The Ehrenreich article yesterday reminded me of another story I read long ago in (you guessed it) The Immune Power Personality. A patient of George Solomon had a punishing journey with AIDS - getting additional diseases and recovering from them.
Solomon described "James" as living life fully.
There are two parts of his story that always stayed with me. First, he set an amazing goal for a "sick" person - restoring a Victorian house. If you read the shelter magazines have tried it, you probably know that kind of restoration can flatten a "healthy" person after a year or so. Instead he thrived.
Dreyer quotes Sullivan as being concerned about James when the house was finished. But, instead of laying down his tools and dying content, he just started on another house.
And perhaps more important , he asked for and received support from his father who was 86. Luckily, his father was apparently healthy, and helped with the restoration work.
(As I recall, Alice Epstein as well had a wonderful support group and set herself ambitious goals - mental, physical and spiritual. And Michael Callen also had goals and activities never dreamed of for someone fighting AIDS.)
When James' father became ill, James finally died of AIDS.
The part of his story I'd forgotten was the part I had once underlined. Dr. Solomon went below the surface and found specific things to credit for James' survival:
He had determination
He sought support from others and was not afraid to accept it.
He had an assertive style of coping.
And under it all, he had "undaunted optimism."
Does this contradict Erhenreich's and my need to protest against the constant insistence in the breast cancer world to "be positive?"
I don't think so. From what I read, James and Michael let the optimism arise from within. It was a decision, part of their character, not a surrender to buzzwords and buzz advice.