In the way that our blogosphere seems to build from one post to another, Marie at Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer recently shared thoughts about the language of “survivorship,” and leads right into some thinking I’ve been doing this week.
All this talk about language, and I’m a bit stuck on the issue of “war” verbiage. I sense there are those who are “fighters” and those who are “living with” cancer. I respect both deeply, and hope for a time when they can respect one another!
I have been vocal (can we be vocal in writing?) in my frustration with the “war rejectionists,” if you will. If fighting a battle against cancer doesn’t work for them, then without question they should find language that is more fitting or comfortable. But they need to leave others to use the language that fits. I wonder, too, whether war language is easier to critique when treatments are behind you, and perhaps something that is particularly beneficial for those of us in treatment. As I read the comments on Marie’s earlier mentioned blog, it was not lost on me that most of the feedback was from women who were NED, their cancer treatments behind them. To continue my own analogy, they are no longer in the trenches. Like great generals, they can step back, be objective, wonder what the war was all about and how to move forward.
So, as someone who is back in treatment with no end in sight, I find the “living with cancer” language a tough pill to swallow. Breast cancer cells have taken up in my bone marrow. They have begun to erode my pelvic bone. They are in perfect position to spread to other vital organs. 75% of women in my condition are dead in 5 years. I do not, under any circumstances care to “LIVE with my cancer.” I want it DEAD. Completely. Annihilated. Gone. It is most unwelcome and I am not interested in living with it, being kind to it, or making peace with it. I don’t want these cells to settle in and feel comfortable.
So, I’m not prepared to see myself as “someone living with cancer.” I would much prefer to be killing it. Doing so, for me, is active and empowering. Killing cancer cells is what my body needs to do to save my life.