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Healing Wishes
Cancer Talk

Healing Wishes

Cancer Talk


Wendy S. Harpham, M.D.

Wishes heal when they help me recognize unrealistic hopes and let them go.

Reality-based hope lies at the heart of Healthy Survivorship. How might wanting something unattainable—wishing—possibly help?  As an example, imagine I am reluctant to proceed with effective treatment that often causes side effects.

  1. Give voice to the wish. I wish a magic pill existed to cure me with no toxic effects. Articulating my wish feels good while releasing the pressure of a desire that craves expression.
  2. Assess the wish. No magic pill exists. Acknowledging the limits of medicine puts boundaries around fantastic desires and thoughts about treatment (even if all subconscious). Those psychic boundaries help minimize distractions from my focus on measures that may help.  
  3. Validate the wish as normal and understandable. Hello? Who wouldn’t want a magic pill? That recognition helps me feel good about both having the wish and then choosing to let it go.
  4. Grieve the loss. Letting go is sad. Grief is the human, healing response to any loss, including letting go of my fantasy of an easy fix.
  5. Find the best reality-based hope for you. WIth no magic pill, I’m going to find the best treatment I can. In the vacuum left after letting go of my wish, reality-based options fill the space. Contemplating and choosing from among realistic options stirs realistic hope.

In the pursuit of Healthy Survivorship, wishes have the power to help clarify which hopes are based in reality. Giving voice to them is the first step in letting go of those that hamper getting good care and living as fully as possible.

Wendy S. Harpam, MD, FACP is a doctor of internal medicine, 32-year cancer survivor, best-selling author, nationally recognized speaker and patient advocate. Read her Survivor Story and visit Wendy's website for her latest blogs, books, and activities.

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