Dialog Box



23 Dec 2019 at 12:00 AM

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”

- Emily Dickinson

Hope is confidence in the future.

One of the greatest challenges the cancer community faces is finding the balance between the ‘reality’ of the illness and hope. For some, any hope is extinguished from the moment they are given a cancer diagnosis. For some, a diagnosis represents an imminent battle, which can fuel a fire of zealous hope. For still others, hope waxes and wanes based on current circumstances. Has there been a recent optimistic test result? Or is there a new symptom?

However the concept of hope is elusive while we live in a research-rich, science- and data-driven world. We know the poor morbidity and mortality statistics for some cancers all too well, however there are always exceptions to the rule. There are patients who are started on palliative therapy who then go on to become long-term survivors.

Some people place their hope in everything outside or around them – treatment measures, scan results, blood counts, etc. However this external focus can be precarious when things go wrong.

Others place their hope within themselves – whether that be their inner strength, their faith, or their belief in the way the world works on a more spiritual level.

When discussing caregiver interactions with patients diagnosed with metastatic cancer, the vast majority wanted their doctors to be realistic yet also individualise their approach working with them. The other factors that gave the patients more hope were: doctors offering most up-to-date treatments, doctors knowing the patient’s cancer really well, doctors reassuring the patients about good pain control, telling them all the treatment options, and using humour. There were 6 styles used to convey hope: realism, emotionally supportive and responsive, facilitating coping with dying, providing information, emphasising therapeutic options, and sharing personal information. In all of these, the clinician’s aim needs to be fostering realistic hopefulness.

“Hope is… at one and the same time both an anticipation of something positive and a positive acceptance of the inevitable.”

Perhaps we should instead view ‘hope’ as a reflexive response to uncertainty, a means of self-preservation through adversity. A way of life. A choice to take each moment, live it wholly, without focusing on the next. For there is no such thing as false hope, there is just hope. And sometimes that just means getting on with it, enjoying good quality of life even when life expectancy is uncertain.

“We may need to grieve [one hope] to allow another to bloom.” – Thiel and Harris

Category: News & Media
Tags: hope; challenge; reality; diagnosis;,
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