Prayer, hope and a strong belief have had scientific backing to show that it has positive effects on the success of the outcome.
But is optimism, idealism and positivity always a good thing? Ask me this question a few years back, and the chirpy, everything is going to be all right girl in me will tell you, "yes!"
But having gone through some rough stuff like cancer -- twice, and dealing with some rough stuff now, like lymphoedema and the loss of hearing in my right ear, my answer would be a little different.
I have often wished for some friends that would curse the world with me and mope alongside me. I have often wished for a "that sucks" response rather than a "don't worry you can get through this." I have often wished to just share my thoughts and feelings about how crappy I feel rather than how I have overcome the disappointments and fears.
It's not about sympathy or even about empathy. It is more about being given a safe space to feel crappy for a moment, or even a day or two or three. It is about validating ones weakness as much as ones strength, because we all have both. It is about having a companion that will truly feel with us.
Being a Christian and being surrounded by many Christians, we are often taught to have hope, to have faith and to press on towards the goal. The Bible teaches us to have an eternal mindset and to have a thankful heart. It includes great wisdom to help us get through life with verses like "do not be anxious" and "trust in The Lord and lean not on your own understanding."
I believe in and try to practice all of these. In fact my faith has been one of the main factors that has helped me through my trials. It is the hope that God gives me for healing and for a renewed life that keeps me fighting. It is because of His love and grace for me that I can always find things to be thankful for -- when I can get over myself.
However, when I am in the pit and in the ring for what I feel is too long I am often tired of hearing the words "have faith" or "be courageous." I know that stuff. Most of us, whether you're religious or not have the general knowledge of looking on the bright side and thinking positively as we defend and recover from the punches that are thrown our way.
Cancer patients are often told that they're warriors, an inspiration of strength, that if they overcome cancer they can overcome anything. And overtime, like affirmations, we will come to believe it but we will also begin to feel as if we must live up to this -- so that fear must not be shown, that tears dare not be shed, that disappointment cannot be expressed.
So a controversial tip -- be a little melancholic, talk about the bright future but also talk about the grit and grime. Be the grouch sometimes because in doing so you'll allow the person you're supporting to be real, to release the emotions and to come back up triumphant.