Why do we talk about cancer in military terms? "He is a warrior and is fighting his cancer. She is heroic and is winning the war." I am fed up with the language of war. If you die from cancer you do not give in and “lose”. That suggests you lacked courage, did not try hard enough and were beaten. Cancer is a decease not an invading army, and I believe we should use the same language with cancer patients, as with anyone else who is ill.
The battle language also suggests that having cancer is a one-time event that you as a patient controls. I know that almost every patient is prepared to do what it takes in order to survive, and believe me treatments are extremely tough. However, survival is not something you as a patient alone can control, it depends on so many other correlating factors: cancer type, cancer stage, spread, patient's age, genetic predisposition, surgery outcome, treatment response etc.
Language matters, but why is the language of war used when talking about cancer? My theory is that we in a way are stuck in the past, when most cancer types were a lot more deadly than they are today. Surgery and treatments have developed immensely over the last 10 to 15 years, and today three out of four persons diagnosed with cancer will survive. I guess before all cancer types can be treated and cancer is seen as a fully curable decease, the image of cancer, as an invading army, an immortal alien no human body can resist, will prevail.
"We still lose too many people to cancer. If things work out and people do well, are they any more a hero than somebody who did everything they needed to do, but unfortunately the disease was stronger than they were?"
Len Lichtenfeld, Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society
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Hi, my name is Lena and I am a cancer survivor. I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts. If you want to subscribe, click on Contact.