Monday, June 7, 2010

The Vision of Libby Holter

Libby Holter of Maryland has been described as a "glass is half full-kinda person." Despite her diagnosis of breast cancer from well over a year ago, her postive outlook has not faltered as she travels down this assigned path. Libby's shoes seem to elevate her to a higher place, one where there is an unclouded view of recovery.

Yet, Libby thinks of herself as a "realistic optimist." Though she is determined to "stay hopeful," Libby describes an ability to make precise distinctions between what she can and cannot control. On the one hand, she advises that patients with breast cancer should select "the best" medical team that can be found, and do everything possible to evoke a positive outcome. On the other hand, she recognizes that once in a while, the glass looks half empty, and some things are beyond her control. "The pathology, especially. But it's a crap shoot whether the cancer will return." Then, she grabs the glass, fills it up, and remarks, "There's no reason not to be hopeful, in these days of marvelous strides in health care."

Although some research is available that suggests breast cancer patients should not feel "pressured" to be optimistic for a successful recovery, Libby's description of flexible optimism and her vision for recovery are underscored by the results of many long-term studies and other resources available on the web. One such article was published in Psychology Today by David G. Myers, who states:

In general, optimistic people are less bothered by various illnesses and recover better from cancer and surgery. * * * The recipe for well-being, then, requires neither positive nor negative thinking alone, but a mix of ample optimism to provide hope, a dash of pessimism to prevent complacency, and enough realism to discriminate those things we can control from those we cannot.

As a companion to Libby's balanced vision for recovery, she has a solid social system. She is confident her good prognosis is aided by "having the support of my family and friends who constantly cheered me and pulled me up and reminded me of the importance of love and life. Corny but entirely necessary!" She adds, "Allow family and friends to help you (you'd do it for them if they needed it, wouldn't you?)...."

Once again, Libby's viewpoint is supported by science. In The Wisdom of the Ego, author Dr. George E. Vaillant, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, mentions social supports as an important component of one's ability to cope with adversity. This concept, along with many other benefits of balanced optimism, is addressed in an excellent article by Bruna Martinuzzi, author of the book, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

For Libby Holter, whose unwaivering vision of hope and strength is as a light to all who know her: before dawn tomorrow, I will borrow your shoes. I know I cannot fill them, but I will carry them with me to illuminate the way, and to remind me never to lose sight of hope.

Here's to the next mile!


  1. Another wonderful tribute to a lady I love! :) Thanks, Chris!!

  2. It was my privilege, Erin...Libby is an inspiration to us all!


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