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Nuture Hope
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD, and Isadora R. Rosenbaum, MA

Of all the ingredients in the will to live, hope is the most vital. Hope is the emotional and mental state that motivates you to keep on living, to accomplish things and succeed. A person who lacks hope can give up on life and lose the will to live. Without hope, there is little to live for. But with hope, a positive attitude can be maintained, determination strengthened, coping skills sharpened, and love and support more freely given and received.

Even if a diagnosis is such that the future seems limited, hope must be maintained. Hope is what people have to live on. Take away hope and you take away a chance for the future, which leads to depression. When people fall to that low emotional state, their bodies simply turn off.

Hope can be maintained as long as there is even a remote chance for survival. It is kindled and nurtured by even minor improvements or a remission and maintained when crises or reversals occur.

There may be times when you will feel exhausted and drained by never-ending problems and feel ready to give up the struggle to survive. All too often it seems easier to give up than to keep on fighting. Frustrations and despair can sometimes feel overwhelming. Determination or dogged persistence is needed to accomplish the difficult task of fighting for your health.

The experience of cancer is not only destructive in a physical way but can be a major deterrent to your fighting attitude and will to live. But even during the roughest times, there are often untapped reserves of physical and emotional strength to call upon to help you survive one more day. This reserve can add meaning to your life as well as serve as a lighthouse that leads you to a safe haven during a turbulent storm. Hope has different meanings for each person. It is a component of a positive attitude and acceptance of our fate in life. We use our strengths to gain success to live life to the fullest. Circumstances often limit our hopes of happiness, cure, remission or increased longevity. We also live with fears of poverty, pain, a bad death or other unhappy experiences.

You may worry so much that you lose sight of the possibility of recovery and lose your sense of optimism. On the other hand, you may become so hopeful and confident that you lose sight of reality. Your main challenge is balancing your worry and your hope.

Hope is nourished by the way we live our lives. To achieve the best quality of life requires settling old problems, quarrels and family strife as well as completing current tasks. Problems that have not been resolved need to have completion. New tasks should be undertaken. If the future seems limited, you can achieve the satisfaction of knowing that you have taken care of your affairs and not left the burden to your family or others. By doing so you can achieve peace of mind, which will also help strengthen your will to live. With each passing day, try to complete what you can and have that satisfaction that you have done your best.

Be bold, be venturesome and be willing to experience life to the fullest to enhance your enjoyment of life. As long as fear, suffering and pain can be controlled, life can be lived fully until the last breath.

Each of us has the capacity to live each day a little better, but we need to focus on both purpose and goals and set into action a realistic daily plan--often altered many times--to help us achieve them. These resources are the foundation of the will to live.

Only by using the power of the will to live--nourished by hope--can we achieve the sublime feelings of knowing and experiencing the wonders of life and appreciate its meanings though vital living.

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