Episode 44

Published on:

8th Nov 2022

Toxic Positivity and Grief Tourism

Society generally expects people to maintain behaviors and attitudes considered "appropriate" for the situations they face. But when a person is experiencing cancer, acting according to other people's expectations can be incredibly detrimental to their mental health. Toxic positivity is the belief that people should maintain a positive mindset across all situations and that, regardless of a situation's difficulty, people are expected to dismiss their negative emotions brought on by their distress. This belief is often pushed upon people experiencing difficult health journeys like cancer. However, toxic positivity is a belief that causes more harm than good.

Life on Pause is a podcast created by and for young adults living with cancer. In this episode, guest speakers share their experiences with cancer and how they handled the expectations that others had of them due to their diagnosis. Additionally, they discuss how others reacted to their condition and the effects of grief tourism and society's glamorization of cancer. Young adults with cancer can undergo transformative experiences throughout their health journeys, and this episode dives into how these situations can have a lasting impact on their lives.

Introducing Chelsea (0:30)

Our host Corene starts the episode with an introduction for a special guest speaker, Chelsea Gomez. Chelsea is a two-time Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor, crazy, talented artist, and founder of #OhYoureSoTough. She hosts a youtube channel where she discusses her cancer experience and her Etsy shop where she creates gifts for cancer patients. She has also authored two books, "Cancer is an A*Hole" and "Stickers On A Bald Head." 

How Do You Deal with Toxic Positivity? (1:56)

There cannot be light without dark, and negative emotions are necessary for people to experience positive emotions. Cancer survivors know this well, as they have had to deal with the ups and downs of their diagnosis. However, some people like to push the unhealthy idea of toxic positivity and insist that people maintain a positive mindset while rejecting negative emotions. Today's speakers discuss their encounters with toxic positivity and how they have dealt with people who push this inauthentic optimism.

What Do You Say? (10:11)

It can be challenging to navigate relationships when diagnosed with cancer. Many people don't know what to say when faced with the reality of knowing someone with this diagnosis. Our guests discuss how their experiences with other people changed as a result of their cancer. Additionally, they discuss the difficulty and emotional exhaustion that comes with sharing their authentic selves with others while they are experiencing cancer.

Handling People and Personal Growth (18:55)

Young adults with cancer carry a heavy burden, and many others their age fail to comprehend the concept of experiencing such a life-altering diagnosis. As such, dealing with others can come with unique challenges for people impacted by cancer. Our speakers discussed times when they noticed their differences in perspective compared to their peers and how cancer led to their personal changes and growth.

Putting on a Facade and the Grief Timeline (28:30)

Toxic positivity can be viewed as putting on a facade to lead others into believing you are happy. This show of happiness is especially expected in cancer survivors. But even after someone is in remission, they can still be experiencing grief and other negative emotions brought on by their cancer journey. From near-death experiences to traumatic formative years, our guests share how their cancer effects have had long-lasting impacts on their lives and outlooks.

Therapy and Advice (33:50)

Therapy and other helpful resources can provide support for young adults undergoing cancer. But while organizations that raise money for cancer can have good intentions, they often fall into the traps of toxic positivity or grief tourism. Within this part of the episode, our speakers share the pieces of advice that they would offer to groups and individuals trying to support people impacted by cancer.

Grief Tourism for Breast Cancer (40:35)

Breast cancer is a diagnosis that society often glamorizes. However, the races and pink ribbons do not portray the actual experiences of breast cancer patients and can be viewed as performative. Guest Shana shares her thoughts on supporting the right organizations and ensuring that your donated money goes to the right cause. Our speakers discuss the subject of glamorization in cancer fundraising.

The Ripples of Cancer (44:47)

There is more to cancer than the treatment, as it can impact various areas of a patient's life, even after remission. The authentic cancer experience includes the many ripple effects of the diagnosis that affect their personal lives. We end this episode with a discussion on the ripple effects of cancer and how unapologetically being your authentic self can help young people and persist throughout these experiences. 

Show artwork for Life on Pause

About the Podcast

Life on Pause
Life On Pause is a podcast for and by young adults living with cancer. Each month, young adult cancer patients from Penn State Health share honestly about their cancer diagnosis, treatment and life afterwards. As cancer causes the group to reflect on issues both large and small, surprisingly relatable stories and themes emerge. From relationships to body functions, nothing is off the table.