special? No, no, no...I am just an ordinary person living the American dream.


57% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

I have Breast Cancer Stage IIIA and I am also very happy each day that God gives me, I tried to enjoy every moment of the day and night and I thank God for each day good or bad. With these disease I have learn a valuable lesson and that is to "love life" something that I did not do before and as bad as it sounds at least now with this cancer I can say that "I love life" and that I am very greatful. We only have to be positive and have Faith, everything will be better.


75% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm stage 3 cancer patient.I couldn't quit smoking until I was told I had cancer,the diagnoses made it very easy to quit.I can now breath without gasping, taste and smell the air again after 40 years of poisoning my body.It may sound very strange but the cancer diagnoses allowed me to find a new found strength,hope and love for myself and all things that are good and beautiful that I had forgotten I had and cancer can never take that from me.We all have these attributes inside us and life,every minute of it,even with the pain,is so precious.When I go I want to be filled with all the beauty life has given me witch far out ways the negative I hope these word help you and your mother and you have my prayers. Just remember that the power of positive thinking caries on to all those you touch,even a kind word or smile to a stranger will touch them in a positive way and in a small or big way creates a ripple effect that can carry a positive message to untold numbers of people. Life can be hard ,but I wouldn't miss it for second.I hope this helps as it helps me every minute of every day


100% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

I agreed with the comments, we all have to be very positive and try to be surrounded by positive people, I know sometimes this world can be cruel but lets don't get discourage and keep the fight, I am fighting my breast cancer by beeing positive and never losing Faith, I am scare of some of the comments on the pain that I will have but you know what, I will deal with it when I get it and maybe I will be OK or the miracle will occur, we never know. Now I am happy to see the sun and feel everything, I am even happy when it rains, we only have to be positive and do what makes us happy for whatever the time we have, only God knows how long we will be here on earth, so let's make the best of each day and keep on smiling. Love you all!!!! God bless you!!!!


A fellow caregiver answered...

I am my sister's caregiver, I CAIN'T HELP PUT CRY AND GET SICK WORRING ABOUT HER. i don't know how to answer her, IM SAD WATCHING HER SO SAD ALL THE TIME, SHE HAS BRAIN CANCER. SHE HAD BLADDER CANCER, AND THEN IT WHEN TO HER LUNG, HAD THEM CLEARED. she had a rough time we thogh she was clear. THEN SHE CAME DOWN WITH BRAIN CANCER, ME AND HER HUSBAND ARE GOING CRAZY. we NEED HELP, TO HELP HER GET THOUGH THIS, i HOPE YOU CAN GIVE US SOME ANSWERS. she keeps saying she is dying, she was just dynozodise with it. thank you very much


A fellow caregiver answered...

good luck god bless cant we just find a cure for this sensless disease hope and faith . u dont relize what love is unfortunally until some familt member gets sick. my father just got diagonosed 2 months ago then he got hit with 5 major side problems all cleared now but he is 3 weeks behind schedule for chemo he only had one but it shrank cells and they stayed that way. now he is thinking clearly he is fallen into depression. i am not saying my father has increadable will power cause he is my my father but he does. he was crushed by an elavator at 18 lived was parlizes and some how beet that to and became a barber who walks everyday for 42 years. i wish the best and people tell me take things day by day and its hard , its a learning process for everyone include. so god bless and we can do it