Cancer and war language are so often linked. Someone battles this disease. They are a warrior in combat day in and day out. Many people feel empowered by painting themselves as fighters. But I am not one of those people. Here are some of the reasons I steer clear of conflict-based language when it comes to my existence.
- This warrior will lose. War language seems to be more embraced in the “survivor” community. Perhaps because there is a sense of having fought and won. But, with stage iv, that’s not generally how this works. Most of us will die of cancer. We will be the failed warriors that perished during our valiant efforts. On some level, we have already lost. No thanks. My mortality knocks at my head on a daily basis. I don’t need words to remind me that my time is most likely limited and oh so hard. And that all of this will wind up in defeat. I’m here until I’m not.
- Why reinforce the challenge? There is already so much conflict navigating cancer. So why would I want to reinforce the brutality and decimation this journey brings? Someone once told me that what you choose to focus on will grow. It seems by setting myself up as a fighter, I will always be fighting. But I’d rather focus on the pockets in between. That’s where I get to find life. I am living with cancer.
- Personifying gives this thing more power than it deserves. Cancer is one of the only diseases that is highly personified. It’s treated like an outside entity, an opponent or a serial killer, you have to evade or spar with on a daily basis. Granted, that’s what it feels like most of the time but, the truth is, cancer is just wonky biology. There’s no face to it, no body, no one to punch or push or yell at. It’s a big sack of “they don’t know why you have it and other people don’t” along with the bag of unknown as to whether the treatment will work for any period of time. Because what they do know is whatever treatment you are on when you are metastatic, will ultimately fail. But back to the personification aspect – I’d rather not give cancer more power than it deserves. Having a body is a privilege. Being a person is a gift. Cancer doesn’t get to be that. Cancer gets to be the shitty cells not doing the gift of my body any favors.
- Just being a person is hard work. Following this logic, we are all warriors. Life is a challenge for anyone. Getting out of bed, no matter your circumstances, makes you a fighter. I am not looking to over-identify with this disease or trump any else’s experiences. We are in the human trenches together as one. I’d rather not extricate myself from that or set myself apart. Doing that would be a good way for me to foster entitlement, cut myself off from being of service and let depletion take over even in times of rebuilding. Let’s be human together and support each other during this weird, beautiful and often difficult ride we’re on.
- Facing life. During this journey, I try as much as I can to stay life facing. Words matter. If I am going to plug into vitality, vibrance and being, when I have the energy, this needs to be reflected in the words I use and accept. I know that my future reality will include hospitalizations, tears on the bathroom floor, challenges with mobility, the list goes on…all of that scares me. But if I can move through the good moments consciously and with a modicum of healthy denial, without giving too much verbal form to future gloom and doom, the current ride is way more pleasant. I find ease with easy language. I feel life with life facing terminology.