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Attitude Is a Major Component of Cancer Journey

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In 2007, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After radical prostatectomy surgery, radiation and two years of hormone therapy, I have learned that "attitude matters."

My mother died of colon cancer when I was just entering college. What I best remember of her 15-year fight was her attitude. When family and friends were trying to pull themselves together after each surgery, my mother was always trying to get back to work, back to her garden, back to living. My dad had a rich life and, at age 78, died of prostate cancer. On his last day, he walked around the block carrying his oxygen bottle and stopped to listen to the cardinals sing.

As a wellness coach I've worked hard to take care of my body, but my cancer journey has taught me that a body disconnected from the mind-spirit connection can easily get lost. One of my favorite body-mind-spirit authors, Brian Luke Seward, has written many books and articles about stress management, resilience, meditation and attitude. In his book "Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water" he suggests that our "attitudes are the paintbrush with which we color the world."  

What paintbrush have you colored your world with today? Some days our self-talk can become so negative or fear-based that our thoughts become what I call "stinking thinking" or "toxic thoughts." This negative thinking not only affects the way we feel, but also how we act and treat ourselves and others.  

How do you stop stinking thinking? The experts say there are several things we can do to shift to a positive mind-set. The one I like the most is GRATITUDE. One of my favorite little books on gratitude is M.J. Ryan's "Attitude of Gratitude." It's 180 pages packed full of stories and affirmations. Remember that gratitude is like a flashlight, lighting up what's already there and then we no longer take it for granted.

FishtanksTry this. Next time you walk around M. D. Anderson, take a look at how the physical environment has been set up to have a positive effect on attitudes. I bet, like me, you have a favorite painting? I love the canyon series that hangs in our Cancer Prevention Building. Then there are the panels in the hallways that tell the stories of patients' cancer journeys and employees' dedication to our mission. Those always inspire me. I also really love the fish tanks, as they provide an instant getaway. They are so big that I often imagine I am scuba diving, which instantly turns my attitude.  

The Place of ... wellness also provides many classes and creative opportunities for patients and families that positively affect attitude.  

As a cancer survivor and wellness coach, my life experience has taught me that attitude is a big part of my cancer journey and how I greet, meet and grow each day. This is a journey we all share with so many others, and M. D. Anderson has an attitude about fighting cancer.

Fighting cancer takes more than good diagnoses and the best treatments. It also takes a staff with an attitude of being the best at what they do and creating an environment in which patients are not just empowered, but are given a cancer-fighting attitude that they share with others as they walk their cancer journeys.

Resources
Cancer and Attitude (American Cancer Society)
The Right Attitude for Fighting Breast Cancer (Yahoo Health)

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Check out Ricardo Antonio Chavira – star of ABC’s Desperate Housewives – as he shares his personal experiences as a breast cancer caregiver to his mom and two sisters. Ricardo recently partnered with The Wellness Community (TWC) to launch the C.A.R.E. (Cancer Advocate Resources and Education) Campaign for breast cancer caregivers , which provides free resources, tips and support for those caring for a loved one with breast cancer.

You can hear his story and learn about these resources this Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 1pm PST/4pm EDT by tuning into a special episode of the Internet radio show Frankly Speaking About Cancer on the VoiceAmerica™ Network’s Health & Wellness Channel at: http://www.modavox.com/voiceamericacms/WebModules/HostModaview.aspx?HostId=546&ChannelId=5&Flag=1.

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