A newly diagnosed cancer patient asks Belleruth for imagery for hope and optimism, and BR counsels her not to try and force those feelings before their time, but instead to practice acceptance of whatever she feels Dear Belleruth, Can''t tell you how much I love your tapes - but I need something special from you - Could you please make a tape about hope and optimism? As a new cancer patient, the hardest thing for me is getting back to the feeling of just being happy and normal again.

Hi, Ellen.
Sorry you have to be contending with being a new cancer patient these days, and I wish you a successful course of treatment with a minimum of discomfort.

I understand your wish to quickly regain your sense of hope and optimism, but, hey, if you''re a new cancer patient, this could be a bit ambitious and unrealistic for now. You''ve just been clobbered with a scary diagnosis that may well have turned your sense of yourself upside down. Some of your plans may be up for grabs as you undergo treatment and wonder what will be next. And if your treatment is chemotherapy, you''re probably contending with fatigue and its cognitive-emotional correlate, discouragement.

You have a lot to digest here. If you short-circuit this natural process by forcing the return to ''hope and optimism'' before its time, you could be doing yourself and your body a real disservice. Truth is, it''s never good to fake your feelings and discount the ones you''re actually having (even when those feelings are anger, discouragement, sadness, fear... the usual) And, contrary to popular belief, it''s not bad for your health to feel discouraged, as long as you openly acknowledge that this is what you''re feeling. Too many cancer patients are browbeaten into thinking they’ve got to be upbeat or they won’t lick their cancer. Hogwash! Feel what you feel and let those feelings move on of their own accord. They always do if you just let them be.

So, rather than find some imagery to impose ‘hope and optimism’ on youself, why not just trust that these feelings will return of their own accord, when the time is right and you’ve processed this latest turn of events. Instead, how about just practicing being gentle, tolerant, understanding, accepting and compassionate toward yourself as you travel this new path. The hopeful you will be back when she’s ready to show up again!