Words have power. Whatever we tell ourselves over and over again becomes reality. Many people choose to focus on what is wrong with the world. The more you focus on the good in life, the more good will come.

I was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2012. I have managed my emotions by watching how I think.

The word cancer is scary. Say the word cancer aloud. What images does it bring? How do you feel inside? It feels pretty awful.

Now say the word health. How does that word feel?

Words have power, and our self-talk shapes the way we feel. This talk in turn shapes our behavior and reality. Cancer is by no means a death sentence, but that is exactly what the word conjures up. We can diffuse its power. Recognize that people live through cancer all the time. They use their strength, positive thinking, prayer and medicine to get through it, and many come out better in the end.

The “fight” against cancer is just as disempowering as the “fight” or “war” on drugs. Notice that when the words war or fight are introduced, the body becomes weak. Roll the word fight around in your head for a moment. How does that feel?

To me, it feels awful. I feel weak, discouraged, and just want to curl up in my bed. I can rally myself, but it takes a lot of effort. I don’t want to “fight” cancer. I don’t want to take on the identity of a cancer victim, a person living with cancer, or even a cancer survivor. I am my own self, going through something that is not of me. It just is. I can fight, or I can surrender to God.

I take issue with the phrase “cancer survivor.” That phrase feels hard. It conjures up the hardships associated with cancer, like chemo, radiation, and sickness. I am not a cancer survivor. I have lived through cancer, and I have grown. I will thrive.

Watch self-talk through any illness. Another treatment? It’s another chance for more healing. Exhausted? It’s a chance to truly rest. Feeling just plain sick? It’s another reason to rest and take deep care of yourself.

I’ve been blessed with loved ones I can call on to help me. Cancer became my card to use to call for help without any guilt or self-reproach. I can’t do it all. I need help, and loved ones are anxious to help.

If you have a belief system that recognizes deity, then rest in God. S/he knows better and greater than we do what we need. Whenever I have been able to let go and let God, help comes. Disease and unexpected happenings that we call tragedies are opportunities for growth and deep healing, whether we stay on this plane of existence or not. They are chances to step back and review our lives, and remove patterns that no longer work. They are reminders to appreciate the small things, like a child’s smile, the beauty of the world, the comfort of a warm bath, the bliss of a good meal, the comfort of a bed, and good times with loved ones. Through appreciation, we can be more than survivors. We can thrive. We can be examples of faith, positive thinking, and joy in life.

I don’t believe that God causes suffering. But I do believe he can take our suffering and use it for our good, to shape and grow us and our lives into something wonderful.

What are your pains trying to tell you? What have you outgrown that you are still holding onto? If you’ve been meaning to start better habits, what is stopping you? If your relationships are in need, now is the best time to address it, before the unfulfilled needs of your mind and body alter your body chemistry to allow disease a doorway.

If you have disease, watch how your own thoughts shape your expectations. Shape your own outcome by taking charge of the words you say to yourself. Be strong in hope. Hope and gratitude are our best allies.

Rachel Hazelwood is a wife, mother and owner of HealingHandsEFT.com. She lives in Ladson.