Bill Cosby and Cancer: The need to believe

Stan Goldberg, PhD

11/21/14  There is so much we want to believe in: the unassailability of our heroes, the perfection of the future, and the ability to live with cancer.

Wanting to Believe

Along with millions of other fans, I dismissed allegations of unspeakable sexual misconduct by Bill Cosby; someone I viewed as an icon. “This can’t possibly be true,” I thought. Too much is riding on my belief in his unassailability as a beacon of virtue.

With the second and third charge—all with the same particulars—I questioned my beliefs. By the tenth claim, I couldn’t hold onto what I wanted to believe, and reluctantly sided with what was probably real.

Bill Cosby and Living With Cancer

There are striking similarities between the debunking of those we place on a pedestal and what we hope will happen with cancer—especially our own.

Jean Anouilh, the French dramatist, said “I like reality, it tastes like bread.” As someone who prides himself on being a competent baker, I appreciate the analogy. The reality of living with cancer is similar to accepting that our delusions are based on our needs. Whether that means wanting to believe Bill Cosby is unjustly accused—ten times—or our determination to conquer cancer despite overwhelming evidence we won’t.

Walking the Edge

Those of us living with cancer walk on the edge of a precipice with hope on one side and reality on the other. Too much hope and we walk through a mist of delusion that results in the realization we’ve waited too long to get our affairs in order. Too much reality and we remove any joy from the time we have left.

Should we believe in the virtue of our icons and the unassailable belief we will conquer our cancer? No. We should look at everything with a critical eye; one that sees both what our heroes and our cancer can teach us, and their limitations.

How to Do It

In my new ebook “I Have Cancer,” 48 Things to Do When You Hear Those Words, I provide guidance for those who are forced to say the words and friends and loved ones who hear them.

Preventing Senior Moments, by Stan Goldberg

Offers practical and achievable prevention strategies for senior moments.


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