I’ve been ruminating on this post for a long time… so I thought I’d just get it out there.

It’s simply better to be optimistic than to try manipulate the outcome by magical thinking – if you’re prepared for the worst, it won’t happen. It’s a magical sort of contract. This sort of thinking really has no direct bearing on the outcome. Like carrying an umbrella to ensure it won’t rain. And further, what if preparing for the worst somehow predisposes you to pessimistic thinking and behaviors impacting your outcomes negatively? We don’t know how optimism vs pessimism work for sure …. At the very least, what if preparing for the worst makes you miserable and takes away from your enjoyment of life? That’s more obvious.

Lots of scholars have studied magical thinking and if you’re interested in it, there are lots of resources available (google is your friend here).

After a lot of work, and I mean, a lot of reframing and thinking – and some not so gentle pushing from some people I am really grateful to (Abigail and Marco), I’ve really come to believe that it’s simply better to be optimistic and positive.

Here are two ways that I can think about my own breast cancer. The first is to be optimistic – early detection, diagnosis, rapid treatment, good prognosis, good care. The initial surgery got it, and I am going through chemotherapy to lower the risk of future metastases, and I’ll have radiation to lower the risk of local recurrences. Then I’ll continue with meds to further reduce risk. And then there will be some lifestyle changes. The cancer is gone, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure it stays that way. That’s an optimistic approach, and but it’s also grounded in reality.

The other way to think about it is via magical thinking. I hope for the best, but just in case, I’ll be ready for the worst. I’m prepared for a recurrence, so by being prepared, I’ll hedge my bets and it won’t come back. Preparing for the worst is a mental process, and the implications of that process on behavior aren’t clear. It does mean that overall my thinking is less positive. And really, what’s the point of that? When the cancer never returns, then I’ve wasted all that time preparing for something that doesn’t happen when I could have been having fun. Sort of like washing my car to ensure it will rain or bringing an umbrella so it won’t. Sometimes it rains when you wash your car, but there’s no causal link. Same with bringing the umbrella.

So I leave the umbrella at home when it’s sunny, stop washing the car when I want rain, and don’t think about recurrences. But I know that I have to take care of myself. So I do my follow-ups, visit the doctor as needed. And it’s why I appreciate everyone’s prayers and good thoughts, because that makes it easier to be positive and optimistic – because it means that people want me to do well, too. And well, prayer and good thoughts are positive, optimistic too. Maybe they are magic, but it’s not hedge your bets magic – think in a negative way so that something opposite happens.

I may be back to work on this later….. but for now, I need to post this sucker!