WHEN OTHER CANCER PATIENTS PASS AND THE WORDS WE USE

It’s hard to really explain the feelings that arise every time I read about another person passing from cancer. Whether local or distant, close or just somehow connected online, I feel it deeply. Just this week a former Pleasant Grove Fire Fighter has ended his fight against cancer, and a well known Instagram personality also passed.

Links: https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/north/pleasant-grove/pleasant-grove-fire-lieutenant-loses-battle-with-cancer/article_c4e3b3fc-23a9-50f0-b030-336ae7bc2b60.html

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/02/18/utah-woman-who-charted/?fbclid=IwAR0S7348omOcHtv_BDVpX_DGfaLWv8-IghT8CRe35wjOzIw80JEdWmjhNi0

Of course everyone feels some loss for others, and especially those close to the cancer patient. As someone with a terminal cancer, I know that end is an eventuality despite efforts to put it off as long as possible. Some day, this cancer brings life to an end.

These two articles linked were interesting to me in just their headlines. One mentions “losing the battle with cancer.” It brings back the discussion on how you frame your perception of living with cancer. The choice between believing you are in a “fight” or “battle” with cancer versus the journey of cancer treatment with the rest of life. The use of certain metaphors can be good for some and detrimental to others. With that said, it’s a personal choice and no one should have any negative influence on however you want to approach it.

Last year I read a variety of articles on some studies about choosing your metaphor and suggesting that the “journey” approach was better than a fight or battle because a journey will have it’s ups and downs and you can manage expectations and accept or refuse services depending where you are personally in your personal journey. At first I thought that was kind of overly sensitive, but now I can really see the logic in this. Someone that is determined to fight to the bitter end is going to have a very hard time accepting when it’s time to stop treatment and enlist hospice. That’s a difficult decision for anyone, but it can be easier with the right perspective.

I’ve definitely chosen the every day I fight attitude from the outset of my diagnosis. It was fitting for me as I coined “I Choose to Live” as my mantra. The fighting spirit was important and I know it has helped through these few years. I haven’t given up that motto and attitude, but I’m reminded of both parts of that phrase. I choose to fight to live as long as possible and with quality of life, but I also choose to live each day with purpose and accept the best I can do. Some days the best I can do includes several hours of napping with a walk around the neighborhood for exercise. Other days it’s cycling and much better memories with family being made. They all count for good.

Back to that original point about the wording of headlines. I still subscribe to the words of Stuart Scott: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” Remember, his book is titled “Every Day I Fight” so he obviously adhered to that metaphor.

I think the words we use are powerful, even at a subconscious level, and it’s important for those around others with cancer to be aware of this choice of specific terminology. Never assume someone is giving up if they don’t choose the fight or battle metaphor. Most of all, never forgot however someone is experiencing life with cancer that there is never too much support. Words of support can arrive at the most opportune moments, spending time with someone, and in some cases acts of service go such a long way to bolster the attitude and spirit. My family was the beneficiary of an amazing act of service yesterday, and our spirits are still high as a result. More on that in another post.

Referenced article (not exact ones I read last year, but similar): https://powerfulpatients.org/2019/04/24/words-matter-why-cancer-isnt-a-game-of-winners-or-losers/