Archive for March, 2010

Positive Mental Attitude – PMA. Is this the best approach to a cancer diagnosis?

This week the business community in Dorset, where I live, is reeling from the loss of one of its members. Sarah Howells, or Pash as she was better known, was the embodiment of a Positive Mental Attitude. When diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, she began a blog www.pmapash.wordpress.com to record how she was responding. Her attitude inspired everyone she came in contact with, both in person and online. Even when it later came out that this aggressive cancer had spread and her life would be cut short, Sarah had a positive attitude to her own death. She wrote that she had everything she could want in life – a loving family, friends and her true love – and so was not afraid to die.
So it seems this PMA of Sarah’s was a wonderful thing. But I think it comes with some problems. When someone has such a strong PMA it can be deceptive. Friends and family may feel that this passion can overcome the most overwhelming of hurdles – even though the medical situation is far from hopeful. This can then make it much harder if things do take a turn for the worse.
The other problem I am aware of is that the positive mental attitude can be hard to maintain all the time. People with cancer can feel that they are letting the side down when their feelings wobble and they veer into depression. Sometimes they even put a brave face on things and suffer in isolation rather than share how they feel, or use PMA as a mask for denial. Thankfully this did not apply to Sarah – she wore her heart on her sleeve (or at least her blog), and was not afraid to say when she felt things were against her.
But yes, there are benefits too. When you have a positive mental attitude it can carry you forward when nothing else will. And there are amazing stories of survival against the odds. So if someone you know with cancer has a strong positive mental attitude, rejoice. Just be aware of the pitfalls and ready to be with them on their down days or if all the PMA in the world is just not enough.


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Death, dying – these are dirty words in our society. In our pursuit of medical excellence we have extended life far beyond what our bodies would be capable of without that medicine. This is a wonderful gift for those who get to share their lives for longer with those they love. But death is still natural. It is still something we all reach, and many believe only a stepping-stone to a quite different life in spirit.
So why do we find it so hard to face death – our own, or that of someone we are close to? Our society does not make it easy for us, because we have learned to see death as a failure, and an ending. (more…)

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