A positive attitude?

Does everyone think a positive attitude makes a difference? Does it really affect the final outcome?

I'm not sure.

I was very ill with many complications after my sharkbite. When I woke on a ventilator in ICU, I felt so dreadful I wanted to die. I thought, I'm old, I'm going to die soon anyway, so let me die now and escape this horror. I tried hard to will my heart to stop beating.

But here I am, five years later, feeling OK, and very glad all that negativity didn't affect the outcome!

24 Replies

  • When you have this surgery, you have been assessed for strength and fitness and the body's natural reactions take over. In some ways the body wants to heal itself regardless of what goes through our minds, and I think it is natural at some stages to wish that 'the machine was turned off' and that we would simply give up on life. I think it is also natural to resent the tubes, oxygen masks and other stuff that get stuck into and on your body. It certainly does not feel like 'being positive' at the time.

    There is also a kind of resilience and stubbornness that drives us into 'keep going' through the recovery process, and making the daily effort to get out of bed, get dressed, whatever.

    So glad that you pulled through all right. Looking back does seem a very bleak experience doesn't it!

    There is an interesting article called the Perils and Pitfalls of Positive Thinking that is quite interesting.


  • Thank you for your understanding Alan. The positive thinking article is very interesting.

  • Hi Patchworker

    Yes, I think a positive attitude definitely helps. Like you I had dark days and just wanted to be 'normal' again, but when I thought about all I had been through I would give myself a shake and tell myself l was now uniquely normal.

    I think even at your lowest ebb you had an underlying will to live. We have been through a traumatic experience firstly bring told we had cancer, then being told our options for survival. My surgeon actually said to me that he would have to make me very ill to make better. He wasn't joking.😞

    But hey, we are all still standing, and I know I appreciate every day now.

    We all have to keep on keeping on😊

    Best wishes

    Edwina xx

  • You're quite right. As we recover we realize it was all worth it.

  • I think we all felt the same after the op. I am sure a positive attitude makes a difference, I am just over 5 years on

    Best regards


  • I'm glad you're doing so well. I'm 5 years post op. too. We've had 5 bonus years!

  • The effect of a positive attitude is that when you wake up after the op you make yourself eat, drink, experiment, exercise, get up and about, read, walk, cook, make tea, dress, bathe, wash, shave. As you do those things muscle and fitness gradually, very gradually, returns. With a positive attitude you don't have to be forced to do these things. And activity of all sorts is what gets you back to something like a normal life.

  • When I first woke from the op. for 5 days I was beginning to walk again, and had that "positive attitude". Then I developed an acute duodenal ulcer which perforated.leaving me with subphrenic abcesses and pneumonia, and I got C diff, and an area of flesh on my chest became necrotic. I spent a month in ICU, deep in Morphine nightmares, not knowing where I was, terrified, and wanting to die.

    When I finally got home after 9 weeks, the "positive attitude" returned and I worked hard at walking what seemed like the huge distance between my bed and the loo. And now I'm fine and life is good.

    I asked the question about positive attitude because my negative attitude during that difficult time doesn't seem to have done me any harm!

  • I should say that I have been extremely lucky. I slept for five days after the op ; waking up to the Archers on my birthday. I had no complications and my recovery all went well from there. So I was able to stay positive and keep working on recovery. I meet many fellow patients who haven't been so lucky.

  • I personally believe a positive attitude helps - my opinion is that if your brain, your only intelligent organ in the body, gives up then what hope do the rest of them have? Plus I personally didn't want to spend whatever time I had left feeling sad and bitter but that was just me.

  • I agree now we must all make the most of every day, but it's difficult to think like that when you're on a ventilator in ICU!

  • I totally agree, there are times when you're tired of life and everything it's bringing you and you just want to go to sleep but I can only answer for myself when the alternative to pulling myself together and getting on with things really wasn't an alternative.

  • I am now 8years post op. I to had complications after my surgery and spent nearly 9 weeks in hospital. My lovely husband travelled 40 miles in each direction to visit me every day so I had to keep fighting. Recovery was slow and some days even now I have to give myself a kick but I now have 5 wonderful grandchildren that I never thought I would see and life is good. We are just getting ready for a holiday in our motorhome touring France.

    Keep smiling everyone!!!

  • I'm so glad you're well now. Enjoy your holiday in France.

    Grandchildren are wonderful. I've got 7, and 3 great grandchildren, and another due at Christmas!

    I'm just glad that despite wanting to die for a while, I didn't!

  • For me achieving something akin to a Zen-like state seemed to be the only way to get through the horrors of the complications that ensued in my case after undergoing the Ivor Lewis procedure (8 weeks in hospital including 2 weeks in ITU, induced coma for 48 hours, multiple tests, draining of lungs etc etc). I did not consciously enter into any kind of "fight" or"battle" - in fact I deliberately sought not to think of what was being gone through in those terms. Of course, as in life generally, one's essential personality will determine how one approaches any situation, including being desperately ill.


  • Fortunatus, I wonder if morphine helped you achieve your Zen like state? Like you, I had many tests and unpleasant treatments, but my morphine nightmares and confused thoughts were worse than the physical pain.

    I really thought I was being deliberately tortured. Did you have nightmares?

  • I am sure the morphine helped me to achieve that state of mind I described as "Zen-like" in which I was essentially trying to take it all as a continuing experience that had to be gone through until it was worked out one way or the other. As to nightmares, no, I was spared those despite the occasional morphine doses. Although oddly, for about a year after the surgery, I ceased to dream at all. Happily (nearly 3 years on) they have returned.

  • At the age of 72 I went into the hospital having prepared myself and my wife by redoing our wills, taking a last photograph and hoping for the best. In recovery I learned that the op had gone well but they nearly "lost me" when my heart went crazy. What got me going was the fact that I had survived and our 50th wedding anniversary was only 13 days away on the 24th December, we wanted to celibrate that and Christmas in our own bed not a hospital one. We made it with one day to spare. I think setting goals helps, even little ones. First trip to the toilet unaided, a walk down the hospital corridor etc. You adapt the list as you move through the early stages of home recovery. Not forgetting the benefits of this community of fellow patients who can help so much.

  • David, I'm so glad all went well for you. Still far from easy, but better than it might have been.

    I'm interested to hear from someone else who got married just before Christmas. We were married 22nd Dec.1956 and every year we forget about it in the excitement of preparing for Christmas, until we sit down exhausted late on Christmas Eve! So now we celebrate it on Christmas day! You are obviously more organized!

  • Oh patchworker how truly awful .As far as I'm concerned it's not possible to have a positive attitude if you're suffering from morphine terror .

    I do wonder how aware the medical profession are of how badly morphine affects people and whether some kind of antitdote /drug to balance the side effects might exist .

  • Violet, thanks for understanding.

    I was sure the nurses were trying to kill me, were going to inject me with petrol and set fire to me. I'm told it's quite common in ICU for patients to think such things.

    But I wrote the post because despite wanting to die during that time, the negativity hasn't harmed me, so does positivity really help? Does it make any actual physical difference?

  • Hi Patchworker,

    A positive attitude and sense of humour is a great thing.

    3 1/2 years ago I had my op and yes I have up/downs, good days/bad days but we fight on.

    Last weekend I went to a reunion with some old army pals most of whom I hadn`t seen for over 40 years. They were mostly `portly` and full faced. Me apart from less hair still the same as I was back then (same weight as I wa in 1974). Most remarked how well I looked...my answer was....`cracking diet but wouldn`t recommend it` told them about the cancer and they were surprised how well I had taken it.

    I told them that life goes on, good or bad, since I last saw them I`ve been a Cub Scout Leader for 21 years, completed 22 years with HMP (officer) retired at 55 cancer at 58.

    Since the op done 3 Cub Camps (1 within 3 months of op) been on 2 cruises, taken our boys, daughter in law and granddaughter on holiday. Even spent 4 hours 10 pin bowling with my son for a laugh...

    Positive attitude, live life as best you can, we never know what`s round the corner.

    Best wishes to all.

  • The one good thing about having this op. (apart from being alive!) is that we all look healthily slim! I look fantastic from behind, but when I turn round.the lines on my face spoil the illusion!

  • My partner went into the operation with a positive attitude but after all the pain, fear and loneliness (even though I was always there for him), he has turned on me several times and asked why I didn't just let him die, why did I have to interfere? He still has his moments, especially as he is now having trouble with his spine but he is, at this moment, driving to Scotland in a campervan with his daughter. He will overtire himself, he will get grouchy and take to his bed, but then that's why I bought him a campervan. It is hard, very hard, but there are still adventures to be had. You have to be realistic and adapt, and bloody determined. Life can still be good.

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