Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
woman at top of mountain slipping and starting to fall down the mountain face

Staying Positive is a Goal, Not a Constant

When you come to these forums to read what others have to say about dealing with lung cancer on a day in and day out basis, you mostly find truth, but it is often tinged with lots of cheeriness. I think that’s good and have often touted the importance of maintaining a positive outlook as a primary factor to living one’s best life while faced with cancer.

Through times of weariness

What I, and many of my friends, tend not to write about very often is the fact that we go through periods of weariness dealing with it all. In a way, that seems very wrong, especially considering that, statistically, most of us writing these pieces should have succumbed to our stage four prognoses years ago. Yet, I find myself in this predicament this summer.

It’s not all due to the cancer that remains in my body, or the symptoms that remain constant month after month, like a cough that just refuses to be soothed by standard types of treatment. It’s due to “stuff” going on in my life and at my work that cause me more stress than is surely healthy, especially for someone fighting cancer.

The weight of stress

Stress, while perhaps not an accepted cause of cancer, is known to weaken the immune system and raise one’s risk for depression and other physical ailments. To borrow the words of Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson, “stress makes your body more hospitable to cancer.”1

I don’t need to regale you with all of my private burdens, but suffice it to say that we all must deal with struggles and challenges in our lives. What sometimes makes this harder for me is the feeling that there is little I can do to lessen these situations without creating added stress in other ways. Searching for a new job, for instance, knowing my current employer has treated me very well regarding my medical needs, even if I feel other reasons for contemplating this possibility, raises thoughts of great uncertainty.

Wondering if some of my chronic and/or recurrent symptoms like the cough, ankle swelling and significant heartburn might be related to serious heart concerns weighs on my mind. Here’s where I must live by the words I and so many of my friends often say to others. I must “stand strong and be my own advocate.” I’ve taken myself off to the pulmonologist, only to receive a diagnosis and treatment that has not been helpful, which leads me to question its accuracy. I’ve seen my nurse practitioner about the cough and major ankle swelling following a recent overseas trip. After our conversation and a brief exam, she felt there was no need for concern about heart issues. And she may be absolutely right. But the questions still weigh on me.

Climbing back up the mountain

Perhaps you are like me and try to just take things in stride. I have a tendency to suck it up and tough it out. Instead of insisting on further testing, I too often wait and just deal. This time, I have another scan coming up soon. No matter what it shows, I think I may press to have some further heart testing, just to be sure. When we treat symptoms, without success I might add, and don’t try to find the definite cause, well, it seems we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

So, I’m just keeping it real. Sometimes people like me, who truly believe maintaining an attitude of positivity DOES make a huge difference in battling lung cancer, also slip into our own valleys for a time. You know what that makes us? The same as you and every other person. It makes us human.

Now…I just need a little help climbing back up the mountain. How about it? Anyone? Got a rope?

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Heid, Markham. How stress affects cancer risk. Retrieved from:


  • jdpatraw
    1 year ago

    I would say take one step at a time to change things. Right now deal with the heart issue. Go forward and get your answers. Once that is done and you feel your questions have veen answered and you get the results go on from there. Great your boss/job have been great about your health issues but if your job is too stressful for you it might be time to check our other employment opportunities. You don’t need the stress from both. That being said maybe as you check our opportunities you might find the position you have now is the best for you. It does not hurt to check things out. That being said I a retired. When I chose to retire the fact that my job was so stressful for me helped me make that decision. I was cancer free at the time. Do what you find is best for you and not what other people think. I hope this helps. Know that I also have down times and you know what we can have those. We are human!!

  • Karen Loss author
    1 year ago

    Thank you for your thoughts. We all have our own journeys to maneuver through, but one thing most all of us share is the multitude of medical appointments along with the questions that sometimes don’t have ready answers. Still, I think most of us realize that the best we can do is continue to live our lives in the best way we know how and hopefully make wise decisions along the way. We are indeed human, with all the strength and frailty that includes.

  • Sunny
    1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing this, I too have been called the optimistic one, the strong one. I am in remission for 2 years, stage IV and I often get depressed. I have no reason to be, but it happens. I read somewhere that people like us may get depressed. We are a new breed. I think it’s a form of PTSD. I was diagnosed stage IV in 2010 and was totally convinced I would die, but I didn’t. The next scan could bring life changing results, this is a stressful journey. One day at a time.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 year ago

    Easily said then done sometimes, but hang in this tough fight. Warm regards.

  • Karen Loss author
    1 year ago

    Hi Sunny. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think many of us understand exactly where you’re coming from. Facing down the beast that is metastatic lung cancer does have its elements of trauma, so it is really no surprise that it can affect us profoundly. Sometimes those effects pop up unexpectedly at the most inopportune times. Still, we have a strength to get through the rough patches in our journeys that we may not have recognized within ourselves prior to our diagnosis. As you say, one day at a time.

  • Margot moderator
    1 year ago

    Thinking of you Sunny. We’re here for you. Warmly, Margot, Team

  • Lucky
    1 year ago

    Great post! No doubt being alive almost 8 years with stage 4 lung cancer is amazing in itself. I try to maintain a positive attitude yet difficult at times, every day. Wishing all good health despite a cancer diagnosis.

  • Karen Loss author
    1 year ago

    Thank you for your thoughts. Allowing ourselves to sometimes be down makes it easier to appreciate the times when we climb right back up the hill with determination and a smile. Continued success to you as you approach your next milestone in your lung cancer journey.

  • Hill
    1 year ago

    I’m just beginning this venture with my husband, and have the highs and lows. Like you, I try to count my blessings and they are too numerous to mention. I’m thankful for creation and my family. That I have always had a nice roof over my head and good food,medical care, and been surrounded by great family and friends.I have had excellent transportation & good learning facilities of various kinds. I have known babies and young children who have died way too soon.My life has been filled to the brem. I have a husband I have loved for forty years, four grown children and seven precious granddaubghters.My life has been abundant. Now I learn about and am a caretaker for a loved one with lung cancer. My learning continues.

  • Karen Loss author
    1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is, indeed, a venture, a journey, a trek as I sometimes call it. There is uneven terrain, and we have to allow for some of the dips as well as the hilltops. You and your family surely have my very best wishes as you gain knowledge and experience on the way forward.

  • Poll