Friday, February 11, 2011

The Balance Between Optimism and Realism

There is a very difficult balance between these two things. Each day we "live with hope" as our friend Dennis says. But we are also faced with the "facts" about this disease, while at the same time we see the drug pipeline (hopeful) of melanoma therapies. We approach each segment of time (say in between scans) with this split perspective, that at times, makes it uncomfortable even between us.

There is a logical, rational reason for being optimistic and positive. It can make a difference in the outcome! Positive people who believe they can overcome disease do something to their bodies and it appears to add some magic ingredient to the process of becoming disease free. On the flip side, bad news happens, tumors pop up, scan results aren't what you hope for. If you aren't prepared for it, it can really knock you down emotionally. So as a coping strategy, it sometimes makes sense to think "realistically" (meaning based on statistics), so if it's bad news, you are ready, and if it's good news, it becomes really good news.

Each of us in the family has different coping strategies. One of us "expects the worst, and hopes for the best". It's a completely understandable approach. Especially when you've been battered emotionally by the initial news and how the disease has progressed to-date. I'm more a middle of the roader, which sometimes gets me into a little trouble. I recognize the severity of the disease, and the uncertainty of outcomes. We have the best care and a pathway of treatments (back-ups to back-up treatments) that minimally buys us time while new drugs get developed and available. I AM positive, but sometimes in a meeting with our oncologist, I will come out a little more measured in my thoughts, and have picked up what I heard about potential issues. Meagan will pick up on the positive aspects. It's not that we are both hearing what we want to hear, it is that there is often both positive information and uncertainty in every conversation.

Example: is a "little" growth in a tumor positive news or negative? Well, maybe both. If it's slow growing, it means we can buy time. Time that will allow us to try many treatments until one works. But it means the current treatment probably isn't working, which is not good, it's one more treatment left behind. You can't go to the dark place, and you can't live without hope. But you can recognize the realities and "data" that emerges from the process.

One of us might lean more to the positive aspects and the other to the realities. Neither is wrong, both are right. The inherent tension that comes out of this leads to productive discussions about where we are, what questions we need to ask, what are possible pathways. It's not disagreement, although sometimes it can feel like being on the razor's edge of lack of support by not being super positive. I keep saying, we will prevail. But it may not be a smooth path. We sometimes walk that razor's edge - yet we do it secure in the knowledge that each is looking out for each other's best interest and we have trust in each other's intentions and perspectives. Lots of love and hugging helps reconcile any ruffled feathers - we are in this together.

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