My Malignant Melanoma

Seanty's experiences with Metastatic Malignant Melanoma. Part of Email us direct at

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Positive mental attitude

I've never liked flying, whether its because you are relying on lots of people you don't know doing their jobs properly, whether the technology does not seem trustworthy due to lack of understanding, or whether my life so far has taught me that what might go wrong will.

I've caught myself in the past more or less willing the plane to stay in the air, on some level believing that my input was required for us to get there safely. I've never been able to sleep on a 'plane, as without my effort of will or worry it would surely crash.

And so far it has always worked. I've never been on a 'plane that crashed yet.

All of this, and I'm a professional engineer, with some idea of how the 'plane works, the infinitesimal chance of crashing, the systems put in place to make sure that people do their jobs properly. Doesn't stop the monkey part of me from generating superstitious belief systems.

The cancer patient and those who love them are in a similar situation, reliant on technology, unknown people doing their jobs and luck. No surprise then that many of them become superstitious. One of the commonest forms of this superstition is the belief that positive mental attitude affects the course of cancer.

Now, it has been shown in well designed, powerful studies that this is not in fact the case. Believing in PMA as affecting in any way the course of cancer in the face of the weight of evidence against it is simple-minded superstition. It is no more rational or justifiable than believing that a lucky hat or rabbit's foot will cure cancer.

PMA is in fact quite possibly worse than useless:

I have noticed that the overwhelming majority of those on the internet ramming the supposed benefits of PMA down the throats of cancer patients are not themselves cancer patients. They are "carers".

Perhaps they would simply like us to put a happy face on our life-threatening illness, rather than bothering them with our fears, grief, helplessness, and rage, and forcing them to confront their own.

Perhaps they would like us to believe that if we don't, we will be to blame for our own deaths. That'll learn ya!

Perhaps after silencing the person they were supposed to be caring for, they are under the impression they have made them happier, as they no longer express their "negative" emotions. Repressing these emotions does not stop them, they just pop up elsewhere.

Perhaps they are utterly unaware of their own motivation.

Whatever the case, it is unhelpful to spread this nonsense. A realistically optimistic attitude is thought to best facilitate adjustment to the circumstances of cancer. Pretending that cancer is a 100% positive experience, or worse yet, trying to bully cancer patients into pretending that it is on pain of death is not helpful.

I've started blogging on whatnow as well, the feed is here

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