The Power of Hope

The Power of Hope Dr. Wendy S. Harpham

by Wendy S. Harpham, MD, FACP

Being diagnosed with a type of cancer with no known cure can leave a person feeling hopeless. I felt that firsthand when diagnosed decades ago. Through nine courses of treatment and years of trial and error, I slowly learned which hopes helped me in certain situations – and which didn’t. I focused on hope that helped me think and act in healthy ways, which helped me get good care and live as fully as possible every day. In my book Healing Hope – Through and Beyond Cancer, I offer illustrated insights and aphorisms – truths to aid in seeing healthy ways to handle health challenges. Taken together, they help motivate you to optimize your care and take the best path for you. Here are some of my favorites.

Even in the worst of times, we can strive to make life the best it can be.

For me to receive good care, I must report symptoms. If I keep my symptoms a secret from my doctors, I might as well blindfold and handcuff them. Doctors who don’t know about my symptoms can’t make timely diagnoses or adjust my medications properly. Worst of all, I might suffer unnecessarily.

Whenever I undergo evaluation, more than I hope for good news, I hope for the news that can help me most: accurate news. During scans, focusing on my hope for accurate news helps me hold perfectly still.

Triumph over cancer is measured by how I live – not how long.

Hope for the best mobilizes me to take health-promoting steps that improve my chance of the desired outcome, which increases my hopefulness even more, which decreases my stress and builds my confidence.

Statistics about my disease sometimes make me feel hopeless. That’s giving statistics too much power. I must always remember statistics are based on groups of past patients with similar cancers – and not on clones of “me” with my unique cancer.

Hope is a feeling. All feelings are fleeting. To keep my hope from fading away, every day I take steps to energize my hope. My favorite ways include…

  • listening to others’ success stories
  • helping someone else
  • reading inspirational sayings
  • reciting uplifting prayers
  • listening to lively music
  • renewing a subscription

Recharging hope keeps hope strong.

Cancer doesn’t make life uncertain. Cancer simply exposes the uncertainty of life. Cancer makes life feel more uncertain. I’ll keep planning for tomorrow while living fully today.

Expectation is a state of mind that helps me prepare. Hope is a state of heart that helps me live.

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Dr. Wendy S. Harpham is a 27-year cancer survivor, international speaker, and award-winning author. Due to ongoing illness, Wendy retired from clinical medicine and turned to writing and speaking to inspire survivors to find their own path to healing hope. Her book Healing Hope includes illustrated aphorisms and brief supporting text to aid others with their own approach to illness. You can connect with Dr. Harpham at and on Twitter at @WendyHarpham.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2018.

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