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Are You a Transmitter or a Transformer?

by David DeFord

In researching my next book, I learned of two contrasting characteristics found in cancer patients. These two approaches affect the quality and quantity of support given to the patients, and they help determine the overall outcome of the ordeals.

The cancer patients labeled transmitters react to their misfortune by transmitting their negative feelings to everyone around them. They focus on the fear, the pain, and the difficulty of their illness and treatment, and they love to share these negatives with others. Their despair spreads. Those around them, even those who come to support and treat them, begin to share the patients’ feelings of hopelessness and anguish. Because the presence of transmitters can bring such depressive feelings, their supporters reduce their contact with them. The transmitters’ lose the support of all but the most dedicated friends and loved ones.

The transformers, in contrast, turn the negatives into positives. They find a way to convert their struggles into ways to better themselves and those around them. They focus on hope and recovery. As they turn lemons into lemonade, they attract others to them. In lifting their gazes beyond their own troubles transformers find fulfillment in raising the spirits and hope in others. People love to be in the presence of those who give them hope.

Transmitters chase away support, transformers attract it.

Is there a place for sharing your feelings about your struggles? Of course. Talking about our difficulties can prove therapeutic. Hiding from them can bring tragedy. But focusing solely on your pain and misery will never bring resolution or hope. Nor will such a focus enhance the support you receive—it will actually inhibit it.

You may not have cancer but you have struggles. You have those who love you and who want to support you in your difficulties. Do you, as a transmitter, lessen the support of others and inhibit your own recovery? Or do you strive to transform your difficulties into greater strength and opportunities for growth?

I often write about Nick Marriam, the six-year-old whose doctors discovered a cancerous tumor crowding his chest cavity. As a transformer, Nick found beautiful fountains of hope deep within him where others may have seen only the rancid waters of terminal illness.

Today, Nick refers to it as his “Good Cancer.” Six years after his original diagnosis, this remarkable eleven-year-old still reaches out and fills his classmates, his acquaintances, and even his parents with cheer, hope, and even awe. Individuals and corporations line up to donate time and funds to Nick’s effort toward the transformation of other children stricken with this awful disease.

Nick felt the pain. He knew the risks and experienced the horrific side effects of his aggressive treatments. He knew the loneliness of friends too uncomfortable to continue playing with their bald, sick playmate. But he chose hope over despair—transformation over transmission.

Oh, to be like Nick.

Related Quotes

We who lived in concentration camps can remember those who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a person but the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances - to choose one's own way. Viktor Frankl

Most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners. Viktor Frankl

The last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances. Viktor Frankl

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