Breast Cancer Real Talk: Why It’s Okay NOT to Be Positive Sometimes

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As it turns out, there are some positive aspects to having a negative attitude—as long as that’s not the attitude you have all the time.

So rest easy now, because there’s no bad-mood-shaming here. You can frown all you want while you read this, and we won’t judge you.


A positive attitude is important for a lot of things in life, and breast cancer is certainly one of those things. Looking at the brighter side of things can help you have more faith in your (and your doctors’) ability to get rid of cancer. It can give you the motivation to keep getting treatment and keep doing all the things that help you stay healthy.

But it’s unrealistic to expect that you’re going to be able to be in a good mood every day, all day, especially when bad things are happening and your body doesn’t feel good. Even totally healthy people with seemingly perfect lives have bad days.

However, not everyone is understanding about bad days. In their rush to try to make you “better,” well-meaning friends and family members may become a bit intolerant to even the slightest of irritable moods. It may be hard for them to remember that what makes them feel better (i.e. seeing you with a smile on your face) is not always the same thing that makes you feel better.

Positive attitudes help some people with cancer find the motivation to fight their disease and win and heal. But it’s just not the same for everybody.

Sometimes being positive can feel fake, and being encouraged to be positive can actually put a lot of pressure on a person. Ignoring emotions of guilt, grief, depression, and anxiety can cause more harm than good. Sometimes, what breast cancer patients really need may be the opportunity to work through their natural negative emotions in an understanding environment.

So remember—and gently remind your family and friends if necessary—that bad moods now and then are TOTALLY OKAY. Don’t let anybody pressure you into acting happy when you’re feeling sad or angry or lonely. Speak up about your feelings so you can work through them out loud. If you feel you need professional help, don’t hesitate to ask for it. If not, just find a friend or loved one to listen to you without judging you.

Your mental health during treatment is important, but you don’t have to be positive all the time. Constant positivity does not equal mental health.

One important thing to remember, though. Just because you’re feeling down doesn’t mean you should be down on yourself. Even if you’re feeling blue, try to remember that it’s not your fault you have cancer. You’re not a bad person or in any way less important or less worthy to live than anyone else. You’re not a bad person for feeling negative.

You are a beautiful human being who is simply experiencing a difficult situation and dealing with the strong emotions that come with that situation in the best way you know how.

And you’re doing fantastic. Keep it up.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?