Of Power and Poison

Words of wisdom from The Secret Garden (a recovery must-read):

In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can’t be done, then they see it can be done — then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts — just mere thoughts — are as powerful as electric batteries — as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live

So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical, half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring, and also did not know that he could get well and stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new, beautiful thoughts began to push out the old, hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins, and strength poured into him like a flood… Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought come into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.

Where you tend a rose, my lad
A thistle cannot grow.

The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911.

About Andrea

Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

  • Rattan

    I have no profound words to say to someone so strong and determined as you. May you come out of this even stronger. My thoughts are with you, Mark and your children. You can and will do it. God bless.

  • Thank you, Rattan. We truly appreciate your support.

  • I've been itching to re-read this one lately too, for some reason, Andrea.

    It's been great hearing your voice on this blog, Andrea. I am pulling for you!

  • Thank you, Jen.

    We re-read it over the holidays and I never wanted it to end. I feel sorry for all the books that we've read since — it's a tough act to follow (any family reading suggestions for uplifting messages of recovery and hope are welcome, btw!)

  • Dottie

    Hi, Andrea,

    I stumbled across your blog, and just had to write. I am a breast cancer survivor. I had the cancer–with lymph node dissection, lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation, the whole nine yards–when my daughter was 4 1/2 and I was 39. She is now 21 and in her final semester of college. I won't tell you how old I am now; you can work that out. When I read some of your posts, I flashed back to my own journey through the dark times. I decided to write to you because if I can do it, you can, too!

    I won't say the cancer was a positive force in my life, but I will tell you that ever since I woke up in my own bed after the hospital stay, life has been sweeter. Sometimes I forget, but mostly I remember to notice the patterns the lace curtains cast in the early sunlight; the roughness of my husband's morning skin before he shaves; and the light touch of my daughter's hug when she comes home for a short visit. Life is precious, and I can tell from your posts that you are already further in your discoveries than I was at a similar point in my experience. You go for it all, girl, and keep in mind that someday you too will be 50 something, and you too will be changed and enriched by this unfortunate sorority of breast cancer survivors.

    I have no real words of wisdom, but I did find that drawing and writing helped me overcome the fear and pain of losing part of me. My daughter drew and “wrote” right along with me, and today she is an awesome artist! I like to think that those quiet moments after the chemo, when she and I had our heads together over some bit of paper or other, helped shape her into the awesome person she is today. My very best wishes for your continued strengthening and health. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, continually.

  • Dottie,

    I am so glad you found us. Thank you for taking the time to catch up on our story and for sharing with us your very personal, powerful and inspiring story. I spend a lot of time visualizing ourselves as a family of healthy, happy, mature, functional adults (parents, maybe grandparents) and it so comforting to hear that your little 4 year old traveled your journey and blossomed along with you.

    Thank you.

    Be well and be happy,

  • Well, there are other perspectives. I'd suggest each of us looks at Barbara Ehrenreich's “Bright-Sided”:


    Research has shown that, while a good attitude can keep people happier, there is little to no evidence that it actually improves health outcomes. Worse, the large-scale promotion of keeping your chin up, banishing bad thoughts, and seeing every challenge as an opportunity — especially for us cancer patients — can be detrimental.

    That's because it's *okay* to feel sad and crappy and depressed about a chronic and possibly terminal disease: these are the circumstances sadness and anger are built for! An endless focus on staying positive can make people feel like they are failures if they don't manage it, or, worse, that our diseases are our fault because we can't stay positive enough.

    Cancer can give you clarity and perspective. It can prompt you to be more loving with your family, to communicate better and more honestly, to decide what is important in your life and what you need to do. But that doesn't make it a good thing. We should not confuse the good things it draws from us with the terrible reality of our own malignant, ever-growing globs of mutant cells, which may kill us one day.

  • Thanks for following our story and for weighing in, Derek

    if I've stated here or elsewhere that cancer is a good thing, please let me know exactly where. It's obviously a typo

    how do you feel about my skating my way out of self-pity yesterday? Is that a no no too?

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