This is the second post exploring “cancer cliches”, the first one being keep your chin up. More to follow on looking well, being positive, being brave and well I could go on and no doubt will!
When the British tennis player, Elena Baltacha died from liver cancer recently, I posted on Facebook that it was sad news but that I wished the press wouldn’t say she had lost her battle with cancer. It seemed to strike a chord as I got quite a few comments agreeing with me. This may be controversial but I really dislike fighting talk in relation to cancer and particularly dislike hearing of people in the public eye losing their fight or battle with cancer or even beating cancer. though for some reason there is less of the latter! It demeans our lives if all it comes down in the end is that we lost our battle with cancer. Cancer is not like a game of tennis which you can win or lose and have some influence over depending on how well you play. I am sure that Elena Baltacha showed true grit in dealing with her diagnosis and illness but she was never going to win her battle. If I lose my battle with cancer does that mean that I’ve not fought it hard enough or that somehow I haven’t done enough to beat it, come up with the right strategy, lived the right way, had the right diet, had the right attitude etc etc ? Have I somehow failed?
Does the fact that I only got 15 months remission from my first stem cell transplant whereas some get 5 years plus mean I am not fighting it hard enough or just unlucky that my disease is more aggressive.
Is cancer something I can fight against or is it just a disease following its pathological course in my body which will hopefully be abated temporarily by chemotherapy or some other treatment. Cancer is random, recovery is random, it is not a battle, it is a disease. Does someone who has heart disease or diabetes lose their battle with it or does this just apply to cancer? It just seems to apply to cancer maybe because it is the disease that we are all frightened of getting and probably know someone that has been affected by cancer as more than 1 in 3 people will get some form of cancer in the UK.
I appreciate that for some people fighting talk and imagery may help them deal better with their cancer but I am not at war with my body. There have been times when feeling rotten on chemotherapy, I have tried to console myself with the thought that at least the horrible treatment is killing off my cancer cells, imagining that I have one less bad cell to deal with. Please note I am not talking about VISUALISATION here or invading armies! I can’t stand that either. I also see why cancer charities use words like fight, beat, stand up to cancer etc to raise awareness and funds. They have more impact and imply that there is something we can do to beat cancer but it places too much responsibility on us which is unrealistic. Cancer will only be beaten through advancements in medical science, earlier diagnosis and awareness but not by individuals fighting their own battles. Of course the idea that somehow you can personally beat cancer leads to a whole industry of alternative remedies, therapies and diets etc etc which in my view cynically exploit desperate cancer patients. I just looked online and here is a few examples below. There are many more.
So I may be gritty, I may be strong, I may even be resolute at times but I am not battling or fighting my cancer and if anyone writes in my obituary that I lost my battle to myeloma, I will come back from my grave and kill them. Now that is fighting talk!