When you get the opportunity to help someone who desperately needs your help, it feels good to be that person. Here’s my push-up goal framed as timely: improving the lives of cancer patients by telling the stories of the thousands of people who got a proper diagnosis and timely medical treatment and, of course, playing an active role in this process.
I’ve seen people lose their entire life savings, or being in debt, due to their cancer treatment, and lives destroyed by the death of a loved one, which is why this piece is a valentine to the profession – reminding us why having a legal career can be an extraordinary calling. Perhaps it’s time that we employees in law firms borrow a page from positive psychology and implement self-compassion and self-care practices into our lives.
Use the art of reframing – find something positive in the negative
In the middle of all this turmoil, it’s very important to remember that optimism is the belief that a positive outcome lies ahead. A study conducted by the journal of the American Psychological Association found that those who maintained a positive attitude overall had a higher number of immune system T Cells which target and destroy cancer cells as quickly and efficiently as possible.
An example might help explain this: for people with cancer, especially some forms of cancer such as lung cancer, the blame can be cast on the patient because the disease is so strongly associated with smoking, and comments alluding to this can feel like you are being kicked when you are already down. However, not everyone who is diagnosed with lung cancer is a smoker.
If you focus on the judgement and negative opinions, you will either avoid or delay seeking treatment and you’ll experience regret, guilt, self-blame, and shame. Acknowledging what is true or false about your negative beliefs, but then remembering that both the positive approach and treatment programme can help cure or prolong your life, is a more helpful way to address this situation.
Every cloud has a silver lining
Life changes instantly after hearing the words: ‘You have cancer.’ It can be extremely debilitating and draining both emotionally and financially, and yet, despite it all, a surprising number of cancer survivors report finding a ‘silver lining‘ in their cancer experience.
However, the silver lining in a cancer diagnosis is awfully hard to find, even if you’re a very positively-centred person. The thing about silver linings is that they don’t take away pain or anxiety or nausea or fever. What they do is to provide balance, perspective, and more inner peace in response to the most difficult of circumstances, thus regaining the ability to solve it if it’s possible, or accept it if it’s not.
Sometimes, life throws everything at you in your darkest times. Although survival rates for some cancers have increased in recent years because of advances in screening and medical treatments, cancer patients face unique challenges as they confront poor prognoses and arduous treatments. The way you handle the darkness is the only way you will be able to come out and see the light. Looking for and finding some light in the darkness is a matter of choice.
Value life and squeeze every possible drop of meaning and enjoyment out of it.
Eddie Perry is a legal counsel at the Environmental Litigation Group. He has learned that life is meant to be a journey of lessons and that time and love are priceless.
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