What Is Your Philosophy of Hope? Finding Peace When Doctors Don’t Agree

February 7, 2024 ◊ By Elisa Everts ◊

What Is Your Philosophy of Hope? Finding Peace When Doctors Don’t Agree

The Roller Coaster of Cancer
Cancer, like many journeys of illness, is a roller coaster. First, the goings on in your body are in a constant state of flux. The progress of the disease has unexpected twists and turns. This in itself is enough to make you want to toss your cookies.

Second, every doctor sees something different, which is one reason you want second and third opinions, but also why the conflicting array of opinions may make you crazy.

Third, and my main point for today, I have never heard anyone talk about how every doctor has a different philosophy of hope management (yes, that's my nifty term, don't steal it), and in fact, so does every patient.

Too Many Cooks in Your Cancer Kitchen
And since there are so many cooks in the kitchen for a disease like cancer, it makes for potentially questionable hope soup. It's better if you find a recipe you like ahead of time and post it over the stove so you don't forget your own preferences.

I learned this most clearly from my experience watching my dear friend Diane die of stomach cancer in 2001. Some of her doctors wanted her to fight to the death even though she was going to have no quality of life even in her final weeks. Others were more compassionate and wanted her to go to palliative care so she could have a better death.

What Are the Odds? 

Moreover, some seemed to think that telling her she had better odds than she had might help her overcome the odds. Others seemed to think that not telling her her odds at all was a better practice so she could exceed expectations.

Just weeks before she died, one of her oncologists was still talking as if her very advanced Stage IV stomach cancer could be beat. As one doctor left the room, another entered with a totally different take. Sometimes we saw four different doctors in a day who all told us something different about what they thought her chances were and what was happening with the disease.

Stop the Ride! I Want to Get Off!
We felt like we were getting whiplash from the differences in opinion about what was happening and what was likely to happen. My friend Soncee decided my own cancer journey was more of a tilt-a-whirl than a roller coaster, and I am inclined to agree. It shakes you to your bones without the thrill of dead drops (sorry for the D-word).

My brother and I had a horrible experience with a tilt-a-whirl when we were little. Our dad put us on that ride having no idea it was going to be an experience of pure terror. They had to stop the ride and let us off because we were crying so hard. If only the world worked like that. If only it would stop and let us off when we cry hard enough.

What Is Your Personal Philosophy of Hope? 
If they can't stop the world, it would be nice if the doctors could at least be all on the same page and stop the dizziness. Unfortunately, you can't herd the doctors in one direction anymore than you can herd cats. That means it comes back to you knowing what your own philosophy of hope is. How do you feel about statistics, for instance? Say they tell you you have a 30% chance of survival. Which percentage are you going to assume you are in? The 70 or the 30? Would you rather not know the statistics or rather bravely forge ahead with the goal of defying them? Deciding your philosophy of statistics before the deluge can be very liberating.

Knowing your philosophy of hope ahead of time will help you to respond to the cacophony of feuding, disputing or seemingly deluding doctors' opinions. It will help you maintain your equanimity and peace in the midst of the storm, which is critical in managing hope.

Using Your Hope to Kick Cancer Out of the Driver's Seat
Cancer wants to drive you off a cliff. Thinking through your philosophy of hope is one way you can kick cancer out of the driver's seat and make sure you're the one behind the wheel.

Until next time, stay in the driver's seat, my friends.

In love,

Elisa square portrait

About the author

Dr. Elisa Everts is the founder of Evertree Hope Management and is a dynamic public speaker, author and trainer. Dr Everts is passionate about helping cancer patients and bereaved people in their quest to survive and live a full life during and after cancer and grief. She has the personal experience of surviving Stage IV cancer and the loss of many loved ones. She understands the challenges inherent in these experiences and the importance of cultivating hope through the stories we tell others, and even more importantly, to ourselves.

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Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

I speak to medical professionals and patients, helping them provide hope when there seems to be none. If you or your organization need someone to help process the difficult topics of cancer and grief, let's set up a complimentary call, 703-656-6691, ee@elisaeverts.com.

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