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Six L’s of Caring and Coping- Look Forward to Something

June 6, 2007
by Dave Balch, Founder of The Patient/Partner Project

During the darkest hours of my wife’s chemotherapy we received a postcard from a friend who was on vacation in Tahiti.  It depicted a string of bungalows stretching out across a beautiful blue-green lagoon, all framed by palm trees.  It was dreamy, to say the least, and couldn’t have been any further from where we were at the moment we received it, both physically and emotionally.

We were sitting there together looking at this card, wondering how such a place could exist when she was feeling so punk and I told her that I didn’t know how, but somehow, some way we would go to Tahiti when her treatments were over.  We put the card on the refrigerator and every time we went to get something to eat (usually comfort food) we saw it there.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but that postcard set in motion a technique that played an important part in the rest of her treatment and recovery. Looking forward to that trip gave us a lift every time we went into the refrigerator.

It gave us hope.

When you are in the middle of a situation like her breast cancer, it seems like it’s NEVER going to end.  Appointment after appointment, treatment after treatment, the seemingly endless cycle of feeling good and then feeling bad; it’s hard to imagine that life will ever get back to normal.  That post card reminded us that there would be life after all this was over, and that it wasn’t going to last forever.

Here is my recommendation: look forward to something.  Don’t wait until something happens that you can turn into an opportunity, make it happen.  It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a Polynesian vacation; it can be as simple as going to a movie on Thursday night.  What’s important is that it is something important to you. Something that makes you feel good just by thinking about it.  It can be one big thing such as a vacation, or a number of small things such as going to movies or cuddling up in front of the TV with some microwave popcorn, or a combination.  The objective is to get through unpleasant times by taking your mind off of the current situation and concentrating on something pleasant in the future.  Do whatever works for you… but do it.

I distinctly remember times when I went to the refrigerator and paused a moment to simply stare at that lagoon and get lost in it for a moment. What a rush!  For those moments I forgot about our troubles and felt at peace, knowing that we would be enjoying a scene like that one and that all of this medical stuff would soon be just a memory.  It made the next round of chemo, or whatever was next, seem a little more bearable.

It will for you too.

“Well?” everyone asks.  “Did you go to Tahiti or didn’t you??”

Eight months after we received that post card we did, in fact, go to Tahiti. Even better, though, is that we actually stayed in one of the very bungalows we had been looking at all those months on the refrigerator.  It was sweet.


            Dave Balch founded The Patient/Partner Project, which is focused on helping other patients by helping their partners. Visit for Internet resources and services for patients and partners, including free online progress reporting for family and friends and a free email mini-course of “Six ‘L’s’ of Caring and Coping.”  You can contact Dave at or toll-free at 1-8-MORAL SUPPORT (1-866-725-7877) ă 2004, Dave Balch.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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