"[In] a 2001 Canadian study of 200 ovarian-cancer survivors, almost two-thirds believed that stress caused their disease and more than 80 percent attributed their survival to a positive attitude. A related study of women who had breast cancer produced similar results — fewer than 5 percent chalked up their survival to any medical treatment. Or (as I do) to just plain good luck. Meanwhile, a Danish study of 6,689 women, published in 2005, found those who were highly stressed were 40 percent less likely than others to get breast cancer."Alas, no amount of magical thinking changes disease outcomes: that's a scientific fact.
The paradox of such misguided thinking is that so many people insist on having quite barbaric treatments. If they really believe they can cure themselves by thinking about their happy place you'd figure they'd forgo all but the least intrusive / painful medical interventions.
As I've said before, for those who succumb, positive thinking might mean they die happier than someone who is mightily pissed-off about getting a raw deal, but the outcome for both is identical, as is the expected life span. This has been proven in controlled studies. Prayer won't help either. Again, proven.
The burden (and inherent moral judgment) placed on people to be perky about ugly, painful diseases, or any death-dealing illness or accident, might be far more about the selfishness of those around them, who want to believe the person isn't suffering, and who demand not a mere stiff upper lip, but a whole Disneyland of joy and mindless optimism - even from people with naturally dour personalities, who are expected to transform.
It's shameful that we expect so much from those who are ill, and so little stoicism, generosity and care from ourselves.
On the other hand, the moral superiority claimed by those who endure and live, believing it was their own marvelous little self that achieved the dumb-luck outcome is just as repellent and irksome.