Telling a cancer patient ‘to stay positive’ – inspiring or infuriating?

stay positive cancer

The topic of maintaining a positive attitude during cancer treatment is brought up time and time again. You can find endless words of encouragement online and there was even a study which looked into whether positive thinking could help fight the disease.

But what does “staying positive” actually mean and more importantly, how do people living with cancer feel about being told to think positively?

We recently received a message from someone in the cancer community who told us that she did not find quotes and messages of positivity helpful. She told us that she thinks “they put pressure on people to be, think, feel, and behave accordingly.” She added: “Not everyone floats through cancer and its treatment with serenity and support. Not everyone is positive the whole way through, nor should they feel obliged to be.”

This really got us thinking – how many other people feel this way? Is she an anomaly or is this the common consensus?

What better way to find out than asking you  – our fellow readers and social followers. So yesterday (Aug 24) we hosted our very first Twitter Chat to find out how you feel about cancer and positive thinking.

We had a great turn out, with participants including Bowel Cancer UK, Your Sim Pal, Tea & Chemo author Jackie Buxton and several cancer bloggers and vloggers. For more than an hour, opinions, (some shocking) stories and advice were shared using our Twitter Chat hashtag #LBWcancerchat.

In case you missed it, we’ve rounded up some of the responses to our cancer and positive thinking Twitter Chat below.

The first question we asked was, “Is ‘stay positive’ a helpful piece of advice for cancer patients?”

The second question we asked was, “What’s the most condescending/annoying advice you’ve heard following your diagnosis?”

To read all the tweets from the chat, visit us on Twitter and search #LBWcancerchat.




3 Replies to “Telling a cancer patient ‘to stay positive’ – inspiring or infuriating?”

  1. Its hard to stay positive all the time especially when you fèel exhausted all the time and have little or no hair left. Sometimes you cant help but feel miserable or depressed. Its hard work putting on a front for other people all the time especially when you just want to curl up and cry.

  2. I just naturally have had a positive attitude most of my life so was off to a good start. Maintaining that attitude has been helped by the fact that through five years of treatment I have not really felt sick or been in pain. Treatment symptoms have been minimal. I believe having a positive attitude helps, but would certainly be more difficult to maintain if in pain or feeling ill. Peoples’ comments don’t bother me. I realize it can be awkward when one is communicating with one who has cancer, “what do I say”, what do I do”. They usually mean well, and I take it as such.

  3. I have been told “how brave I am”. I’m not brave. I’m scared of death. I fight as hard as I can. My fight “song” is my 4 grands who I love so much and want to be in their future. And this cancer thing scares me. No, I’m not brave at all. I hate looking in the mirror and missing my hair. I hate seeing dark circles. “Get more rest” when I sleep more than half the day! Then I get ” get up and walk around the block” when walking around the house is exhausting at times. I pray to my God who I love so much to give me strength to be brave. Was in remission only 6 months. We were planning a celebration till my scan came back telling me more chemo was needed. My hair was growing back. And now it’s gone AGAIN. “It will grow back “. It DID grow back so I could loose it again. Been 16 months since I’ve been to the hairdressers. I went every 6 -8 weeks. Miss it. I sound so gloomy. I have wonderful friends and importantly family who are always there for me. My grands always make me laugh. I do have so much to be thankful for. Mostly my strong faith in God.

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