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Monday, October 7, 2013

Staying Positive when Facing a Serious Illness

Katherine Barton, MD, FACS
Contributed by Katherine Barton, MD, FACS.
PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center, Breast Surgeon

Patients often ask me, “Did I get the breast cancer because I took estrogen?”  “Did my husband get these gallstones because of his diet?”  “Had I come in sooner, would we have caught this earlier and had a better prognosis?”

I try to diffuse these questions without really answering them because, although we know certain risk factors exist, we never really KNOW what causes disease.  We all know examples: a non-smoking individual that gets lung cancer or a thin runner who gets heart disease because of bad genetics.

I think that it is important to remember this so that we don’t self-flagellate too much when we do end up ill.  So often we blame ourselves… even blaming ourselves for something like cancer.  Perhaps we feel we deserve it for something “bad” we did in the past.  I see this all too often.  One patient of mine even showed me a letter from a “friend” stating that she was going to pray for her sins (because she developed breast cancer).

Prevention is a very important part of medicine and we should all strive to live a healthy lifestyle.  Quit smoking, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress in our lives, eat a well-balanced diet including lots of fruits/ vegetable/ and omega-3-fatty acids, etc.  But please don’t beat yourself up for being human.

In fact, I think this is the key ingredient to success in whatever healthy pursuit you are attempting (whether its quitting smoking or losing weight or starting an exercise program or reducing stress in your life).  You have to forgive yourself for your slip-ups and start over again.  Tomorrow is a new day.  So… whatever you have been trying to achieve, start today with a positive “can-do” attitude and do not torture yourself for yesterdays “ice cream sundae”, “couch-potato TV watching” or that “quick cigarette” while on break.  Forgive and try again!  It’s been shown that those who keep trying are ones that are successful!  GOOD LUCK!

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