This article explores how people with cancer are able to find happiness and positivity in their life.
A decade ago, I had the good fortune of working with two immensely talented and dedicated clinical psychologists. The first of these (Ms. AA) helped my department of cancer surgery at St. John’s Hospital, Bangalore form a team working exclusively with breast cancer patients, including setting up a breast cancer support group called “Aadhara”. Three hundred and seventy-eight breast cancer patients were provided psychosocial counseling and were followed up for a median period of seven years.1
In the year 2013, as a co-guide for her (Dr. MB) doctoral thesis, I observed another clinical psychologist spend several hours working with our breast cancer patients. It was an enriching experience to see the positive impact she had on the well-being of these patients.2
The full-text publications for the research papers generated from these interactions are accessible at the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health and are an enlightening read. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843554/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6388591/
Human beings are remarkably resilient, and adversity often brings out our best. All of us have the capacity to overcome challenges and come out stronger. “Posttraumatic growth (PTG) is the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises. It is manifested in a variety of ways, including an increased appreciation for life in general, more meaningful interpersonal relationships, an increased sense of personal strength, changed priorities, and a richer existential and spiritual life”.3
PTG is seen in 60% to 95% of cancer patients. After a period of time spent coping, many people with cancer report being happier than they were before their diagnosis! Learning active (problem-focused) coping skills, support from close family, and spirituality are major factors that positively influence PTG.
The reader is referred to the articles cited below for a more exhaustive discussion.
Alexander, A., Kaluve, R., Prabhu, J. S., Korlimarla, A., Srinath, B. S., Manjunath Suraj, Patil, S., Gopinath, K. S., & Sridhar, T. S. (2019). The Impact of Breast Cancer on the Patient and the Family in Indian Perspective. Indian journal of palliative care, 25(1), 66–72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6388591/
Barthakur, M. S., Sharma, M. P., Chaturvedi, S. K., & Manjunath Suraj. (2016). Posttraumatic Growth in Women Survivors of Breast Cancer. Indian journal of palliative care, 22(2), 157–162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843554/
Richard G. Tedeschi & Lawrence G. Calhoun (2004) TARGET ARTICLE: “Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence”, Psychological Inquiry, 15:1, 1-18, DOI: 10.1207/s15327965pli1501_01)