Whether change is from a death, disease, divorce, depression, disappointment, or other disaster, hey, the trauma ended, move on; get over it. Were it so simple. So, I’ll share a secret here first. I’ve figured out what ‘cured’ my PCS (Post Change Syndrome).
Two years ago, Dr. Simpson, exasperated, asked what kept me in sadness when the cancer was in remission. Tears were my silent answer. My risk remains high, so imagine my wonderment that (for the most part) I did get over PCS. But someone recently reminded me of my low time in PCS. Now, with my brain finally engaged again, I’m on a quest to belatedly answer Dr. Simpson’s question.
Origin of the Quest
Trail the Westie’s sensitive terrier nose worked the ground zig-zag, seeking the source of some fantastic smell no human nose appreciated. His determined quest was to sniff the butt of the dog ahead. My intent, compatible with his, was to stay close and keep him safe.
We overtook a shy blind dog that dove behind her human’s legs. Larry, the human, and I untangled leashes and exchanged names. While the dogs lapped sun-warmed glacial water, we admired the magnificence. Larry is also an aspiring writer so next we traded domain names. And then Larry’s reaction to my blog on living breastlessly: ‘wow, you have a great outlook’.
This response still surprises me. During and since diagnosis I met many with outstanding outlooks. I expected my blog on joyful breastlessness would prove mundane. A chance encounter plus a brain freshly freed of chemo fog launched my quest.
The Questions for the Quest
Being passionately curious, I unleashed my inner terrier:
- what is a great outlook?
- what are the qualities that facilitate a great outlook despite adversity?
- are those qualities common? and
- can those qualities be taught, learned, or are they innate (you got ‘em or you don’t)?
I asked my research assistant, Dr. Google, for data on great outlook after adversity. Hmm, 31,100,000 choices. Nap time.
Methodology of the Quest
From the hammock under the apple tree I undertook conflict analyses, rigorous research, and thinking about PCS. No apple fell so I studied Trail’s perfect repose for inspiration.
Findings from the Quest
1. what is a great outlook?
A great outlook is whatever gets someone through PCS feeling sane and healthy on the other side. If it isn’t sane and healthy, it likely isn’t a great outlook. The twin tyrannies of positive thinking and good attitude are privileged as the ‘right’ way to weather PCS’s aftermath, but there’s different adaptive capacities. Cancer Curmudgeon, for example, has a feisty attitude that brooks no guff. It works for her and I always read her posts.
2. what are the qualities that facilitate a great outlook despite adversity?
In my hammock-based analysis, there are four qualities that made it easier to walk through the PCS goop that clung to my shoes. In order that I employed them, they are:
- Resilience: treatments for Triple Negative Breast Cancer were horrible and toxic and I felt gratitude.
- Mindset: I don’t quit.
- Optimism: it will get better.
- Discipline: if that’s my goal, whatever it takes, I’ll do.
3. are those qualities common?’
There are loads of blogs about how breast cancer made someone better, wiser, or nearer God or to life’s meaning. But the qualities that enable the process for doing any of those (should you want to) are not commonly joined together in the blogosphere. These qualities haven’t, previous to this, been identified as the cure to the PCS I invented.
4. can those qualities be taught, learned, or are they innate (you got ‘em or you don’t)?
I’m pleased to report the four qualities of a kick-ass great outlook are indeed quantifiable, measurable and attainable. Resilience and Mindset are teachable traits, Optimism is learnable although it’s also associated with genetics, and Discipline is just a bitch that has to be wrestled to the ground like a runaway.
Conclusions from the Quest
We’ve fragile creatures, body and soul; anyone’s a diagnosis away from disaster. A sudden verdict or invitation can spin us like a tilt-a-whirl midway ride. Recovery from dramatic life altering change is a process. If PCS isn’t a real condition, it sure felt like it when I was inside its grip.
Each person’s cause of PCS is path dependent. Mine can be summed up as: “how do I avoid premature death?” My experience was of PCS as a giant mental vacuum. For me, PCS was the suboptimal edge of panic over what foods to eat, how to rest enough, when to exercise, who’d diagnose new symptoms, where to meditate, why no follow up treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
Dr. Simpson asked a simple question: what was keeping me stuck in PCS? I didn’t know the answer. The answer I now give Dr. Simpson is to a different question: what got me unstuck from PCS?
Resilience Mindset Optimism Discipline
The next four posts will muse about each quality.