How Altering My Approach to Hope Changed Everything
Note: Written by NBCF HR Coordinator, Rebekah Zetts
Grand gestures of trying to create hope for others are not a productive way to help.
That might sound strong but hear me out. I had this belief that I could create hope for others. Or that I was being helpful by sharing the hopes I had for my friends going through challenging circumstances—even if those hopes were unrealistic. In retrospect, there were times that the hope I was giving was unhelpful.
After reading the eBook Finding Hope that Heals I had a lovely conversation with the author, Dr. Wendy Harpham, that changed my life. Our discussion wholly altered the way I look at hope for myself, hope for others, and how to make actionable, sustainable changes in the way I offer help. When I read Finding Hope that Heals, I was introduced to an entirely new way of thinking. Building a space for others to create their own hope is where the true magic happens.
Speaking with Dr. Harpham took me back to August 2016. I was about to get married. I lived overseas in South Korea, and I was visiting the U.S. for my wedding. I was also going through a cancer scare. My doctor found a large tumor next to one of my lymph nodes and another tumor on my thyroid. I was terrified. My wedding was just weeks away, and among the event planning came the anxieties of biopsies and doctors’ visits.
Much of the time when I was being comforted people would tell me that I “was going to be fine” or I was “young and had nothing to worry about.” Their hopes were not helping me through all the tests. I needed to hear that they would be by my side no matter what, or that they would be there to help if I needed it. Every time someone told me that I would be fine without listening to my concerns I felt isolated, alone, and less hopeful.
Dr. Harpham talks about hope not being a light switch you can “turn on” whenever you want. My medical experience truly exemplified this analogy. I wasn’t able to just turn on hope automatically. I was scared and overwhelmed. Everyone telling me I would be fine added to my anxieties because I thought that I would disappoint them if my tests came back with unfavorable results.
If everyone else thought I would be fine, why didn’t I feel that way, too?
Was I hoping the wrong way?
Was there something wrong with me?
My biopsy came back negative, but the feeling of fear and anxiety from this experience stayed with me. I needed to find helpful hope, and thanks to Dr. Harpham I finally had the opportunity to learn how.
Dr. Harpham describes hope as an active exercise, one that we can repeat daily or as often as needed. Hope can be like adjusting your rearview mirror. Sometimes we need to refocus on our hopes and remember to stay centered.
Now, when I go to the doctor, this is how I approach hope: I no longer hope that I will have no health concerns, but I hope to continue going to the doctor to manage my health proactively.
Each time a challenging situation arises, I imagine myself in a car, adjusting my rearview mirror, and I remind myself that hope can look different in different situations—and that is okay. It has been a journey, but I look forward to continuing on the path of “Finding Hope that Heals.”
National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to get you the help you deserve.
Dr. Harpham serves on National Breast Cancer Foundation’s Medical Advisory Council & remains dedicated to patients through her award-winning writing and patient advocacy work. Dr. Harpham’s own remarkable survival through and beyond cancer serves as testimony to the power of healing hope to help you live your best life, whatever the circumstances. For more about Dr. Harpham’s work, visit wendyharpham.com.