In “The Reality of Facing Cancer” ( thewalrus. Paul Adams challenges myths about the psychology of cancer by weaving his late wife’s experience with research showing that personality, fighting spirit, and positive thinking are not associated with cancer onset, progression, or survival. People with cancer, psychologists, and oncologists have all been drawing attention to the dark side of this messaging around those who survive cancer. Adams adds an important perspective that shows how the burden of positivity extends beyond the patient to their loved ones, interfering with the intimacy that grows in realism.
Adams’s heartfelt and thoughtful article about the often unhelpful cultural baggage accompanying terminal illness spoke to me. I was the sole caregiver for my kid sister when she was in palliative care with terminal endometrial cancer.
Viscerally, I took every speed bump, such as a pain crisis or episode of vomiting, as a defeat. Fortunately, none of her friends, or mine, said anything about the power of the spirit triumphing against cancer or about how she was doing so well that she must be able to beat this.