Stockdale Paradox & Cancer

I’ve been thinking about how we patients and caregivers approach our struggle with cancer. I’m four years after diagnosis and in my second year of remission and I realize that I’m still not done. This will be a long-term struggle. Even in my enviable position, I still have periodic scans, receive an experimental vaccine, research new treatment options, and participate in online discussion groups. At any time, I can be thrown back into the treatment phase.

I’m not done with cancer and cancer’s not done with me.

We’re told to “beat cancer”, “make cancer history”, and become a “survivor”. But as I look forward from here, I don’t see any of these happening soon. I don’t see a real and lasting conclusion that doesn’t end in my death. Which is not to say that cancer wins!

This has led me to wondering what I can learn from patients with chronic diseases such as depression, diabetes, heart disease, HIV, etc? What mental attitude do they adopt that lets them endure over the long haul? What if cancer patients adopt parts of this mindset? With a long-haul mindset, would we handle this better?

Today I was introduced to the Stockdale Paradox (video below) and I immediately saw great relevance to this situation. Admiral Stockdale was the senior Naval POW for over 7 years during the Vietnam War. His life lesson resonated with me. Perhaps it will help you define how you’ll endure this disease. I leave you to discover it as I did.

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