Hope – What Does That Mean to You

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

Over the years, I’ve heard many definitions of this word ‘HOPE’ in reference to cancer. In fact, I’ve applied it myself during my journey, but what does it really mean? What do we think of when we say this word?

One of the definitions of Hope, as expressed in the dictionary, that I think most clearly matches the cancer connection and healing, is:

‘the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.”

Hope carries a different meaning for each of us, I’m sure. We react in our own individual ways given our background, situation, and personality.

  • It can embody the spirit of moving forward through the journey and ‘hope’ that we come out the other side whole and well.
  • It can be simply to ‘hope’ to get through treatment without too many side effects.
  • Hope to see your children grow up
  • Hope to have the courage to deal with whatever comes your way.

Hope in this context can have a fuzzy side. Is it just hope without some reinforcing action to carry through with the intention? I think in this instance, it’s called ‘wishful thinking’. Not a negative connotation, just a realization that hoping alone will not necessarily effect the desired change.

It’s much like that word ‘try’. You either do or don’t. When going through treatment, I recall being at the cancer lodge in Victoria thinking I don’t belong here. If I were to believe my diagnostic stats, this would have been unrealistic thinking. However, in my mind, there was never a thought that I wouldn’t come out the other side well and healthy. It took a long time and a lot of hard work and soul searching, but I did it. Was that ‘hope’ or ‘hope with action’ – I did the work.

I hear this in my interactions with people going through cancer. Not as often anymore, but still often enough. It always surprises people that they actually might have to do the ‘work’ of healing.

In this culture, we’ve become accustomed to being given a magic bullet – a pill or surgery – to fix our problems so we can go back and do the same things all over again. Yes, it’s easier. That way, there is no journey to the bottom of your soul to figure out what might have sent your body to a state of dis-ease. That would have been a great option for me if I thought it would work. But instinctively, I knew it wouldn’t do the job.

Is this being unduly harsh? Maybe! I have promised you the truth, though. This is the truth.  There is work in order to put some power behind the word ‘hope’. Simple changes can carry quite a punch. It may be a diet shift. Sometimes it’s getting off the couch and exercising. Could be learning how to meditate – finding that quiet time to relieve stress. Journaling can help flush out hidden agendas and concerns. Situations and old thoughts long buried that we had no idea had so much control over our lives. Work – is it adding or detracting from your health? Do you need to rethink how you manage that part of your life? What about the people around you? Do they support who you really are or expect you to be someone else to fit their vision of you or fill their need?

Okay, some of these are tough questions. They are questions I did ask myself, so I am not letting myself off the hook. Over the course of my life since cancer, I still ask myself these questions to ensure I’m still on track. It is so easy to get swept back into old habits and routines. Being vigilant is a prerequisite for healing. Always keeping our awareness meter on full alert for deviations off the path to know when we need to shift back.

One way of looking at hope in the face of cancer is treating the journey to wellness as an adventure. Then hope has a whole new perspective. It’s fresh, challenging, invigorating, creative, and a new way to look at life.

One day, we can hope that there will be a cure for cancer. In all likelihood, that cure will come from within. Cancer is not a simple condition to find a one-for-all cure that will make our lives safer from this disease. It is a complex set of circumstances and conditions that give rise to cancer. The treatments are likewise complex and individualized. However, within each of us, there is a way to access our own healing power by examining our specialness – what makes us unique and wonderful. There is a world outside of us as well – the universe and its power however you define it – that lends its weight behind our deepest desires and needs. We only need to reach out and believe. It can be scary to trust this power, yet for others, it has always been there.

Life is an adventure. Change is the constant. Once these concepts are embraced, the rest becomes easier. Hope will then have a clearer message and meaning in the context of your situation.

To adventure, health and wellness . . . and hope,


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