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    • cvdavis

      What does it really mean to have lost the battle to cancer? So and so lost their fight - what does that actually mean? It implies they were weak somehow and that there was more they could do or have done. It's demeaning to the person who lost their lives to cancer. What distinguishes someone who 'won' vs someone who 'lost'? Can our thinking and will to live change what happens at a cellular level? No, or not according to science on a general level. So and so is a fighter and 'beat' cancer. What does that even mean? They did the same things those who lost did, but fortunately for them their body lives on. They didn't control their bodies at the level of the cell to fight off the 'evil' invader cancer.

      I think the whole use of the saying "battle with cancer" should be eliminated and a new way of talking about it should be found. Does anyone have any ideas?

    • amacbean16

      Interesting question.

      I think the idea of a battle gives hope of a positive outcome (victory!) and puts the person in a place of power rather than relegating them to the role of a victim. “Suffering from cancer” just doesn’t sound as optimistic as “fighting cancer” to my ears.

      Based on what I’ve seen in others with cancer, I feel safe in observing that you do have to have courage and grit and resiliency to continue saying yes to awful treatments and to even get up each day (or most days anyway). However I think even stretching beyond cancer we have a dangerous fear of death and dying that leads us to desperately add to the number of our days without regard to the quality of our days or the emotional or financial costs of “fighting” when the fight is futile.

      The book by Atul Gawande entitled “Being Mortal” was fascinating to me and it speaks to end of life care from the perspective of a physician.

      I don’t have personal experience yet with either confronting cancer or facing death so it’s all talk for me.

    • cvdavis

      I think you're setting up a false dichotomy by saying it's got to be either suffering or battling. Why can't there be something else that also has an optimistic lean but doesn't make the person who dies a loser who wasn't strong enough? What do you think?

    • cvdavis

      No fortunately I don't have cancer and no one close to me has cancer at the moment at least not that we know of. I've lost some of my family and friends to cancer however. I don't have a way to talk about cancer except that i dislike talking about it as if people are battling it and some people are weak and somehow less than and therefore lost their battle blah blah blah.

    • amacbean16

      Now you’ve got me thinking. People also are said to battle depression and battle addiction. The word choice connotes a win/loss scenario. In the situation of cancer specifically, it really paints a negative picture of those who decline (further) treatment and choose to pass peacefully. In the case of depression and addiction, I feel differently. “Fight on,” I’m inclined to say. Hmm.

      Other terms I’ve heard applied to medical conditions:

      “Struggle with” (anxiety)

      “Suffer from” (dizzy spells)

      “Endure” (chronic pain)

      “Have” (heart disease, high/low blood pressure)

      “Deal with” (complications or side effects relating to...)

      How about simply, “I’m being treated for cancer?”

    • on

      It's an odd concept to me, too, "battling cancer ". I had cancer a few years ago but I don't feel like I battled anything or won anything. I had surgery. I don't have cancer now. I am alive.
      But in my situation, I didn't have chemo or radiation. Just surgery. Maybe it would feel different if my treatment had been different? I don't really know. I was scared but I didn't really feel like I was fighting.

    • Felicity

      This reminds me that I should read Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor, which she wrote while under treatment for breast cancer.

      My point is that illness is not a metaphor, and that the most truthful way of regarding illness—and the healthiest way of being ill—is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking.
      --Illness as Metaphor, introduction


      A better read friend mentioned it to me when we were discussing this very question, of 'battling' cancer, and all the other trappings of cancer culture: ribbons, marches, pins. In the midst of this traumatic personal health crisis -- which in the United States at least is almost always also a personal financial crisis -- you are subjected to a sort of semiotic violence, where your own feelings about your health, your own identity as a person apart from and/or including your health, is denied in favor of an approved narrative of Courage and Fight.

      Our loved one who had cancer was an artist with a subversive sense of humor and a big, idiosyncratic personality, and there was an ugly pressure on her to be a Good Cancer Patient, instead of herself. To perform the sort of courage family and others expect: smiling through the tears, meekly complying with medical personnel and procedure no matter how tired and hurt you are, being so grateful for everything everyone is doing for you. It's a real thing, and the established metaphors are definitely part of it. After all, isn't a soldier supposed to be simultaneously courageous and compliant? So if it's a war...

    • I think it depends on what side of the disease you are on how you describe it.

      Cancer is an evil bitch. I like to think those I’ve known fought hard to beat it. Whether through research or seeking alternative therapies etc., it seemed like a war and we all wanted the patient to live. The other side is knowing you have a terminal disease that, no matter what you fight with, the outcome will be the same. So you choose palliative care and greater quality of life. Is that still a battle?

      I feel like it’s a battle but then I don’t have cancer.

    • cvdavis

      To focus on just one aspect of your comment (alternative therapies), is it really fighting when you likely have chosen something that isn't supported by scientific research? You're more likely falling victim to scam artists who focus on the vulnerable or desperate.

      I really don't find it useful to think of it as people fighting the disease. Most of the success they do have will be because their body and/or the medicine worked at a level they consciously have absolutely no control over.

    You've been invited!